Amid uncertainties about logistical preparations, political manoeuvring hastened in lead-up to provincial and national elections scheduled for 26 Nov and 7 Dec. Opposition UML and ruling coalition member CPN (Maoist Center) 3 Oct announced “leftist alliance” with view to an eventual merger. CPN (Maoist Center) decided to remain in current govt led by Nepali Congress (NC) but NC President and PM Sher Bahadur Deuba responded 17 Oct by relieving CPN (Maoist Center) ministers of their portfolios; launched efforts to form countervailing “democratic alliance”; merged 16 Oct with fifth largest party in parliament, Nepal Loktantrik Forum; 17 Oct appointed ministers from monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party to cabinet. Electoral delay fears emerged as Election Commission claimed insufficient time left to abide by 25 Oct Supreme Court ruling to print separate ballot papers for First Past the Post elections at provincial and national levels; commission eventually announced 30 Oct it could print all ballot papers within twenty days. UML and CPN (Maoist Center) leaders accused NC of trying to postpone polls due to fears of defeat. Nepal elected to 2018-2020 UN Human Rights Council term for first time 16 Oct after securing 166 votes – highest among all Asia-Pacific candidates.
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.