From the left: Bhojraj Pokharel, Nepal's Chief Election Commissioner and Kare Vallan, UN Mission in Nepal Photo: Leena Rikkilä
International IDEA and the Election Commission of Nepal organized a two-day orientation programme on 8-9 August 2007 in Kathmandu on the nomination and selection of candidates for the upcoming constituent assembly elections in Nepal.
The holding of constituent assembly elections was the key demand of the pro-democracy movement which forced the king to relinquish his powers in April 2006. After the historic peace agreement with the Maoist insurgents and the formation of an interim government and interim parliament, Nepal eventually scheduled these elections for November 2007.
The polling date is approaching but there is widespread confusion about the modalities of the constituent assembly elections - not just among the general population but also among political parties. So the orientation programme aimed to familiarize political parties with the new electoral system (parallel system with party quotas) that Nepal has opted for.
In his welcome speech, Chief Election Commissioner Bhojraj Pokharel thanked political parties for cooperating with the Election Commission and wished them success in the elections, but he expressed his concern that the environment in the country is still not right to hold elections. “Political parties are yet to go to villages,” he said. “The eight main political parties should have their political machinery in place up to the booth level.”
Leena Rikkilä, Asia-Pacific Programme Manager of International IDEA, said that "it is the responsibility of the government, political parties and international organizations to try to sincerely explain the merits and demerits of the chosen electoral system - bearing in mind that the system is a political compromise – and so build trust to the system”.
Working group exercise: filling in candidate registration forms. Photo: Leena Rikkilä
Professor Kare Vallan from the UN Mission in Nepal explained the procedures for nominating the candidates in the closed list. He also described how the candidate quota system works for women, indigenous people, dalits, Madhesis, backward regions and others.
All the 61 political parties registered with the Election Commission to compete in the elections participated in the programme. The parties completed a hands-on exercise filling in registration lists and checking if they were legal.
Asuni Uprety, member of the Hindu Prajatantra Party, spoke positively about the two-day orientation programme.
Likewise, General Secretary of the Janamukti Party Nepal, Bishwa RTS Kirant said, “We were the first to talk about proportional representation way back in 1991. Yet I was not certain how this mixed election system worked.” He added that the orientation programme was extremely relevant and this kind of programme should be taken to the village level.
President of the Muskan Sena Party, Muskan Poudel, concurred. But he expressed reservations about the approaching November date saying “Leaders haven't been able to go to rural places and the Madhesi issue hasn't been resolved.”