CONTACTS: In Kathmandu, Deborah Hakes +977-98511-63813 or email@example.com; David Hamilton +977 98544-45055
The Carter Center finds that Nepal's Nov. 19 constituent assembly election was conducted remarkably well, especially in the face of attempts by boycotting parties to disrupt the process through violence. The Election Commission of Nepal estimated the voter turnout at more than 70 percent.
The Center is still following the counting of ballots and will remain in the country to observe the remainder of the election process. Although it is too early to know the final results, the Center trusts that political parties will accept the choice of voters with confidence, and where they have disputes, they will address them through the proper channels.
"I am very disappointed to hear of the UCPN (Maoist) rejection of the counting process and withdrawal of their party agents," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. "I trust that they will respect the will of Nepali voters as expressed on election day. They must refrain from violent protest, and I urge them to allow the electoral process to continue."
In 2008, Nepal voted to establish a new social compact through elected representatives tasked with drafting a new constitution. More than five years later, the people have spoken again, resolutely, in the face of frustration with the constituent assembly's inability to finalize its work. The Center hopes that the renewed energy and enthusiasm of the Nepali people on election day will be harnessed by their elected representatives to set aside partisan differences and focus on drafting a new constitution. The trust that voters have placed in their representatives comes with the responsibility to deliver. More political infighting, stalemate, and disagreement will mean more years in which Nepal's youth go without jobs, the economy lacks the political stability needed to reassure investors, and the sacrifices of the political transition remain unfulfilled.
Carter Center observers positively assessed the preparation for the election and the polling process on election day. The new biometric voter register and the use of voter ID cards helped ensure that the principle of one person, one vote was generally respected, although there were reports of some citizens not finding themselves on the voter rolls due to technical errors.
The extensive presence of party agents and domestic observers on election day provided transparency and should help build the confidence of parties, candidates, and voters in the integrity of the process, and the Center encourages the election commission to continue to facilitate access for observers during the counting.
The Carter Center also notes a marked improvement in the campaign environment since 2008, with political parties and candidates able to campaign freely for the most part. Nevertheless, physical clashes among political parties, as well as the use of violence to prevent people from exercising their democratic rights, should not occur. The Carter Center encourages all parties and groups to act peacefully and to respect the evident desire of Nepali citizens to continue the political transition and to come to agreement on a new constitution.
Nepal's electoral system creates the conditions for a diverse elected body that is broadly representative of gender, ethnicity, and caste as well as political preferences of voters. The Center was disappointed that the political parties did not put forward more candidates who reflect that diversity in the first-past-the-post elections. Although the proportional representation ballot will make up for some of that weakness, greater commitment is needed to ensure that the interests of women, youth, and historically marginalized groups are reflected in the new constitution.
The Carter Center has maintained a team of observers in Nepal since 2007, and established the current election observation mission on Sept. 25, 2013, following written invitations of the Election Commission of Nepal and Chairman of the Council of Ministers Khil Raj Regmi.
The Center's mission was led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai. Twelve long-term observers from eight countries were deployed throughout the country since September to assess election preparations. On election day, 66 Carter Center observers from 31 countries visited 336 polling centers in 31 districts to observe voting and 31 counting centers. The Center's observers continue to assess the conclusion of counting and vote tabulation, and they will remain in Nepal to observe the resolution of complaints and the post-election environment. All assessments are made in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers and Nepal's national legal framework and its obligations for democratic elections contained in regional and international agreements.
This statement is preliminary; a final report will be published three months after the end of the electoral process.
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