The Nepal Government has tightened its security arrangements ahead of the Constituent Assembly elections scheduled on April 10. In a press conference organized at the Home Ministry on Friday, the Nepal Government´s Home Secretary Umesh Mainali stated that 7 to 25 security personnel will be deployed in each polling station. Some of the booths also have all-female staff.

There have been unprecedented security violations from the three major parties, namely Nepali Congress, the Nepali Communist Party-UML and the Nepali Communist Party- Maoist, according to Ian Martin, who heads the United Nations Mission in Nepal and was citing violations based on first hand observations from Far Western Nepal.

In a rare case of Maoist criticism of its own media policy, Prachanda, the Maoist Supremo, charged that the big media houses in Kathmandu were showing bias towards his party, though he has made it clear that the Maoists would be ready to accept any electoral result as long as there are no political conspiracy, electoral vote rigging or poll related terrorism aimed against CPN-M. Prachanda has also called for public control over the government media cautioning international observers to carry out their duties impartially and avoid exaggeration. Nearly 68 UML party members and 50 from other Nepali political parties, including Nepali Congress, have been injured in Nepal´s recent election violence mostly with the Maoists. There has been one death of a candidate who it is believed, was shot by political opponents. Starting Sunday, the Election Commission (EC) has taken strict action against the violators of the election code of conduct by issuing circulars to the concerned offices of the election officers and the local administration.

Despite, a continued violation of the electoral Code of Conduct, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is highly upbeat on the success of the CA Poll. He had recently cancelled his visit to Biratnagar, where he was expected to do some campaigning, but has nonetheless taken time off to encourage Nepal´s young generation to move forward and vote, taking it as their own future democratic challenge in stabilizing Nepali democracy. Koirala has equally encouraged all political parties to participate with enthusiasm and seriousness in the CA Poll taking place this Thursday.

On Friday, Home Secretary Mainali had also mooted the idea of mobile teams of Nepali security agencies which will be deployed in districts considered sensitive in terms of security needs and that additional security forces will be kept at stand by in various places following small explosive detonations in four locations within Kathmandu. The Nepal Police had earlier stated that there was no need for mobilization of the Nepal Army, though NA is in ahigh state of alert and ready to thwart any violent incidents. Active and concentric air patrolling is taking place particularly in violence prone areas and on a 24 hour basis. Mainali also stated that all election officials have been directed to enforce a ban on the sale of alcohol across the country for one week, although this prohibition order has angered some among Nepal´s youth who feel it is their ´right´ to celebrate democracy.

According to Nepal´s Election Commission (EC) on Friday, it had cancelled 299 candidacies under the proportional representation category due to violations such as failure to produce citizenship certificate, being underage (below 25 years of age), and duplication of candidates’ names and due to complaints against them. Nepal´s Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dr. Bhojraj Pokharel has also given a public statement that the post-conflict election, by definition, implies compromises for the sake of peace. In reference to the incidents of violence in the country in recent days, CEC Pokharel said that some people are trying to present criminal activities as poll-violence. “I would like to point out some incidents, which can be regarded as purely criminal activities but which some people are trying to present as violence related to the election. I hope that you will be able to distinguish between those two activities in the course of your observation and monitoring,” CEC Pokharel cautioned observers at a function organized by Asian Network for Free Election (ANFREL), an international election observation team, on Friday morning in Kathmandu . Dr. Pokhrel was also of the view, “The CA election will greatly facilitate Nepal´s transition from conflict to a culture of dialogue. We are trying to transform the country from the culture of bullets to a culture of ballots. The same people who earlier believed in bullets are now asking for the ballot,” he said. CEC Pokharel also requested national and international election observers to be very careful and refrain from reaching hasty conclusions because of isolated and individual incidents related to the CA Poll. The election observers and teams are governed by a strict code of conduct devised by Nepal´s Election Commission in consultation with all political parties. Altogether 17.5 million eligible Nepali voters are casting ballots on April 10 to elect 601 members of the new Constituent Assembly of Nepal which will then work to develop a more fair and equitable Constitution of Nepal, as well as serve more proportionate representation of the Nepali electorate, particularly from the Madhes region adjoining India.

Meanwhile foreign expressions of political support for the success of Nepal´s democratic elections are pouring in. The U.S. has expressed support for peaceful election, urging all to respect its results. “The United States of America renews its support for a peaceful election through which all Nepalis can freely choose their own future,” according to a U.S. Embassy Nepal press statement. The U.S. believes that the election will be an historic opportunity for the Nepali people to choose the representatives who will decide the constitutional framework for Nepal’s future government. The U.S, Embassy statement adds, “It will mark an important turning point in the transition to what we hope will be a new peaceful, prosperous and democratic Nepal.” The U.S. has also strongly condemned poll-related violence. “We condemn all threats and acts of violence levied by any party or group against candidates, voters, party cadres, officials or observers. We urge all Nepalese to guarantee the rights of their fellow citizens to cast their ballots without fear and to respect the results of the elections.” The US appeal is taken by the Nepali media as a clarification its strong support to the CA Poll process in the wake of various media reports quoting Maoist leaders stating they might not accept the result of the CA Poll election if they are defeated. The U.S. government has given valuable support to Nepal in election related logistics planning and material support. Ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalyn Carter are heading the poll observation teams on behalf of the highly acclaimed Carter Center team, whose activities have also been complemented by UNMIN, EU and other countries´ observers globally. President Carter arrived in Kathmandu on April 7.

This news article is written by Surya B. Prasai for American Chronicle @ http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/57704.

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