The insistence of Nepal's Prime Minister K.P. Sharm Oli on maintaining power marks a potentially dangerous juncture along his drift toward authoritarianism.
Originally published in World Politics Review
President Bhandari dissolved lower house of parliament for second time in six months and announced elections for mid-November, sparking widespread criticism that move undermines 2015 constitution. PM KP Oli 10 May lost vote of confidence, prompting Bhandari same day to call on opposition parties to form new majority govt within three days; after failure of parties to secure majority, Bhandari 13 May reappointed Oli as premier. Following political maneuvering among opposition parties in House of Representatives, 149 MPs from Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and dissenting factions of Janata Samajbadi Party and Unified Marxist-Leninist parties 21 May presented signatures to Bhandari requesting that head of Nepali Congress party Sher Bahadur Deuba be appointed PM; later same day, Oli also presented his candidacy, claiming support of 153 parliamentarians, including several backing Deuba. After declaring that she could not appoint either candidate due to insufficient support, Bhandari 21 May dissolved parliament for second time since Dec 2020. Bhandari’s ongoing support for Oli – who had consistently sought elections in recent months – was widely criticised as undermining 2015 constitution; 146 MPs 24 May filed joint petition at Supreme Court challenging dissolution of parliament’s lower chamber and demanding its reinstatement.
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.
Originally published in República