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Nepal: Elections

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 15 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which countries will send international observers to the forthcoming elections to the Constituent Assembly in Nepal. (127500)

Although dates for elections to a Constituent Assembly in Nepal have yet to be confirmed, a number of countries have already approached the UN team in Kathmandu to offer support. In particular, Japan has recently indicated that it is prepared to send election monitors. South Korea has also agreed to provide computer equipment to the Election Commission.

The European Commission sent an election exploratory mission to Nepal in February and is now considering the possibility of sending a team of election monitors together with other forms of assistance to ensure that the elections are free and fair.

Until Prime Minister Koirala formally announces dates for the elections, it is difficult for countries to commit to providing international observers. In advance of this decision, we are working, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development Global Conflict Prevention Pool, with the Carter Centre and the Asia Foundation to ensure a wide deployment of both independent national observers and international monitors to the elections.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to ensure that the elections to the Constituent Assembly in Nepal are free and fair. (127501)

In advance of the elections, we are working hard to help the Government of Nepal to provide conditions in which political parties are able to campaign and voters cast their votes free from threats, intimidation and violence. We are working in partnership with the Election Commission, the UN and a number of Government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to ensure that elections to the Constituent Assembly are free and fair. Our support to the election process ranges widely from co-funding the work of the UN Mission in Nepal in the weapons monitoring process to a contribution directly to the Peace Fund, which aims to address voter education. In addition, we have contributed funds to the Election Commission and also to the Carter Centre who will provide long-term observers to the elections as well as to the Asia Foundation to bring together local NGOs to monitor the elections.

The forthcoming elections to a Constituent Assembly in Nepal will be key to sustaining the momentum of the current peace process. However, it is vital that they are credible, free and fair and that they allow a voice to marginalised groups. We will continue to work with the Government of Nepal, our international partners and NGOs to ensure free and fair elections take place.