Socialist International delegation observes elections in Nepal
7-12 April 2008
A delegation of the Socialist International was present in Nepal from 7 to 12 April to observe the elections for a Constituent Assembly which took place on April 10 in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in November 2006 between the ruling coalition and insurgents to end the armed conflict in that country. These elections, fundamental to the consolidation of peace and the strengthening of democracy in Nepal, open a new phase in the country’s history as they set the course for the drafting of a new constitution destined to establish a new set of institutions to govern Nepal.
Last year, the Socialist International organised a special meeting of its Asia-Pacific Committee in Kathmandu in support of the peace process in Nepal, a subject which was also addressed at the last Socialist International Council meeting in Geneva with the participation of key political actors from Nepal.
The delegation, headed by the Secretary General of the Socialist International, Luis Ayala, included Paulina Lampsa and Alexandra Verykokou, Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Pasok, Greece; Thierry Aube, Socialist Party, PS, France; Lars Olof Thorell, Swedish Social Democratic Party, SAP; Vijay Pratap, India; and Latifa Perry, Socialist International Secretariat.
In Kathmandu, on Tuesday 8 April, the delegation met with Nepali Prime Minister G.P. Koirala, leader of the SI-member Nepali Congress Party, for discussions on the latest political developments in the country and his assessment of the electoral process and what will follow. The SI representatives then had meetings with other members of the leadership of the party, including Vice-President Prakash Man Singh and Prakash Sharan Mahat.
In the afternoon of Tuesday 8, the delegation held talks with the Foreign Minister, Gyan Chandra Acharya, in which the contribution of the international community in supporting the democratic process in Nepal was discussed. The SI delegation then met with the Chief Election Commissioner, Bhojraj Pokharel, together with Commissioners Usha Nepal and Nell Kantha Uprety, for exchanges on the preparations for the vote, which entailed over 22,000 polling stations covering the country; 17.6 million registered voters and 54 officially registered political parties contesting the elections, including the seven parties which formed the governing coalition.
On Wednesday 9, the delegation held discussions with other members of the ruling coalition, including representatives of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and its General Secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal. Among other activities, the members of the Socialist International delegation also attended a gathering of international observers hosted by the Electoral Commission which included observers from the Carter Center, the European Parliament, the South Asia Forum for Fair Elections, and others.
On the day of the poll, the members of the delegation observed the vote at numerous polling stations in both urban and rural areas of the Kathmandu Valley during which they were in contact with voters, election officials, heads of polling stations, party representatives and candidates from various parties. Later that day they continued with their programme of talks with the leaders of the key political parties, also holding a meeting with the head of the former insurgents (CPN-Maoist), Pachandra, with whom they discussed the views of his party on the political process, the elections and plans for the future.
Following the closure of the vote, the members of the SI delegation held further meetings with the head of the Election Commission and political leaders for an overall evaluation of the proceedings.
On Friday 11, in a press conference in Kathmandu, the delegation presented its impressions of the electoral process and the political conclusions drawn from the meetings and exchanges held with political leaders and authorities of the country. Highlighting the peaceful and orderly manner in which the elections were carried out, the delegation expressed its recognition of the civic and democratic commitment of the Nepali people; congratulated the Election Commission and all the officials involved for the way in which the electoral process was conducted; commended the leaders and members of the political parties for their efforts and their democratic perseverance without which there could be no progress, and declared that in their opinion the elections had been free and fair. In their view, the reported incidents which will lead to a repeat polling in a limited number of places did not compromise the integrity of the elections. The delegation also underlined the need for the key parties which have conducted the process this far to continue working together to secure stability and the proper conditions for the implementation of the agenda resulting from the elections. Equally, the delegation reiterated the intention of the Socialist International to continue its engagement with Nepal and its support for those working for a definitive peace, democracy and development.