At 19 Sept Constitution Day event, PM Oli claimed rights-based movements “should be history” and focus should now be on “prosperity and development”; Oli also criticised recent public protests against govt’s increasing limitations of civil liberties. Three years since promulgation of Sept 2015 constitution, amendments demanded by southern plains-based Madhesi parties related to redrawing new federal provincial boundaries, equal rights for naturalised citizens, population-based provincial representation in upper house of parliament (all seven provinces currently get eight seats) remain unaddressed; Madhesi parties’ agitation for amendments waned considerably following 2017 elections. Nepal Army withdrew from participating in mid-Sept joint military exercise between Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries initiated by India following 30-31 Aug summit after criticism from both opposition and ruling party leaders about lack of discussion within parliament and lack of consultation with defence or foreign ministries. BIMSTEC controversy contributed to growing tensions within ruling Nepal Communist Party, with senior leaders reportedly discontent with Oli’s monopolising of leadership. NCP co-chair and former Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal visited India and China in Sept and met Indian PM Modi among others; visits reportedly linked to Dahal’s aspirations for prime ministership.
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.