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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid