Nepal’s Crisis: Can a Broken Nation Remake Itself?

After a decade of war and nearly half a decade of political dysfunction, the impoverished Himalayan nation is struggling to refashion itself as a secular, pluralistic republic. Political bickering and factionalism is getting in the way.

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Prakash Mathema / AFP / Getty Images

Nepalese student activists shout slogans during a protest demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in Kathmandu on June 17, 2012. The Himalayan nation plunged into political crisis after the constituent assembly was disbanded having failed to agree on a new constitution.

Not long ago, a gleaming white edifice in the Baneshwor neighborhood of Kathmandu evoked hope and optimism. The Chinese-built hall for Nepal’s Constituent Assembly, a 601-member body tasked with writing a constitution for the fledgling republic, was supposed to be the site of the country’s remaking after a decade-long Maoist insurgency that ended in 2006.

Instead, after yet another deadline for Nepal’s feuding lawmakers to draft a new constitution passed on May 27, the area has taken on a worn, deserted look. Gone are the thousands of protesters who converged here; so too, the hordes of security forces in riot gear. An eerie silence pervades life in Kathmandu, a capital city that has grown accustomed to political deadlock and dysfunction.

Nepal’s uneasy calm hides crises that are deepening every day. The major dispute centers around how this country of 26.6 million will be reshaped. That question has remained unanswered since the peace process began under U.N. auspices six years ago, marking the end of a nearly three-century-old Hindu monarchy and the awkward beginnings of a secular republic.

(MORE: Nepal’s rebels with a cause.)

The ruling Maoists are demanding a federalist state that gives power to regional groups. The most vocal proponents of federalism hail from the country’s southern plains and the eastern hills. They argue that federalism would help end centuries of discrimination they’ve felt from the capital and return power to ethnic groups that have been historically marginalized.

The more centrist Nepali Congress (NC) and Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML), the country’s second- and third-largest parties after the ruling Maoists, argue that dividing country along regional and ethnic lines will sow the seeds of disintegration. But some of these parties’ own members, including representatives of the Madhesis—an ethnic group from the southern plains abutting India—have threatened to quit if their demands of federalism are not fulfilled.

The political crisis thus pits those who can benefit from a federal Nepal against those who fear they will lose out, says Jhalak Subedi, who heads the Nepal South Asia Center, a Kathmandu-based think tank. The heart of deadlock is the power play between three forces, Subedi says. “The Maoists’ radical agendas have catapulted them to power. The reformists,  the NC and UML, resist change and the new force the Madhesis and the ethnic groups both demand federalism along ethnic lines,” he says, “A compromise among these players was inevitable. But each was also trying to obstruct the other. UML and NC were bent on weakening the Maoists.”

With just minutes to go before the end of the assembly’s term, Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai called for November 22 elections for the body, which doubles as parliament. Opposition leaders were quick to question the legitimacy of the Prime Minister, who has said he will stay in office at least until the November elections. Late last month President Ram Baran Yadav, a Nepali Congress politician, began criticizing Bhattarai’s decision to call for elections without seeking consensus from opposition parties. Bhattarai has rejected calls that he resign.

Joining the chorus against Bhattarai were dissidents from his own Maoists, who on June 19 formed a new group called Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (the original entity is known as the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist). They accuse the ruling party of deviating from its revolutionary ideals. The separation has not only marked another troubled chapter in Nepal’s politics, but also threatened to end the fragile peace after the splinter group’s leader Mohan Baidya said they “will take up arms if situation warrants.”

(PHOTOS: Life inside Nepal’s Maoist camps.)

Amid the political impasse, the deposed king hinted at a possible return of the Shah monarchy. “I think that people have expected some kind of role form me because the situation has significantly deteriorated,” Gyanendra Shaha told reporters on July 3. And he offered a role for himself: “I’m not a good politician, I am king. Any position less than this is not for me.” When a website of the former king was launched on May 27, many in Kathmandu wondered if it was as an ominous sign of the resurgence of former royals.

The Maoists, whose armed insurrection led to 16,000 deaths, present themselves as the party of the people, empowering minorities and low-caste groups marginalized under Nepal’s monarchy. They back a presidential system in which executive power would be vested in a directly-elected president. Maoist leader Prachanda is widely considered to be their candidate for the post. But the NC and UML want a parliamentary system with a prime minister elected by the body as executive. Maoists argue that the presidential system will provide political stability four a country that has seen four governments in as many years since the peace process began. But the opposition parties fear that such a system will lead to authoritarian rule.

When the bloody, decade long insurgency ended in 2006, Nepal was filled with a sense of potential. But efforts to rebuild the country have proved agonizing. There’s no doubt that the process has already seen some key outcomes: the end of monarchy and steps toward an inclusive political system. Indeed, a sense of mourning lingered after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the most inclusive and diverse institution in the Nepal’s history. Now the country is bereft of a popularly mandated body. Several options including reviving the assembly and postponing the elections to forge consensus are being deliberated. The assembly didn’t achieve its mission of drafting a new constitution, but the longer the gleaming white edifice remains empty, the more the country fears for the future.

(MORE: After Maoist protests, a murky future.)

9 comments
rishav29
rishav29

how the hell do exaggerative fellows like you get to write at a top magazine? nepal, a broken nation? bitch please!!! we may not agree on the form of government and the state, but as a nation, we are as patriotic as ever.

Chhajuram Induscharwak
Chhajuram Induscharwak

Nepal has become play ground for Asian political forces because world ruler is on dialsis  and emerging world ruler are under treatment for most serious ailment and further Nepal can be termed as over dosed as medicine are too old that outdated amp; made in 1917 hence expired.

Dirgha Raj Prasai
Dirgha Raj Prasai

It is necessary to- 

Punish Nepalese PM Dr. Bhattarai

                                                By Dirgha Raj Prasai

 

To analysis the reality, there is no basis to displace

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who has lost his honor of the post after the

dissolution of constituent assembly. Interim constitution is now dead as CA is

dissolved. Even if he is displaced on the basis of dead interim constitution,

it does not mention any provision for it. Along with CA, the interim

constitution and posts elected by CA like Prime minister, President etc have

been dismissed. However there is no probability to quit by Baburam Bhattarai

from the post of premiership. He is known as a most incompetent and suspicious

culprit political actor in Nepalese politics.

Yes, it is a matter of grief, as a prime minister, the

nonsense technocrat Babauram Bhattarai just destroyed the country. In the year

of 2006 in Delhi,

Bhattarai initiated 12 point agreement that made Maoist, UML and Congress leaders

and so on. Since then unbearable games like republic and secularism were begun

in Nepal.

In fact Baburam Bhattarai is guilty of acting against the state. Bhattarai is

become criminal of ending the existence of Nepal on the direction of Indian

intelligence, European countries and Christians. Being a catholic Christian, he

wants Christianization of Nepal through the conflicts of ethnicity based

federalism. Actually, no one traitor, except Baburam Bhattarai was in post of

prime minister of Nepal.

On the direction of Indian intelligence, scattered

Madhesis leaders who are followers of India

were gathered and 4 point agreement was made to be Dr. Bhattarai as a PM of Nepal. As he

became prime minister just a day after 4 point agreement he initiated to incorporate

10000 Madeshis in Nepalese army, supported anti-national slogan 'One Madhesh

singe province' and displaced national dress of Nepal. He decided to demolish

the statue of Father of nation King Tribhuvan insulting him. King Tribhuvan has

made great contribution in revolution of 2007 BS. He denied accepting national

unity day and the birth occasion of the founder of big Nepal the great

King Prithbinarayan Shah. He tried to implement AD instead of BS. He protected

murderers, kidnappers and corrupts and incorporated in his cabinet. Actually

Bhattarai obstructing formulation of constitution by CA pulled the country in

drain just as newly born baby thrown in boiling water by a doctor.

 

Shakun Sherchand

writes ' The Doctor Who Threw the Baby with the Bath Water'-(15 Jun

2012) 'Baburam Bhatarai will be remembered the episode as the Dr. who threw the

baby with the bath water on the midnight of May 27th 2012, irrespective of what

follows. The constitution drafting was nipped and the CA was dissolved. Mother

Nepal‘s memory will be the painful realization of the wasteful 9 billion rupees

spent to abort a constitutionally malnourished nation of unequal citizens. The

death of the CA makes the incumbent PM both illegitimate and wrong. The major

party leaders of the Maoist, Congress and UML Bahun leaders (at least 15-20) are

obviously responsible for the failure of curtailing the constitutional process.

What political acumen did Baburam use in overcoming the constitutional crisis,

besides claiming the position of PM unconstitutionally?  He is known publicly as the Dr. who destroyed

much and acclaims greatly. Since there is no constitutional law that binds

party whipping in drafting the constitution, the brutal act of the party leaders

on the CA members is unpardonable.'

 

In

fact, he doesn’t seem to quit from his post even though whatever immoral and

traitor he is or being punished by Prachand leader of Unified Maoist party or

being said to do so by anybody else. Being an antinationalist culprit-broker,

he is minimizing the political norm to create dilemma among the Nepalese people.

We Nepalese people should be aware against such anti-nationalist activities.

His own party men are repeatedly saying that he is agent of Indian intelligence-RAW.

Due to him Maoist party was spitted. Further he made dissolution of CA because

of desire to continue his post of premiership with creating confusion. If he

does not resign, on the basis of aforementioned facts he should be punished by

state. State means permanent organs of the nation like court, national army and

Nepalese people.

 

 Since

27th May 2012 the CA is dissolved now, 1990 constitution has gained full

legitimacy. Standing on the foundation of reinstated constitution we must form

an inclusive cabinet that will lead the nation towards the solution. Nepalese

people do not want any kind of communist authoritarianism, they want only full

democracy. The people are concerned of political stability, peace and good

governance. The Nepalese

people no longer want the unconstitutional rule of these traitors- Maoists,

Congress, UML, Madhesi. After the dead of CA, the constitutional

provisions of 1990 constitution have been restored with monarchy automatically.

So, to rescue this holy land from an imminent dark future all patriotic forces

Nepalese monarchy and people, Nepal Army, the court and the chief organs of the

state– must unite to commit themselves to save the pious nation.

                                        

Email:dirgharajprasai@gmail.co...    

Alvinsagittarius
Alvinsagittarius

Bring back King and save Nepal. Build Nepal of your own and not as China's subject.

rishav29
rishav29

 bring back the king? yeah, like nepal was a nirvana during the king's days! what a liar, he asks us to believe he is god and that he has the inherent ability and right to determine my future!

i agree our progress is slow, but i am proud we are moving in the right direction... multiculturalism, republicanism and an inclusive state mechanism, that's the future. the ex-king, he's just an inglorious vestige of our outdated formerly hindu state.

Shreya Paudel
Shreya Paudel

Bring back king? You joking right? Going back from capitalist democracy to feudalism? From a stumbling meritocracy to absolute family rule? Insane! The courtier castes of Kathmandu can be heard moaning because of the fall of the king. As long as the real people on the ground, not the lot in golden guarded palaces, are concerned - WE DO NOT NEED THE KING BACK!!

Alvinsagittarius
Alvinsagittarius

 Sorry friend if I have hurt ur feelings. But the democracy also failed. I want to see Nepal as a self determined strong nation.  Since 2008 when monarchy got abolished Nepal could not stabilised and neighbouring countries trying to exploit the situation.