Blog | The Nepal Elections and The Carter Center: A Q&A With David Pottie, Associate Director, Carter Center Democracy Program

Below, find a Q&A with David Pottie, associate director, Democracy Program, on elections in Nepal.

What is the significance of these constituent assembly elections in Nepal?

The constituent assembly election is a central feature of Nepal’s ongoing peace process and was agreed to by all parties in the Nov. 21, 2006, Comprehensive Peace Accord. The elections will create a representative body charged with drafting a new constitution for Nepal and give the people of Nepal their first opportunity to speak out and express their views on the future direction of the country.

What are the major challenges leading up to elections?

One of the main challenges in Nepal has been to balance the many competing demands for political inclusion while maintaining peace and preparing for a unique electoral event. Nepal’s population is an incredible blend of people from diverse social, economic, and political backgrounds, and after more than a decade of civil war there is a high level of mistrust. This wariness has often led the chief political parties to delay the original timetable for the constituent assembly elections even as they have more or less been campaigning for people’s support. Since these are the first of their kind in Nepal, the constituent assembly elections have required labor-intensive logistical preparations by the election commission and a lot of support from the United Nations and others.

What other ways has The Carter Center contributed to strengthening the process leading up to elections?

The Center’s team of long term observers has visited all 75 districts in Nepal. This contact with the people of Nepal in cities, towns, and in many remote villages has given us an opportunity to see first-hand the political and economic development challenges and to share our reports with Nepali authorities. The two unexpected delays of the elections have allowed the Center to go far beyond a technical assessment of the mechanics of the electoral process and given us a unique vantage point on the shifting dynamics of the peace process. Whenever possible, we have coordinated our efforts with other international and domestic actors, including everyone from the United Nations to organizations that promote the interests of Nepal’s indigenous peoples, women, as well as other historically excluded groups such as the dalit (or untouchable) caste.

How has the Carter Center’s role in Nepal been unique?

Through our long-term engagement, the Center demonstrated the importance of an impartial international organization monitoring the electoral and transition process in Nepal. The Center has developed a web of contacts from the village-level to national government and political leaders, and issued multiple public statements in English and Nepali that summarize our findings regarding the electoral environment. In an effort to show his personal support for the peace process, President Carter visited Nepal in June and November 2007, meeting with political leaders, electoral officials, civil society and marginalized groups, and the international community.

How will The Carter Center follow up after observing Nepal’s elections?

Following the elections, the Center will remain in-country for several months to observe the post-election period and immediate preparations for the installation of the constituent assembly and initiation of the constitutional drafting process.

What will the next steps be for Nepal after elections?

The biggest challenge after the election will be to figure out how to make the constituent assembly function in ways that continue to solicit the views of Nepali citizens. You can think of the constituent assembly election as a starting point to determine who gets to the negotiating table and who will bear the responsibility for drafting a new constitution that describes the basic principles and form of government for Nepal.

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