Final phase of first federal and provincial elections under 2015 constitution completed 7 Dec across remaining 45 (of 75) districts with 67% turnout; first phase held 26 Nov. “Leftist alliance” of CPN (UML) and CPN (Maoist Center) emerged strongest with ruling Nepali Congress (NC) suffering heavy setbacks. UML won 44% of all seats in lower house of parliament; CPN (Maoist Center) won 19%; NC won only 22% of 275 total seats. In provincial polls, UML-Maoist alliance won control of provincial governments in six of seven provinces. Madhesi parties – which won 12% of seats in national elections – will lead eastern Tarai province. PM Sher Bahadur Deuba resisted calls to resign from presidency of NC despite party’s poor showing and despite losses for several high-ranking NC leaders. UML Chair KP Oli hailed leftist alliance victory as opportunity for stable governance; UML and Maoist leaders in ongoing discussions on cabinet appointments and proposed merger of two parties. President Bidya Bhandari 29 Dec approved contentious electoral legislation following weeks of disputes between UML and NC over modalities to elect upper house of parliament that hindered efforts to form new govt.
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.