November 8, 2013, 10:30 am
By The Carter Center
Carter Center expert David Pottie explains the importance of Nepal’s upcoming election and the role of Carter Center observers.
Q: Why is this election important to Nepal?
Nepal’s Nov. 19 constituent assembly election is a long-delayed vote to replace the assembly that was dissolved in May 2012 after failing to draft a new constitution. This election is crucially important to end political stalemate and keep the broader peace process moving forward. In a sense, this election is a do-over. It’s a second chance to try to tackle the big issues facing the country.
Q: What are some of those big issues?
Nepalis still need to define the character of the state they want. For example, will there be a president or prime minister? They also have not come to any agreement on what kind of electoral system to include in a future constitution. Also under consideration is whether to decentralize power away from Kathmandu to meet the interests of diverse ethnic and linguistic groups.
Q: The last constituent assembly was very inclusive. Will the new one be as diverse?
The assembly will have 601 members blended from both first-past-the-post constituencies and proportional representation. It’s that second component, the proportional representation, which will allow them to introduce different quotas to ensure that women, castes, and ethnic groups are represented because these are the groups that historically have been shut out from access to political power.
David Pottie, associate director of the Carter Center’s Democracy Program, at right, talks with other Carter Center observers including President and Mrs. Carter during Nepal’s 2008 constituent assembly election. (Photo: The Carter Center/D. Hakes)
Q: The Carter Center observed the voter registration process. How will the new system improve the elections?
The 2008 voters list was compiled out of conditions of civil war. There were many internally displaced people, births, and people who had reached voting age for whom there were no records or documents. The voters list also had unrecorded deaths or multiple registrants. Since then the election commission has worked to adopt a biometric voter registration including fingerprints and a digital photograph. The new voters roll has been compiled electronically allowing Nepalis to register anytime, any day that the government is working, which is an important improvement.
Q: How has The Carter Center been involved in Nepal?
After observing the 2008 constituent assembly election, The Carter Center remained to observe and assess important political trends as part of Nepal’s ongoing peace process. This included citizen perceptions of federalism, citizen understanding and awareness of their own identity as a group and as individuals, ongoing concerns about the security situation, and a whole host of issues of broader political development as Nepal tried to normalize political life, even though many institutions remain unstable and in need of continued reform.
We also worked to capture citizen perceptions. Since so much of political life is centered among the relative elite of the country, average citizens and their opinions tend to be unheard or unreported. And so we deployed mobile teams of Nepali and international observers to travel around the country to capture those perspectives which we shared through several dozen public reports that have been distributed widely.
Q: How can The Carter Center contribute to this electoral process?
The 2013 Nepal constituent assembly election will be the 95th election that The Carter Center has observed. We have found that political actors appreciate hearing not only our assessment of how their own country is performing, but also how they relate and compare to other countries. We are very open and transparent with our efforts to contribute constructive recommendations. We try to maintain good personal connections and political relationships so we can have private off-the-record conversations, as well as publish public reports that detail our findings. We do that regularly over the process, and that exchange of information enhances transparency around an election.