Statement of Ian Martin, Special Representative of the
United Nations Secretary-General
Nepal's most observed election
UNMIN and the electoral process
Questions and Answers
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Nepal's most observed election: international election observers scale-up presence

Kathmandu, 12 March 2008 (UNMIN)

International observer groups are preparing for a widespread presence that will see a higher level of international observation for the CA election than any past election in Nepal. This scrutiny will play a key role in contributing to a free and fair atmosphere for the historic election.

"We are expecting that there are likely to be in the order of 500 international observers," Ian Martin, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Nepal told a press conference in Kathmandu today. "International observers will speak out against any forms of malpractice which they witness or of which they are aware."

The Carter Center has maintained a presence in the country since early last year, in preparation for the initial date of the CA election in June 2007. It has now scaled-up to 15 long-term observers, who will be assisted by up to 45 short-term observers who will arrive closer to the election.

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) is to deploy its first 20 election observers across Nepal toward the end of the week. They will be joined by over 80 observers closer to election day.

The European Union has in the past days deployed a 9-member core team to Kathmandu to establish its election observation mission. Over 30 long-term observers are scheduled to arrive in the country next week. About 60 additional short-term observers will reinforce the mission's capacity closer to election day.

Other international observer groups planning to deploy include the Socialist International (20 observers), Universal Human Rights Network (15 observers), Unraggiodiluce (eight observers), National Democratic Institute (25 observers), The Asia Foundation (ten observers) and Forum Asia (ten observers). Additionally, a number of countries will be sending observers on a bilateral basis, including Japan (24 persons) and Australia (three persons).

Nepal's Election Commission formally accredits international and national observers. The accreditation deadline for observer groups is 20 March 2008. The United Nations Development Programme, upon the request of Nepal's Election Commission, has established an Election Observation Resource Centre in Kathmandu to facilitate observation activities.

Source: UNMIN News, March 2008


Ian Martin on the present situation

Kathmandu, 12 March 2008 (UNMIN)

UNMIN and the electoral process

We have distributed the statement of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued yesterday in New York, welcoming the 23-point agreement reached by the Seven-Party Alliance. I myself already had the occasion to express an initial welcome for the agreement when we honoured members of the Interim Task Force in this building on Monday. Let me reiterate that welcome today. The parties to Nepal's peace process asked for the assistance of the United Nations with a view to creating a free and fair atmosphere for the election of the Constituent Assembly, and the seven parties have now committed themselves to achieving this for an election before the end of the current Nepali year. Fulfilling this commitment is central to consolidating Nepal's peace process and moving forward with the democratic transition.

I will not refer to the two aspects of the agreement which have commanded most attention - the commitment to a federal democratic republic and the modification of the electoral system - because these are matters on which I have always made clear that it would not be appropriate for the United Nations to advocate a position. Suffice it to say that I am hopeful that the compromises reached will lead to a timely and credible election for a Constituent Assembly that the country has been waiting for.

Since so many of the commitments in the new agreement have been made before, I attach particular importance to the agreement to form within a month a high level committee for monitoring the effective implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and other agreements. I also believe that the commitment to create local bodies by agreement is of crucial importance to establishing conditions of public security in the districts and villages, essential for the election. The importance that the Secretary-General and UNMIN have always attached to dialogue with and inclusion of traditionally marginalized groups is more relevant than ever. Their representatives have repeatedly stressed that they have the greatest interest in the election of a Constituent Assembly. I believe there is now an opportunity to ensure, through dialogue with these groups, the establishment of a truly representative Constituent Assembly where they will be properly represented and which is necessary for the restructuring of the state which they seekThe Constituent Assembly election is now on track. I commend once again the efforts of all concerned in finding acceptable political compromises that have created conditions for holding the election in a timely manner. Despite the difficulties of recent days, UNMIN has remained focussed on its mandated work in support of the electoral process. I want to speak briefly now on what we see as the main challenges which must be met in the next four weeks, and to update you on what UNMIN is doing to assist in the creation of a free and fair atmosphere for the election as well as providing technical assistance to the Election Commission for the conduct of the election.

The focus now is on ensuring that the election takes place in an environment that enables all parties to campaign and organize freely anywhere in the country, and allows the people of Nepal to cast their votes in accordance with their free will and conscience, without intimidation or infringement of their rights. Efforts to reach out to those with grievances should continue, but the international community will have no sympathy with any group which carries out acts of violence in pursuit of its grievances or in attempts to disrupt the electoral process.

UNMIN will continue to implement the tasks that it has been asked to perform in support of the peace process, and is focussing its activities and operations on fostering an atmosphere conducive to a credible election and the smooth transition from the electoral to the constitution-making phase.

In the area of arms monitoring, having completed the registration and verification of the cantoned personnel of the Maoist army, UNMIN is now in discussion with the Nepal Army and the Maoist army, including through the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee, on ensuring full respect during the election period for the commitments of both sides under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the arms monitoring agreement, beginning with the restriction of the two armies to their designated locations and the monitoring of weapons. We have been in discussion with the leadership of the Maoist army on strengthening monitoring in the cantonment areas. We have also been in discussion with the Nepal Army on ensuring compliance with the procedures for carrying out permitted activities under the agreements. The strict adherence to such commitments is important for preserving the integrity of the monitoring regime and maintaining the political confidence it promotes. At the same time we are seeking the cooperation of the Maoist army and the Government in arrangements for the earliest possible orderly discharge of those required to leave the cantonments after verification, especially minors.

After a period of scaled-down activity in our electoral advisory role following the postponement of the November election, UNMIN has now fully redeployed its electoral advisory capacity and is working very closely with the Election Commission in all areas of the Commission's mandate. As we speak our electoral advisers are being deployed to the regions and districts around the country. The last batch of the advisers will be in their respective districts within this week.

UNMIN also continues to work both at the national level and in the regions and districts to assist the monitoring of the ceasefire code of conduct and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Creating the conditions for a free and fair election requires the good faith effort of all political actors. Without the cooperation of all key players such conditions cannot be created through law enforcement measures alone. UNMIN's regional offices and their mobile presence around the country has enabled us to understand more clearly the challenges to a successful election and the measures that need to be taken to achieve it. In parallel, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) continues to play a vital role by monitoring and reporting on the human rights conditions around the country, a role that has become increasingly and directly relevant to the electoral process. We share our findings, assessments and recommendations with all concerned. In the weeks ahead we intend to provide the main political actors with regular assessments of the conditions for elections, and to share these with the public.

The Election Commission has repeatedly emphasised that election security is a vital part of the process, and this has also been emphasised by the United Nations Electoral Expert Monitoring Team, which is currently carrying out its fourth visit. The political cooperation which is essential to security must include the willingness of political actors to refrain from calling for the premature release of those who have been properly arrested.

It is now imperative for all democratic forces to work together to make the election a successful democratic exercise. This requires respect for the principles of fair play and equal political space for all, and the wisdom to look beyond short-term party interests and to work for the common good. Every day infringements of the code of conduct are being reported from different areas of the country. If left unchecked, these are bound to hamper the election and the freedom of voters. It is essential therefore that acts of violence, intimidation and obstruction of the campaigns of others are tackled as early as possible, and preventive measures should be taken in advance to avert undemocratic behaviour and practices before, during and after the voting. This election will be scrutinised more closely than ever before in Nepal by national and international observers.
Nepal is very close to achieving an historic step in its democratic transition, one which the people of Nepal have called for since the Jana Andolan in April 2006. An inclusive Constituent Assembly, elected in a free and fair atmosphere, will provide the democratic basis for decisions to shape the future of this highly diverse country, as well as for a government with the broad legitimacy necessary to address the challenges of peace and development. UNMIN and the United Nations as a whole in Nepal will continue to play the roles asked of us to support this process.

Source: UNMIN , March 2008


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