US, EU air unhappiness as Nepal defers poll


Kathmandu : Reactions started pouring in from Nepal’s major donors almost immediately after the government announced that it was postponing the crucial election slated for November and was instead calling a special session of parliament to resolve its standoff with the Maoists.

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The strongest reaction came from the US, which has been the sternest critic of the Maoists and still keeping them on its list of terrorist organisations despite their signing a peace pact and joining the government.

“The US is disappointed by the decision by the interim government of Nepal to suspend the Constituent Assembly election process,” the US Embassy in Kathmandu said in a brief statement.

“The people of Nepal have been denied a timely opportunity to elect representatives to decide the framework for the future government of Nepal.”

The US urged the parties to name a new election date and implement the pledges they had made while signing the peace treaty.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the Maoists decided late Thursday night to defer the election yet again after failing to reach an agreement on two major issues – though the decision was stiffly opposed by three communist parties in the ruling alliance.

But there was no immediate reaction from India, Nepal’s biggest trade partner.

India’s ambassador to Nepal Shiv Shankar Mukherjee was to reach New Delhi Friday to brief the Ministry of External Affairs about the fresh developments in the Himalayan nation following its government’s decision to postpone the November polls and freeze all poll programmes till a crucial meet on the floor of parliament Oct 11.

India’s reaction to the decision is being anxiously awaited, following Mukherjee’s statement two months ago that the Koirala government would lose its legitimacy if it failed to hold the election Nov 22.

On the occasion of India’s Independence Day Aug 15, the envoy had also made it clear that if the parties were to decide King Gyanendra’s fate in parliament instead of leaving it to the election, that too would not be considered legitimate since the current parliament was not an elected one.

The European Union said though disappointed, it was ready to continue support to the peace process.

In a joint statement, the EU heads of mission in Kathmandu said while they were “deeply disappointed” that elections would not take place as scheduled, realising that it was a critical opportunity in Nepal’s peace process, they were ready to continue their support.

The European bloc is now urging the government to set out a clear plan in order to build trust and confidence in the peace process. It has asked for a roadmap that would focus on tightening public security and curbing lawlessness so that people don’t have to live in fear.

It also asked the state to honour its pledge to the marginalised and deprived sections and address with the UN rights agency to improve its human rights record.

The EU is calling for resolving the problems faced by the Maoists’ guerrilla soldiers as well as Nepal Army personnel, both of whom have been confined to barracks for over a year.

Since the understanding was that they would stay in their barracks till the election was held, repeated postponement of the exercise and their continued incarceration would erode confidence in the peace process.

The UN Mission in Nepal, that is overseeing the management of the arms and armies of the government and the guerrillas, said it and other UN organisations remained committed to supporting the peace process.

In a statement, UNMIN chief Ian Martin said Friday: “Although there will be great disappointment among many people in Nepal and on the part of the international community, what is important now is that the political parties maintain their alliance and go forward to agree on how to create the conditions for the constituent assembly election and deepen the peace process and its implementation.”