Pressure on govt increased following rising tensions with India linked to competing territorial claims, prompting calls within ruling party for PM to resign, while peaceful public protests took place against govt’s poor handling of COVID-19 pandemic. Parliament 13 June unanimously approved constitutional amendment updating country’s political map to reflect Kathmandu’s claims over territory contested between Nepal and India, escalating dispute with Delhi. Several senior leaders of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) 26 June criticised PM KP Oli at party meeting — which Oli skipped — for failing to initiate talks with India over border dispute and for govt’s overall lack of competence. Amid tensions with Delhi, Oli 28 June accused India of trying to unseat him as PM; NCP senior leaders, including former PMs Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal, 30 June urged Oli to step down from both PM and party chair positions, with other party leaders demanding proof of Oli’s claims against Delhi, describing them as “diplomatic disaster” for bilateral ties. Widespread peaceful anti-govt protests throughout June demanded better quarantine facilities and transparency regarding use of donor funds earmarked for COVID-19 response. Opposition parties and private-sector leaders expressed concerns late June over govt’s authoritarian turn following proposed legislation enabling national anti-corruption body to investigate private-sector entities; parliament 27 June decided to review bill in light of criticism.
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.