Despite completion of federal, provincial, and local elections, transfer of power from Nepali Congress (NC) to leftist alliance between UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) continues to be delayed with country’s new decentralised governing bodies taking shape; new provincial assemblies sworn in 21 Jan; parties preparing for 7 Feb elections for upper house of federal parliament. PM Sher Bahadur Deuba continues to be criticised by leftist of alliance for unwillingness to step down. Govt’s 17 Jan declaration of temporary headquarters of all seven provinces led to protests in several areas; clashes between demonstrators and police in former regional headquarter cities resulted in over 25 injured; UML Chairman KP Oli vowed to reverse this and other decisions made by NC-led govt during transition period. UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) continued to discuss merger and power-sharing deals; 28 Jan decided four of seven provinces would be led by UML and two by CPN (Maoist Centre); deal criticised as disproportionate by some Maoist leaders who also demand Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal assume leadership of new unified party.
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.