The insistence of Nepal's Prime Minister K.P. Sharm Oli on maintaining power marks a potentially dangerous juncture along his drift toward authoritarianism.
Originally published in World Politics Review
Supreme Court dissolved ruling party, bringing judiciary’s independence into question and prompting political jockeying in parliament as PM KP Oli reportedly sought fresh elections. In unexpected decision, Supreme Court 7 March invalidated legal status of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in response to 2018 petition by another party with same name. Decision created fresh political uncertainty, effectively dissolving NCP and annulling 2018 merger between Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre); both parties now effectively reinstated. Ruling came hours before House of Representatives — recalled after Supreme Court last month overturned December 2020 dissolution by Oli — reconvened. Supreme Court 31 March rejected petition filed by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 30 March seeking a review of 7 March decision. Original ruling sparked discussions between formerly merged communist parties and opposition leaders on potential new alliances to secure parliamentary majority or possible no-confidence motion against Oli. Tensions between Oli and senior communist leader Madhav Kumar Nepal escalated as Oli 29 March suspended Kumar Nepal from newly reinstated Unified Marxist-Leninist party. Oli’s absence from House of Representatives throughout month fuelled speculation that he is attempting to discredit parliament in bid to once again call for fresh elections.
Since it was passed amid deadly protests in September 2015, Nepal’s new constitution has deepened ethnic, social and political fractures. The country’s national parties and protesting groups need to find ways to address constitutional disagreements and underlying disputes. There is a clear risk of escalating violence unless all sides understand that without compromise and good faith Nepal faces an existential threat.
Nepal’s major political parties must urgently agree on a roadmap to negotiate on federalism and write the new constitution, whether by holding elections to a new Constituent Assembly or reviving the previous body.
With the future of the Maoist combatants finally settled, Nepal’s peace process has gained momentum after a long stalemate, but challenges remain, particularly the design of a new federal state and evolving coalition and factional dynamics of the parties.
Nepal’s Maoist combatants urgently need to be integrated into the national security forces and rehabilitated or retired to consolidate the peace process.
The parties to Nepal’s fitful peace process have less than eight weeks to agree on integration of Maoist combatants and federalism before the term of the Constituent Assembly elected to draft a new constitution expires.
Originally published in República