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WCL Professor Participates in Election Monitoring in Nepal

by Angela Collier

Andrew Popper, Associate Dean of Administration and WCL Law Professor, travelled to Nepal in November 1994 to monitor the country's mid-term elections. The monitoring program was conducted under the direction of the National Election Observation Commission (NEOC), an indigenous Nepalese organization, and involved observers from every continent.

The observers were divided into teams of three or four and dispatched throughout the country. Popper, who acted as spokesperson for his team, was assigned to monitor the election process in various polling stations in the province of Dhading. Following the election, a coordinating committee assessed the teams' reports and made recommendations to the Nepalese Congress regarding election certification.

Popper recalls that the election was "moving, irregular, exciting, full of hope and democracy, but at the same time full of problems." He believes that voters were intelligent and highly interested in the election process, but lacked good sources of information on the issues and ideologies of the parties. Popper notes that some of the election practices were questionable, including underage voting, rough treatment by riot police, and the breaking of some ballot-box seals. "The very form of government may hang in the balance when such forces are in conflict," states Popper. "Thus, the election becomes a civil form of decision-making, in sharp contrast to violent revolution."

Despite the problems, the NEOC Coordinating Committee ultimately recommended certification of the election in which the Marxist-Leninist party received a majority of votes. Concurring with the NEOC's decision, Popper states, "Besides the fraud, I was taken by how strongly everyone felt they were affecting an outcome." He adds, "In a three-year-old democracy, even twenty percent voter fraud may have to be tolerable. There were improprieties, but they did not reach the level to de-certify." Overall, Popper recalls his experience in Nepal as rewarding. "It is humbling and a privilege to be part of a process that goes to the heart of public governance."

© Copyright 1995 The Human Rights Brief

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