Elections in Nepal: need for a turning point towards democratic transition

Press release

Long-awaited Constituent Assembly (CA) elections will take place in Nepal on 19 November, more than a year after the dissolution of the previous one in May 2012. Given the great hope of the people of Nepal that the newly-elected assembly will succeed in drafting the country’s first constitution in the post-monarchical era, Nepalese authorities should ensure credible and violence-free elections. However, the nomination of candidates involved in serious human rights violations, and threats of boycott, may jeopardize the process.

Several candidates, who are suspects in high-profile cases of murder, have been nominated despite repeated calls from national and international organizations and the Supreme Court of Nepal to put vetting measures in place. While the electoral campaign is being marked by a plethora of candidates - approximately 6,000 -, and political parties (122 [1] against 54 in the first CA elections in 2008), some parties, including fringe parties led by the UCPN (Maoist) splinter group, the CPN-Maoist, decided to boycott, and at some point threatened to disrupt the elections.

“We have the bitter experience of the first CA not fulfilling its promises to draft a new constitution and do not want to see this repeated. However, we are further concerned by the lack of vetting measures put in place for the upcoming elections, which entrenches impunity in society and weakens the rule of law” , said Mandira Sharma, President of Advocacy Forum.

The establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, due to deal with past crimes and on-going impunity, and on the government’s agenda since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006, should be in line with international standards and follow wide consultations with relevant stakeholders. This means above all, that amnesty should not be provided in cases of serious human right violations.

“The new government must implement transitional justice mechanisms, which will help future efforts to build a democratic society in Nepal. At the same time, it should reinforce human rights institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission, which has been vacant since 16 September 2013, and give them the independence required under international standards” , said Kristin Czernietzki, from Nepal-Dialogue Forum for Peace and Human Rights.

“Given the complex environment surrounding the elections, the transition government must absolutely inform the public about how precisely the "Integrated Security Plan – 2070" set up to guarantee security throughout the elections, will be implemented” , concluded Karim Lahidji, FIDH president.

Authorities have deployed an unprecedented number of army troops – more than 60,000 – in 16 districts classified as "sensitive" by national security agencies, which could create further tensions. National and international monitoring teams, including an EU Election Observation Mission comprising of over 100 observers sent to Nepal from 13 October, will be dispatched.

For more information, see Advocacy Forum’s website.

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