Following factional differences between its main leaders, ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) 20 Nov elevated former Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal from party’s co-chair to its sole executive chairman in exchange for PM KP Oli continuing to lead govt for remainder of its five-year tenure, despite a May 2018 gentleman’s agreement to handover prime-ministership to Dahal halfway through tenure. Oli appeared unwilling to cede complete control of NCP, however, asserting 25 Nov that he retains seniority over Dahal. Oli also reshuffled cabinet 20 Nov to address internal NCP divisions, with three of six new ministers coming from Dahal’s faction. Concerns over NCP’s unilateral decision-making increased following 3 Nov dismissal of governors of all seven provinces appointed under previous Nepali Congress-led govt; critics described move as abuse of power. NCP’s continued restrictions over civil liberties also came into focus with cabinet decision to authorise Home Ministry – responsible for internal security – to draft new legislation to regulate NGOs; Human Rights Watch (HRW) 14 Nov rebuked govt’s move as attempt to weaken civil society. NGOs HRW, Amnesty International and International Commission of Jurists 25 Nov expressed concern over govt’s moves to appoint new transitional justice commissioners without making necessary legal reforms.
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.