Former US president Jimmy Carter has arrived in Kathmandu to observe crucial elections in Nepal seen as vital to the Himalayan kingdom’s stability.
Carter, 89, will lead a team of 50 election observers from the Atlanta-based Carter Center, who will monitor Tuesday’s vote, only the second such polls since a 10-year civil war launched by Maoist rebels ended in 2006.
“Carter will meet top leaders of different political parties before he starts election observations,” Ghanashyam Ojha, political analyst at the Carter Center, told AFP on Saturday.
Carter’s NGO monitored Nepal’s landmark 2008 constituent assembly polls, which ended royal rule and transformed the country into a secular republic.
Since then, political infighting has confounded efforts to draft a constitution and conclude the peace process, leading to the collapse of Nepal’s first constituent assembly in May 2012.
A hardline faction of the Maoist party that swept the 2008 polls has threatened to disrupt the November 19 constituent assembly elections, with anti-poll protesters torching buses and hurling explosives at vehicles this week.
The 33-party alliance headed by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) says elections cannot be carried out under the interim administration headed by the chief justice of the supreme court.
They want the polls to be postponed until a cross-party government is put in place.
Carter, a 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, met with the hardliners during a visit to Nepal last April and asked them to renounce violence in the run-up to the polls.
In a statement late on Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the hardliners to allow the vote to take place “in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation”.
“The secretary general appeals to all stakeholders to conclude these elections peacefully, and to redouble their efforts in the urgent task of constitution-making”, the statement said.
More than 100 parties, including three major ones – the Unified Marxist-Leninist, the Nepali Congress and the Maoists – are fielding candidates for the 601-seat constituent assembly, which will also serve as a parliament.