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NEPAL: Former Maoist rebels threaten to disrupt elections

KATHMANDU, 4 October 2007 (IRIN) - Concern is growing among politicians and foreign envoys that the elections for Nepal’s Constituent Assembly next month could be disrupted.

The focus of their concerns is threats by former Maoist rebels to sabotage the elections unless the government fulfils their demands to implement a fully proportional electoral system and declare Nepal a republic in parliament, ending the 238-year-old monarchy.

Since the Maoists quit the government on 18 September, citing disagreements with seven national parties, the former rebels have been organising demonstrations, aimed at disrupting the elections, said analysts.

The Maoists signed a peace deal with the government in November 2006 after almost a decade-long armed conflict that killed more than 14,000 people and displaced another 200,000.

Leaders of Nepal’s main political parties said the elections were key to resolving the political crisis and enhancing the peace process as the situation was becoming increasingly fragile, especially due to violence in the southern region of Terai.

“The Maoists should act more responsibly towards the people by not going against the elections,” said Madhav Nepal, leader of the United-Marxist Leninist (UML) party, the country’s second-largest and part of the government.

"The Maoists have already obstructed preparations for the elections," said government official Pradeep Nepal, a senior politician. Heightened security would be necessary if elections are to be held, he added.

Maoist leaders told IRIN the government was not willing to agree to their demands. “We are still hoping that the issues will be resolved soon but we are very committed towards our stance for a republic and proportional electoral representation,” said Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai.

Diplomats appeal for elections

“Nepal deserves stability and development and [Constituent Assembly] elections are crucial for the country's future. It’s very important that the elections happen,” Marjatta Satu Rasi, under-secretary of state at Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, told IRIN on 4 October.

Diplomatic missions based in the capital, Kathmandu, shared Rasi’s concerns. Ambassadors Nancy Powell of US, Shiva Shanker Mukherjee of India and Zheng Xialin of China recently met Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and urged him to consolidate political unity among the leaders and hold elections as scheduled on 22 November.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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