World outcry against Nepal polls on rise
Britain joined the growing global outcry against Nepal's controversial local polls, terming them "tarnished" and without public support.india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 15:04 IST
Britain joined the growing international outcry against Nepal's controversial local polls, terming them "tarnished" and without public support even as the government touted the exercise as a wide success.
Kim Howells, British foreign office minister, said the British government did not believe Wednesday's municipal elections were a "meaningful exercise in canvassing the political wishes of the people of Nepal".
Responding to a query in London on Thursday, Howells said the low level of turnout in the elections indicated they did not have public support.
"The elections were tarnished by the efforts of the government to quash dissent by restricting civil liberties and the media," the minister said.
Britain has asked Gyanendra to immediately release all political detainees and negotiate with the political parties on a return to peace and democracy.
"We have consistently urged the king to reach out to the political parties to develop a common agenda for a full return to multiparty democracy, and have stressed the need for an inclusive and comprehensive process to achieve a negotiated peace, Howells said.
The US, India and Japan have also called the elections hollow and urged the king to begin talks with the parties.
The US was the first to condemn the polls in a statement, calling the exercise a "hollow attempt by the King to legitimise his power" and urged the king to "release political detainees and initiate a dialogue with the political parties".
India too has expressed concern at the way the elections were held with about one percent of Nepal's total population participating.
The Indian external affairs ministry said the government had taken note of the fact that the elections were held against the "backdrop of a boycott by the major recognised political parties, sharp curtailment of their legitimate activities, and continued arrest and detention in various forms of many of their leaders".
In an unusual move, the government of Japan, which has remained mostly silent on the political developments in Nepal since last year when Gyanendra seized absolute power with the help of the army, has also strongly criticised the polls.
The director-general for press and public relations at Japan's ministry of foreign affairs said the government "deplores that the municipal election in the Kingdom of Nepal was held without a broad support of the people of Nepal".
Expressing regret that political activists were arrested during the polls, it asked Nepal's government and the political parties to "reach out to one another with the spirit of reconciliation" soon.
All the four donors have also expressed concern at the escalated violence by Maoists to disrupt the polls as well as the four-day shutdown enforced by the rebels from last Sunday.
The condemnations come as the state media began a blitzkrieg, trying to portray the elections as having a large turnout when official figures showed it to be about 21 per cent.
Though 58 per cent of the municipal posts remain empty even after the elections, the royalist government so far has said it would stick to its plan of holding parliamentary elections by April 2007.