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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid