Politics in Nepal
Some remarks on what passes for politics in Nepal
Executive Summary: Politics in Nepal is One Great Insoluble Mess.
For the ruling political classes in Nepal, democracy is a nice little playground where they can play their futile but oh-so-funny power games, while the rest of country goes to the dogs. The average Nepalese has gained nothing at all by the introduction of democracy a few decades ago. On the contrary, he has lost out: these days, most public services are in worse shape than 15 or 20 years ago. Day-to-day life for ordinary folk gets more difficult almost by the month: long power cuts, brutal water shortages, corruption at all levels, raging inflation. And still, the so-called politicians do not care one blind bit.
The country had been a “Hindu Kingdom” for many decades; sometimes the king du jour had played a strong role in politics (like King Mahendra in the late 1950s); sometimes he would fill a more constitutional function (like King Birendra during the last years of his reign). However, after the 2001 massacre in the Royal Palace, in which ten members of the Royal family, including King Birendra and his queen, were killed, everything changed. Gyanendra, the new king (brother to the dead Birendra, who as a king was loved and deeply revered by the Nepalese people), was unpopular and unloved; it quickly turned out that he would have no positive role to play.
Then, after a decade-long bloody civil war, a fragile peace broke out and in April 2008, a Constituent Assembly (CA, 601 seats) was elected and started to work under a hastily-written preliminary constitution. There were (and are) many parties in Nepal which tried to get a share of power, but three clearly dominated the picture and the election:
- Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), short CPN(M): this what is normally called the “Maoists” though the official party and the Maoist movement are by no means identical (think Sinn-Fein and the IRA in Northern Ireland). The CPN(M) won 229 seats in the CA, but no outright majority. (Most external observers had declared that the election had been reasonably fair and lawful.)
- Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), short CPN(UML): another Communist party. The two Communist parties came into being in 1994 when the then “Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Centre)” had split into two (108 seats in the CA).
- Nepali Congress, short NC: this has been traditionally the strongest party in Nepal, not least because it fought for and achieved the first democratisation, against King Mahendra in the 1950s. The NC is a centrist party loosely affiliated with the Indian Congress (115 seats in the CA).
One of the central requests of the CPN(M) had long been the removal of the king. They finally succeeded in this on 28 May 2008 when the CA officially abolished the monarchy and replaced it with a secular, federal republic. The CA was also supposed to formulate a final, binding constitution until 28 May 2010.
But things quickly turned sour. The CPN(UML) and the NC (to put it mildly, two of the most unlikely bedfellows the world has ever seen) formed a coalition government, thereby completely excluding the CPN(M), which, let's not forget, had won a clear majority of seats in the CA election.
Of course, the Maosists were not happy: they started on a course of general obstruction and nationwide strikes (called bandhs).
The last two years have seen interminable rounds of infighting, squabbling, manoeuvring, cheating, posturing and procrastinating between the three major players. No progress has been made and the supposed writing of the new constitution by the CA never happened. The people are now fast losing patience with the political parties and with the idea of democracy as a whole — but there is very little they can do: the parties continue to play their power games, completely ignore the plight of the ordinary Nepalese and it seems this state of affairs won't change anytime soon as the Nepalese themselves are unable, powerless, to effect any change of this terrible situation.
$updated from: Background.htxt Mon 03 May 2021 16:08:33 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$