Country successfully held second round of local elections 28 June, however new Nepali Congress (NC)-led govt made no progress on addressing demands of Madhesi parties who boycotted polls; increasing trust deficit casts further doubts about proposed amendments to 2015 constitution. NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba elected PM 6 June; listed holding of local, provincial, and national elections by Jan 2018 as main priority. Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) – main dissenting Madhesi party – supported Deuba’s candidacy on condition that he prioritise addressing their grievances. However, Deuba 9 June told parliament that amendments would not be possible prior to polls. Following RJP-N protests, strikes, and disruptions, govt 15 June postponed elections in central Tarai province – comprising eight of twenty southern-belt districts – until 18 Sept. Second phase of local elections held 28 June across remaining three provinces that include twelve southern-belt districts; voter turnout was 70.5% despite security concerns following IED explosions in three districts preceding week that injured seven people. RJP-N boycott of second phase undermined by some local-level party leaders contesting elections as independents. RJP-N cadres arrested in several parts of Tarai during protests throughout June; five injured in police firing during 17 June protests in Nawalparasi district.
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.
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.