Former US President Carter Believes Serious Violence Not Derailing Nepal Election

The most prominent international observer for Thursday's election in Nepal, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, has told VOA News that incidents of "serious" violence, including seven deaths, do not appear to be derailing the country's commitment to carry out the long-delayed vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kathmandu.

Assassinations and abductions of candidates, rioting, bomb blasts and fatal shootings of Maoists by police are some of the violent incidents Nepal confronted in the hours before polls opened nationwide.

The election to choose an assembly, that is expected to write a constitution formalizing Nepal as a republic, has put the international spotlight on the small and impoverished Himalayan country.

Among those credentialed as election observers is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.  He tells VOA News the violence will likely not derail Nepal's strong desire to successfully conduct the balloting.

"We are quite confident that despite some of these disturbances that have been serious that the overall commitment is very deep and [the election] will be successful," he said.

The former president's non-profit Carter Center has been active here for the past five years, at the invitation of Nepal's government and the political parties, helping Nepal prepare for the twice-delayed election.

Mr. Carter is to visit numerous polling stations in the capital on Thursday.  He says any serious violations he or the other Carter Center observers witness or hear of will be reported promptly.

"My first move would be to go to the election commission," he added.  "They have assured us that we will be welcome at any time to make our request or to explain our questions or to take action if there is a defect that needs to be corrected."

In addition to the 850 observers from outside Nepal, the country's non-governmental organizations are deploying 60,000 Nepalese observers.

Leaders of all the major parties have predicted victory, including the Maoists who waged a 10-year war against the state with the goal of ending the monarchy.

The once autocratic King Gyanendra, now stripped of power, issued a rare statement.  The unpopular sovereign urged all those eligible to exercise their "democratic right in a free and fair environment."

The king, once revered as a Hindu god, is not among those heading to the polls, which are another step in deciding the fate of the 250-year-old royal dynasty.  The royal family has been deemed ineligible to vote.

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