Nepal poll juggernaut starts rolling


Kathmandu : Nepal's election juggernaut has finally started rolling with the parliament forming a committee for amending the constitution, the UN sending a team of election observers and former US president Jimmy Carter arriving in Kathmandu Wednesday to discuss poll preparations.

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Nepal's parliament Monday formed a team of MPs headed by former minister Purna Bahadur Khadka to facilitate amending the constitution.

The statute, promulgated this year, needs to be amended since it had named July as the time for holding the crucial constituent assembly election that will determine if King Gyanendra will hang on to his throne or see his 238-year-old crown abolished to make way for a republic.

Legislators have also tabled 13 other points and parliament, obstructed till recently, began mulling the required changes.

The Election Commission, which had earlier ruled out holding the election in July, has urged the government to enact poll-related laws by Thursday. At least three more new laws have to be passed for the election, which is to be the first of its kind in Nepal.

UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon has sent a five-member UN Electoral Expert Monitoring Team to Nepal.

Headed by Rafael Lopez-Pintor, the team will assess the electoral process on a regular basis to determine whether it is proceeding in a manner that will lead to a result that accurately reflects the will of the Nepalese people.

In making its assessments, the members are to meet government officials, MPs, political parties, civil society organisations, and national and international electoral observer groups. Moon will share the team's reports with the Nepal government.

On Wednesday, former US president Jimmy Carter will arrive in Kathmandu for a four-day visit on behalf of the Carter Center.

The Center, invited to observe the polls by the government, has already set up office in Nepal with representatives in the five regions.

However, the date of the election is yet to be announced. The eight-party ruling alliance has agreed to hold the exercise by mid-November.

The Carter Center this month said there was still lack of campaigns and other poll-related activities locally and security continued to be a matter of concern in the Terai plains in the south.