The insistence of Nepal's Prime Minister K.P. Sharm Oli on maintaining power marks a potentially dangerous juncture along his drift toward authoritarianism.
Govt announced date for general election in Nov, which sparked haggling among ruling coalition parties over seat-sharing arrangements. Cabinet meeting 4 Aug scheduled parliamentary and provincial elections for 20 Nov; 84 parties applied to Election Commission to contest polls by registration deadline on 16 Aug. Five-member ruling coalition 5 Aug established task force to determine by 16 Aug seat-sharing arrangements for upcoming polls, to ensure ruling parties do not contest same constituencies. By end of month, however, task force was unable to find agreement due to parties’ demands outnumbering available seats on offer; all five parties 25 Aug presented their claims, which cumulatively totaled 234 directly elected House of Representatives seats – far above 165 total seats on offer. Leftist members of coalition reportedly considered merger to increase their bargaining power.
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.
International Crisis Group worked regularly on Nepal from 2003-2012, publishing 33 reports in the period leading up to and following the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the country’s decade-long civil war. Since 2012, Crisis Group has maintained a watching brief on the country.
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.