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Published:April 7th, 2008 06:21 EST
Historic Nepali elections on-track despite clashes

Historic Nepali elections on-track despite clashes

By SOP newswire

New York, NY-- Momentum continues to build ahead of this Thursday's historic Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal, but violent clashes and acts of intimidation involving supporters of political parties are marring the campaigning, the United Nations says today in its final assessment ahead of the polls.

The joint report by the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR-Nepal) finds that while campaigning has been peaceful in many constituencies, in others there have been incidents -- frequent, in some cases -- of election-related violence and intimidation.

"The Young Communist League and other Maoist cadres continued to be involved in the largest proportion of these incidents," the report notes, urging the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) to stop the intimidatory behaviour of its members and supporters.

"The CPN-M leadership should ensure that its stated readiness to abide by the outcome of the election authenticated through the established procedures is not undermined by contradictory statement," the report recommended.

It stated that while the number of abductions by armed groups had fallen slightly, there had been a considerable increase in the detonation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in acts clearly intended to disrupt the electoral process.

In addition, the report warned of mounting evidence that State resources were being deployed for partisan ends and of attempts to buy votes through "donations" of food, clothing and other goods to some communities.

But today's report, the third and final in a series of periodic reports on the conditions for the Constituent Assembly elections, observes that there have also been several positive developments during the past week.

These include a recommitment by the three major parties of the governing Seven-Party Alliance to campaign peacefully and cooperate at the district level, and the restraint shown in the wake of "the deliberately provocative bombing" of a mosque in Biratnagar on 29 March that caused the deaths of two people.

"The Nepal Defense Army claimed responsibility for the attack. The people of Biratnagar resisted the apparent attempt to incite inter-communal violence and responded with moderation and dignity."

After the report was released, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Nepal, Ian Martin, stressed the importance of a free and fair atmosphere for the elections.

"Recommendations in this final pre-election report highlight the importance of voters being able to vote without fear of their vote being known to anyone, and without violence, intimidation or inducements," he said.

Once elected, the Constituent Assembly will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for Nepal, which has emerged from a decade-long civil war that claimed an estimated 13,000 lives until the Government and the Maoists signed a peace accord in 2006.