5-11 April 2013 #650

“Hopeful about elections”

Ujyaalo Online, 2 April

Interview with former US President Jimmy Carter who was on a four day visit to Nepal by Gopal Guragain. He met President Ram Baran Yadav, chairman of the interim electorate council, election commission chief, and leaders of major political parties during his stay.

Gopal Guragain: Why are you so interested in Nepal?

Carter: Besides the mountains and peace loving Nepalis, I am fascinated by the country’s history and social mosaic. Nepal underwent a decade long armed conflict, established peace, and abolished monarchy which makes the political landscape more interesting. The country will go to polls this year and I hope to be here at the time.

Will Carter Centre deploy long-term or short-term observers?

We have been in Nepal for a long time, trying to understand not just the political but also social, cultural, and economic situation of the country. We want to increase the number of voters during the upcoming elections. We were here for 60-70 days in 2008 which was our short-term observation. We conducted a similar observation at the recent election in Kenya as well.

People say the Carter Centre’s report in 2008 declared voting free and fair prematurely.

The 2008 report didn’t have any such faults. We stated clearly in the report that the election had certain shortcomings. But it was successful in selecting representatives for the Constituent Assembly. And that is what we said. The election wasn’t perfect, but it was safe.

How was your meeting with the chairman of the electorate council, political leaders, and election commission officials? Do you think election is possible this year?

The leaders of the four major political parties agreed to form an interim government under the leadership of the chief justice to break the deadlock after the CA failed to draft a constitution. While this set up isn’t completely constitutional, it is crucial for elections and to put an end to the stalemate. Local elections too haven’t taken place in 15 years, this needs to be taken care of.

What message do you have for the people of Nepal?

Nepal needs to learn from its past mistakes and move ahead. I hope the interim government will be able to hold free and fair elections and everyone will cooperate. Threatening election officials is against the law and those involved should be punished.

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