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Nepal: Key Elections Postponed

(Nov. 2, 2007) On October 5, 2007, Nepalese officials announced that the scheduled November 22 elections had been postponed for at least three, and possibly as long as six, months. The delay was caused by the failure of the coalition interim government and Maoists to reach agreement over the fate of the monarchy and the electoral system. The Maoists left the interim government in September 2007.

The November ballot was a central element of the peace accord reached in November 2006, ending a decade-long Maoist rebel insurgency. The Maoists have called for the monarchy's immediate abolition and the creation of a republic and, although previously having agreed to elections combining "first-past-the-post" and proportional representation systems, have now demanded a completely proportional system. They threatened to disrupt the November polls if their demands were not met by the mainstream political parties. Those polls were designed to elect representatives to a constituent assembly that will rewrite Nepal's Constitution and determine the future of the (now) largely symbolic, 240-year-old monarchy. (Nepal Ponders Monarchy's Fate Amid Security Concerns, VOICE OF AMERICA, Oct. 10, 2007; Deepesh Shrestha, Nepal Elections Postponed Indefinitely, Hong Kong AFP, Oct. 5, 2007, Open Source Center No. JPP20071005969090.)

A special session of the Nepali Parliament opened on October 11 to debate the Maoists' demands. However, it has been observed, "[l]awmakers in the special session, dominated by the Nepali Congress Party, are unlikely to be cowed by the threats. At most, they are expected to agree to set a new date for nationwide elections – twice delayed this year and last held in 1959" (VOICE OF AMERICA, id.) In a statement issued on October 9, 2007, members of the U.N. Security Council expressed "disappointment" at the elections' delay, while reiterating "their full support for the work of the UN Mission in Nepal," which was established in January to support the country's peace process (Security Council 'Disappointed' at Nepal Elections Delay – President, UN NEWS CENTRE, Oct. 9, 2007, available at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=24242&Cr=nepal&Cr1.)