Nepal Goes to the Polls

Posted by Colin Corbridge on Wed, 09 Apr 2008 | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

With the world’s media still focused on the electoral circus in Zimbabwe, it would be easy to forget that another momentous election is about to take place, this time in Nepal. This Thursday, 10th April, sees the country going to the polls to elect an assembly that will take responsibility for rewriting the constitution.

These are the first elections in Nepal since 1999 and represent a significant chapter in the unfolding story of Nepal’s attempt to forge for itself a peaceful and secure future. It is expected that the new assembly will recast Nepal as a secular republic – Nepal is no longer able to refer to itself as the world’s only Hindu Kingdom.

Thursday’s polls come at the end of a long and difficult period in Nepal’s history. Between 1996 and 2006, the civil war in Nepal claimed around 13000 lives, with at least 100,000 people being internally displaced as a result of the conflict. Although a ceasefire was declared by the Maoist rebels in 2006, it has been a somewhat fragile peace in recent times. Strikes and roadblocks have continued to disrupt daily life and severe fuel shortages have been a persistant problem in Kathmandu.

Throughout this protracted period of political turmoil, development activities have been greatly compromised and many of the national initiatives in health, education and industry have simply collapsed. The hope is that the election will herald in a new era of peace, security and hope for the people of Nepal. However, if the Maoists are unsuccessful in securing at least some seats on the new assembly, there is every possibility that the turmoil will continue.

The stakes are high in this election, and there have been widespread concerns about an upsurge in violence ahead of polling day. In the run-up to the election, a five day holiday was declared and there is a national ban on the production and sale of alcohol this week. On election day, all transport will be banned. Despite these measures, there have been reports of a number of pipe bomb attacks and various disturbances. Already, two people have been killed.

Please pray for Nepal in the coming days, that the election will pass peacefully and fairly and that the various political leaders will act responsibly. Pray also for those engaged in mission work in the country, including our Mission Partners, Mark and Ali Gill and our Global partners, HDCS. The outcome of the elections are likely to have siginificant implications on ongoing negotatiations regarding the management of the five hospitals that are under HDCS’s care.

If you would like to learn more about our work in Nepal please contact Roger Cooke.