Nepal: Worries over security in landmark elections
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||9 April 2008|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Nepal: Worries over security in landmark elections, 9 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47ff6833c.html [accessed 11 July 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
KATHMANDU, 9 April 2008 (IRIN) - Civilians in one of the world's poorest countries are apprehensive about security during the twice-postponed "historic" national elections scheduled for 10 April, despite assurances from the government and political parties, civil and human rights groups say.
They say voters are worried the government may not be able to provide adequate security given that there are daily incidents of violence, intimidation, threats and killings in several parts of the country.
About 17.5 million Nepalese (out of a total population of some 27 million) are eligible to vote in 240 constituencies to elect a 601-member Constituent Assembly (CA), according to the Election Commission.
"I fear that some parties will be involved in seizing the ballot boxes," said Ram Bahadur Magar, a civilian in Kathmandu.
"I hope we will not be attacked by any political groups," said another, Sunita Tamang, who expressed her fears after two bomb explosions in Kathmandu in the past week.
Over 130,000 security personnel have been stationed all over the country to provide security to enable citizens to vote, said officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, adding that violent incidents had now subsided.
"The government's security mechanism is capable of dealing with any security threat," said Umesh Mainali, secretary of the Home Affairs Ministry.
UN appeals to armed groups
"Much now depends on election day itself and on the days that follow," said the UN's Ian Martin, special representative of the Secretary-General in Nepal, who appealed to armed groups to call off efforts to disrupt the electoral process. He also appealed to voters not to be influenced by threats or inducements.
The Assembly is due to elaborate a new constitution and will also take steps to restructure the state and decide on the fate of a constitutional monarchy that has existed for over two centuries.
"The success of the election would mark the ultimate political breakthrough in a country in which a decade-long armed conflict [1996-2006] caused severe damage to the nation," said Shiva Biswakarma, a voter.
The conflict severely affected the national economy, displaced over 200,000, and left over 14,000 dead, according to independent political analysts.
Foreign diplomats have already expressed concern about the recent violence: "We are deeply concerned by the election-related killings, abductions and intimidation which continue to take place despite agreement among party leaders to end violence," said a joint statement by over 16 diplomatic missions, including the European Commission, on 8 April.
In the past month over 800 international observers have arrived to monitor the CA elections, according to the Election Commission.