Election environment is poor, says report

Kathmandu, April 1:

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) said that the election environment is

deteriorating in the majority of districts. This was stated in the ANFREL’s second pre-election report, which was released today.

The report is based on findings from its 20 international election observers deployed across the country since March 15. Rivalry between political parties has often manifested itself in violence and intimidation, it said, adding that the response by the authorities responsible for enforcing the law has also been inadequate.

Addressing a press conference today, Somsri Hananuntasuk, the executive director of ANFREL, said that the political parties should implement agreements and declarations agreed on curbing election-related violence and refrain from using party cadres in large numbers around polling stations on the election day.

Ichal Supriadi, ANFREL’s mission coordinator, said that there is no political will at the moment to vigorously pursue those, who break the law, and the risk of this approach is that a culture of impunity emerges, where party cadres and other groups run rampant, safe in the knowledge that they won’t face serious consequences.

The report pointed out both the Maoists and non-Maoist elements as causes of poll violence. “ANFREL observers pointed out frequently to the Youth Communist League as the primary aggressor in violent conflicts between political parties,” it said, adding: “However, ANFREL notes that Maoist cadres have also been subject to violence and at least eight have lost their lives since the beginning of election campaigning.”

The report said that there was a stark lack in the number of petitions being filed and resolved. The report has also raised question about the safety of the voters. “Many voters remain cautious and will make a judgment about whether to vote or not based on events on the election day itself,” it said.

Another team of 80 observers is arriving Kathmandu for short-term observation tomorrow and on Thursday. The 20-member long-term observers were deployed in the country from March 10.