PM KP Oli’s decision to dissolve parliament and schedule new elections triggered protests and political crisis. Months of internal tensions within ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and increasing pressure on PM KP Oli to resign reached boiling point as Oli 20 Dec dissolved lower house of parliament and announced fresh elections for April/May 2021. The move, authorised by President Bidya Bhandari, drew widespread rebuke for violating 2015 constitution, called into question credibility of offices of PM and president, triggered protests across country and sparked period of political uncertainty. Oli’s decision to sack parliament followed his order (issued with immediate effect following presidential approval) 15 Dec to amend working procedures of Constitutional Council – tasked with making appointments to several key constitutional bodies – allowing PM to take decisions with quorum of three members, dispensing with previous consensus among five council members; both moves viewed as latest to consolidate power and centralise decision-making. Oli’s decision to dissolve parliament was immediately termed unconstitutional by other leaders, political parties, and civil society members for contravening 2015 constitution, which provides only limited pathways for parliamentary dissolution. Protesters late Dec held several mass demonstrations across country against dissolution and filed 13 writs at Supreme Court, which 25 Dec demanded written justification for move. Dissolution also widened NCP’s internal divisions; Oli’s faction 22 Dec expanded party’s central committee with 556 new members, while competing faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal same day removed Oli as party co-chair; disputes also emerged at provincial level as Dahal’s faction 27 Dec filed no-confidence motion against Oli-aligned chief minister in Province 1. Meanwhile, Guo Yezhou, vice minister of Communist Party of China’s International Department, 27-30 Dec visited capital Kathmandu, meeting several political leaders including PM and president reportedly to assess evolving political situation; earlier in month, Vijay Chauthaiwale, Foreign Cell chair of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party 10 Dec visited Nepal and met with PM Oli to discuss bilateral ties.
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.