New Communist Party of Nepal (UML)-led govt secured support from three-fourths of lower parliamentary house – including from two main Madhesi parties – in constitutionally-mandated 11 March vote of confidence. Despite 7 March announcement about joining govt, Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal (SSF-N) – a Madhesi party with sixteen MPs – 18 March decided a written commitment to amend 2015 constitution would be required first. SSF-N’s discussions on joining govt alienated Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N), the other Madhesi party in parliament and SSF-N’s ruling coalition partner in the Madhes-only Province 2. PM Oli planning state visit to India 6-8 April to focus on economic ties; political issues taking backseat amid efforts to repair bilateral relationship. Govt strongly criticised EU Election Observation Mission’s 20 March report on parliamentary and provincial elections for undermining Nepal’s sovereignty; report recommended removing controversial electoral quotas for well-represented Khas-Arya community. In report’s aftermath, Oli briefed diplomats 27 March to outline govt’s foreign policy priorities and emphasised nationalism as major pillar of his govt; foreign ministry asked diplomatic missions and UN agencies to seek prior approval before meeting state or local authorities. Chief Justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli resigned 15 March following Judicial Council termination of his term for exceeding retirement age of 65.
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.