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Nepalese Election Delayed Again, Peace Process Threatened

05 October 2007

The Nepalese government has postponed elections scheduled for November after the major political parties led failed to reach agreement on a range of issues. Analysts say the entire peace process in the Himalayan state is threatened. Liam Cochrane reports from Kathmandu.

Days of negotiations among Nepal's political parties ultimately failed to bring about compromise, and the government was forced Friday to announce a second delay in the elections for a Constituent Assembly.

Election of the assembly is a key element in Nepal's peace process. The assembly's role will be to elect a body to rewrite the constitution, and decide the fate of the monarchy.

The polls were originally scheduled for June, but were put off until November 22.

Then the former rebel Maoists demanded a new election system - one which experts say would be more favorable to the Maoists' chances.

The Maoists also wanted the monarchy abolished before the election, instead of after the Constituent Assembly meets. The ruling Nepali Congress Party was opposed to both demands.

Friday was the deadline for nominating candidates, but with each side holding firm, the government was forced to inform the Election Commission that the polls could not take place in November.

Darren Nance is field director of the Carter Center, an international election monitor. He and other analysts have expressed concern for the fragile peace process between the former rebels and Nepal's mainstream political parties.

"Nepal right now is at a critical juncture, for not just the election process, but the wider peace process itself," he said.

Nance says this second delay results not just from disagreement over poll methods, but also from more general political frustrations.

"I think that in terms of the government - and as well as the Maoists - there has been a lack of implementation of previous agreements that has led to a bit of an environment of mistrust," he said.

Because of approaching winter, the next likely date for the Constituent Assembly elections is thought to be April next year.

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