News / Asia

Nepal Backslides Into Political Crisis

Members of Nepal Student Union affiliated with Nepali Congress chant slogans while they burn an effigy of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in Katmandu, Nepal, May 31, 2012.Members of Nepal Student Union affiliated with Nepali Congress chant slogans while they burn an effigy of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in Katmandu, Nepal, May 31, 2012.
x
Members of Nepal Student Union affiliated with Nepali Congress chant slogans while they burn an effigy of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in Katmandu, Nepal, May 31, 2012.
Members of Nepal Student Union affiliated with Nepali Congress chant slogans while they burn an effigy of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in Katmandu, Nepal, May 31, 2012.
Anjana Pasricha
Four years ago, Nepal's citizens were optimistic about the newly-elected parliament that was writing a new, democratic constitution for the country after a Maoist rebellion ended.  But today, the tiny Himalayan country is sliding back into crisis with squabbling political parties failing to agree on the shape of the constitution or the way ahead for the country.

The Nepali Congress Party is one of two major political parties in Nepal which has decided not to take part in elections scheduled to be held in November.  
 
The elections are being held to choose a new constituent assembly to draft a democratic constitution for Nepal.  Elected in 2008, the last assembly failed to complete the task despite two extensions.
 
When its term expired May 27 and parliament was disbanded, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai declared himself the head of a caretaker government.   
 
But the leader of the Nepali Congress party, Arjun Narasingha, said his party will not take part in polls conducted by Bhattarai's government.  

"This government is illegitimate. They have no moral right to stay.  They have no political or executive right to hold the election.  This government should resign," said Narasingha.

The strong words aimed at the caretaker government headed by the Maoists symbolize the massive problems facing Nepal because of its fractured polity.  
 
Four years ago, the mood was radically different.  A decade-long Maoist insurgency had ended, and the monarchy had been abolished.  Nepal appeared set to become one of the world's newest democracies.   
 
Deep differences and infighting among the country's three main political parties, however, have created an impasse which is becoming difficult to resolve.
 
The Nepali Congress and the Communist Party deeply distrust the Maoists who head the caretaker government, and who won the most seats in the last elections.
 
The two parties insist that the Maoists will not stage free and fair elections.  They want to be part of a new government which will supervise the polls.
 
At Nepal's Center for Contemporary Studies in Kathmandu, Lok Raj Baral says there is growing skepticism over the will of Nepal's political leaders to join forces and give their country a new deal.  He accuses them of jockeying for power.
 
"It is the failure of political parties, I don't blame only one party, it is the failure of all political leaders. They are all so preoccupied with politics of chair, they did not give much thought to the drafting of constitution," noted Baral.  

The framing of the constitution got stuck on a key point, whether the country should be divided into a dozen small states along ethnic lines so that some of the larger minority groups become politically empowered.  The proposal is supported by the Maoists and many small ethnic parties.  They say minorities, which have been marginalized for centuries, need better representation.
 
But the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party, who represent the traditional ruling elite, insist that ethnic federalism will sow the seeds of the country's disintegration.
 
As observers worry that the political impasse is only worsening, Sarah Levitt-Shore at the American-based non-governmental group Carter Center in Nepal, says it is critical for a political consensus to emerge on the way forward.

"There is a lot of good work that has been done, they reached agreement on nearly all the issues that were needed," said Levitt-Shore.  "It certainly is the case that federalism was one of the major challenges, one of the major outstanding issues, but even there they were able to find large amounts of common ground.  So it is everyone's hope that all the good work that was done in the last four years can be built upon and the political process can pick up where they left off."   

Those hopes may not be easily addressed.
 
The editor of Nepali Times newspaper, Kunda Dixit, says Nepal is bracing for months of political uncertainty.  But at the same time, he says many people feel that taking some more time to draft the constitution may serve the country well in the long run.
 
"It is better not to have a constitution than to have a totally flawed one, and therefore, there is some amount of relief as well," said Dixit.

For now, Nepal faces key challenges: the political legitimacy of its caretaker government is under question and there is still no sign that political parties are close to reaching agreement on a new constitution.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid