Protests and logistical challenges are heightening tensions before a scheduled 19 November national poll in Nepal that is seen as critical to the country’s stability and development, say analysts. Voters are to choose a new constituent assembly (CA), which serves as the country’s parliament. The previous assembly dissolved in May 2012 after failing to produce a much-anticipated postwar constitution. Citizens have looked to a new constitution to help the country emerge from the 1996-2006 civil war that killed more than 15,000 people. But the contentious issues that stalled its drafting, including how to structure the state and share power, remain unresolved. In January 2013, the UN noted that high-level political stagnation was allowing the “slow but persistent deterioration of democratic institutions and effective governance”. The humanitarian costs of the constitutional stalemate are high. Without it, several pieces of legislation, including a disaster management act and the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, have been on hold. Meanwhile, logistical challenges and threats of violence loom over the polls.
Of the approximately 16 million eligible voters, 12.5 million were registered, “potentially leaving a significant section of the population disenfranchised in the next election”, warned the Carter Center, a human rights organisation whose headquarters are in the US.
The Election Commission’s goal was to sign up 14.7 million voters. The Carter Center attributed this missed target to low turnout at voter registration drives, noting that undocumented residents could have been excluded despite government-initiated citizenship campaigns.