What is the way forward for Nepal?
Since the end of the civil war in 2006, repeated deadlines for a new constitution have passed, and several governments have come and gone in Nepal. As a result, the distance between the Nepali people and their government seems increasingly unbridgeable.
January 22 marked the deadline for a new constitution in Nepal, as committed to by all political parties participating in the 2013 Constituent Assembly elections.
Six prime ministers and two elections later, ideological divides between the opposition and ruling parties continue to hamper the promulgation of a new document. The patience of Nepali citizens is wearing thin.
People across the country increasingly feel the political process is not relevant to their lives and their voice is muffled by chronic constitutional deadlock.
Today it is unclear how political parties will regain people’s trust, following their disastrous performance.
Voters had turned out in record numbers with a nation-wide turnout averaging 78.34% in the 2013 elections. However, today it is unclear how political parties will regain people’s trust, following their disastrous performance.
The credibility of the political class now risks to drop to historic lows. Ahead of the deadline, throngs of people took to the streets, demanding their leaders to fulfill their promise of writing a new constitution. Today, many feel that the social contract has been smashed.
If the first domino that fell resulted in anger, most Nepalese citizens have now decided to ignore politics altogether. They don’t have the time nor the energy to listen to hour-long speeches of political leaders delivering much smoke but no fire.
Nepal’s constitutional tour de force
The new constitution is perceived as a fundamental step in Nepal’s democratization, which began in 2006 – ending a decade-long conflict between government forces and Maoist fighters. The conflict claimed the lives of 17,000 people, displaced an estimated 100,000 more, and ultimately brought about the abolition of a 240-year-old monarchy.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006 signed between the Maoists and the government, formally ended the Nepalese Civil War, and an interim constitution was adopted in 2007 with the intent of forming a Constituent Assembly.
Despite some progress, political instability continues to haunt the country, with the most obvious symptom being Nepal’s failure to draft a new constitution by the deadline earlier this week.
The issues that caused the first Constituent Assembly to dissolve without forming a new constitution after four years of deliberations and four extensions (2008-2012) are generating as much discontent now as they were in the past. Parties have different views on forms of government, on the judiciary, on citizenship, on the electoral system, and on state restructuring – particularly federalism.
Each extension of the Interim Constitution is being met with increasing popular unrest and relations between political parties are turning bitter. Today, there is only one question buzzing in the minds of both politicians and voters: what’s the way forward for Nepal?