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Nepal's ethnic party threatens poll boycott

The United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) threatens to boycott a key election in April if its demands for autonomy are not met.
By DPA | None, Kathmandu
UPDATED ON FEB 19, 2008 03:10 PM IST

An ethnic party in Nepal, the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), threatened to boycott a key election in April if its demands for autonomy were not met, media reports said on Tuesday.

The warning came as an indefinite strike called by the group in southern Nepal entered its seventh day, paralysing the supply of essential goods, including fuel and food to the rest of the country.

"We will not meet the deadline of the election commission to submit a list of candidates for the elections," Rajendra Mahato, UDMF leader, was quoted as saying by the Nepal Samacharpatra.

"We are not against elections but under the circumstances, free and fair elections are not possible in southern Nepal and contesting it would be meaningless," Mahato said.

The front demands a single state for the entire southern Nepalese plains known as Terai, with the right to self-determination.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has rejected the demand, saying it would divide the country into two.

The rejection led to spike in violence in the south, resulting in the death of one protestor while over 100 people, including police officers, were injured.

"The talks are not possible as long as the government continues to suppress the agitation," said Mahanta Thakur, president of Terai Madhes Democratic Party.

"The government must create an environment for talks," he added.

He also rejected assertions that the group was seeking independence.

"We are demanding inclusion of ethnic Madhesi. Is that separation?" Thakur asked.

Southern Nepal has seen frequent strikes and escalating violence since the Maoists gave up violence in November 2006.

Both Thakur and Mahato were part of the government until recently when they quit their parties and parliament to start a new party in southern Nepal, saying ethnic Madhesis of the south suffer discrimination.

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