In major setback for Madhesi parties and their agenda, constitutional amendment bill first tabled in April failed to pass in parliament 21 Aug after getting only 347 of 395 votes needed for adoption; opposition Communist Party of Nepal (UML) – second largest in parliament – voted against bill. Govt 30 Aug announced holding of provincial elections on 26 Nov and federal elections 7 Dec; Election Commission had cited logistical challenges in advising against govt’s previous decision to hold both polls on 26 Nov. Main Madhesi party – the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal – 24 Aug announced it would participate in final round of local polls on 28 Sept and in provincial and federal elections following internal pressure on party leaders after unsuccessful boycotts of first two phases of local elections. PM Sher Bahadur Deuba committed to amending constitution to increase popular buy-in despite failed amendment bill in meeting with Indian PM Modi during 23-27 Aug visit to India; several parties including UML and CPN (Maoist-Center) criticised Deuba for internationalising a domestic issue already resolved by parliament. Several districts including most in southern Tarai plains experienced severe flooding second week of Aug; over 150 dead and over 20,000 families displaced.
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.