Inching to Stability?
Nepal’s political history has been peppered with conflicts and instability. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed on 21 November 2006, ended a decadelong conflict with the loss of 14,000 precious lives. Consequently, the interim constitution was adopted on 15 January 2007, the same day the Maoists made their landmark return to Parliament. The Maoist lobby formed part of the interim government led by the Nepali Congress, which took office on 30 March 2007. The election of the Constituent Assembly soon followed on 10 April 2008, officially declaring Nepal as the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal on 28 May 2008 and thus abolishing a 240-year old monarchy.
Despite achieving some semblance of political stability, Nepal remains a fragile state, facing new threats caused by the financial crisis,
the economic slowdown and security issues.
Nepal is currently undergoing a period of historic political change. The peace process is dragging its feet as the government is confronted with new challenges every day. Political intolerance has increased, following the collapse of the first coalition government on 4 May 2009, when the Prime Minister and former Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka Prachanda, decided to dismiss the army chief, General Rookmangud Katawal. Clashes between activists from different political parties have intensified, with incidents mostly provoked by youth wings of political parties and the student’s unions affiliated with them.
Nepal’s leadership has failed to draft a new Constitution. The mandate of the 602-member Constituent Assembly elected in 2008 ended on 27th May 2012 without a consensus as to how Nepal should be governed. During the ten year long armed rebellion against the monarchy , the majority of the rural masses and many residing in urban areas supported the Maoists. However, when the Maoists formed nearly 40% of the Constituent Assembly, they advocated for democratic centralism akin to the former Soviet Union. The other 60% opposed it for a myriad of reasons.
After the People’s Movement of 2006 led to the end of the king’s absolute power, interim arrangements were decided. The initial decision to form an interim constitution was made by the seven mainstream political parties. Although, on the outside, an expert committee, led by an esteemed Supreme Court judge, was appointed to draft the interim constitution, in reality, nominees of the political parties made the key decisions. Nearly five thousand submissions were received from the people but there is little evidence that much heed was paid to them. The interim constitution was enacted nearly ten months after the recall of the ad hoc parliament.
Though the government had been led by Baburam Bhattarai of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) since August 2011, various civil functions were gradually shut down without a Parliament. Opposing parties did not want Bhattarai to lead the government during the elections but Bhattarai refused to surrender his post without a broad agreement on how the elections would be supervised. Mr. Regmi had earlier signed on an agreement that required him to resign from his post while an interim chief justice would hold his post. He is expected to return to the court after elections are held in November.
With the expansion of the cabinet led by chief justice Khil Raj Regmi, Nepal has firmly stepped into election politics. Looking at Nepal’s political history over the past six decades, there are reasons to believe that elections can’t be held easily or, when held, they won’t be able to bring any respite and political stability in the country. Nepal’s political crisis is not only a reflection of its own internal crisis, but is one that is beyond the control of Nepali politicians. Renowned American scholar and Nepal expert, late Leo Rose used to argue that the external relations of a bigger country are determined by its internal politics. He also said that the internal politics of a small country are determined by external politics. Being a small country, Nepal’s internal politics seem to have a little to do with major political upheavals of the last sixty years and it seems there’s still a long way to go for the country.