Managing the Political and Practical: Nepal's Constituent Assembly Elections, 2006-2008

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Abstract 
Appointed chairman of Nepal’s Election Commission in October 2006, Bhojraj Pokharel faced an uphill battle. One month after his appointment, a peace agreement between major political parties and Maoist rebels ended a 10-year conflict and set the stage for elections to a Constituent Assembly that would write a new constitution. An interim government would choose a new electoral system and set the rules for the contest. With the Maoists threatening to resume hostilities if the elections did not take place on schedule, Pokharel, a former civil servant with no previous experience managing elections, had to work quickly. His main goal was to ensure the elections were maximally inclusive, free of fraud and peaceful so as to avoid giving the parties reason to pull out of the electoral process or boycott the results and send the country back into chaos. Pokharel worked closely with the interim government, providing valuable information and counsel on electoral rules and requirements. He oversaw the updating of voter lists, hired poll workers and helped assemble a special police service. Political squabbling forced the commission to delay the elections twice, yet as the chief architect of the process, Pokharel managed to keep the parties engaged. In April 2008, Nepalese citizens finally went to the polls. Although there was violence during the campaign period and on election day, as well as reports of voting irregularities, the election strengthened the fragile peace. The Maoists joined the government, and democratically elected representatives began the difficult task of drawing up a new constitution. In 2012, the peace continued to hold even though persistent disagreements in the Constituent Assembly had stymied efforts to produce a constitution.
 
Michael Scharff drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Kathmandu, Nepal, in December 2010 and using an interview conducted by Rushda Majeed in July 2011. Case published in June 2012. Most ISS case studies rest on large numbers of interviews. This case study was informed in large part by an interview with Bhojraj Pokharel, who served as chief election commissioner of the Election Commission of Nepal from 2006 to 2008.
 
Associated Interview(s):  Neel Kantha Uprety
Keywords 
Nepal
ethnic groups
hiring election staff
all-party committee
observers
post-conflict election
Election Violence
transparency
election schedules
vote counting
communications
election commission
Election Management Body
media relations
monitoring
rural voter registration
voter rolls
voter fraud
Voter Registration
Focus Area(s): 
Elections
Critical Tasks: 
Election schedules
Election security
Legal framework
Recruitment
Training
Voter registration
Core Challenge: 
Dispute resolution (compliance)
Country of Reform: 
Nepal
Type: 
Case Studies
Author: 
Michael Scharff