Ethnic party threatens poll boycott if demands not met: Nepal

Other News Materials 19 February 2008 08:30 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The ethnic United Democratic Madhesi Front threatened to boycott a key election in April if its demands for autonomy are not met, media reports said Tuesday.

The warning came as indefinite strike called by the group in southern Nepal entered its seventh day, paralyzing 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," Nepal Samacharpatra quoted UDMF leader Rajendra Mahato as saying.

"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 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," president of Terai Madhes Democratic Party Mahanta Thakur said. "The government must create an environment for talks."

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 from discrimination.