After weeks of negotiations, Nepal has a government in which the Communists are equal partners with the leading centrist political party and top vote getter. The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist joined the Nepali Congress Party to form a coalition government, Feb. 25. The two political parties won the most seats in the Himalayan nation’s November 2013 parliamentary elections.
But in this former monarchy, besieged for decades by war, repression and poverty, the road to adopting a democratic constitution is fraught with difficult twists and turns. These last three months were no exception.
On Feb. 10, the Communists agreed to back Congress’ Sushil Koirala for prime minister after hammering out a number of “points of agreement” for the coalition government and arriving at verbal agreements on the ministerial appointments.
However once elected, Koirala refused to appoint the UML to the powerful home minister position, as agreed to, the UML said. That forced the party to reject Congress as a coalition partner, tying Koirala’s hands from moving forward with a Cabinet. Nepal’s legislative branch, the Constituent Assembly, elects the prime minister who appoints Cabinet ministers. Once posts are filled, this becomes the “government” (the executive branch).
Finally, Koirala and Congress acquiesced and allotted the post to the UML. Each party will have 10 ministries with several other parties taking remaining ministerial portfolios.
In the November 2013 election, no party received a majority in those elections, but the top two vote getters were NC and UML. In Nepal’s 601-seat Constituent Assembly, 575 seats are filled by a combination of direct elections and proportional representation. Twenty-six are reserved for women and others to help round out representation. Out of the elected seats, 194 went to NC and 175 to UML and 80 to the former-ruling Maoist party. Other minor parties got the remainder.
The country’s once popular Maoists, who won the election overwhelmingly in 2008, charged election fraud and refused to join the Constituent Assembly until the NC and UML agreed to an investigation.
Both parties had committed to delivering a constitution quickly. People have been frustrated by the constant bickering in the previous assembly.
Maoists waged an armed insurgency for 10 years against the King of Nepal, which was the only Hindu monarchical state in the world, while others, including the UML chose to wage the struggle for democracy through civil disobedience, electoral and other mass protest means. Eventually, the anti-monarchy/pro-democracy forces won, establishing a Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting a democratic constitution. In 2008, the Maoist communists swept the election winning two-to-one over the NC and UML and catapulted to the prime minister post. But problems arising from the armed insurgency and the call for thousands to lay down their arms or be absorbed into Nepal’s army, stymied efforts to move the country forward. President Jimmy Carter helped negotiate a successful resolution, eventually. The PM resigned and others from other parties, including UML stepped up to try to fulfill the voters’ mandate. However the task of approving a constitution remains.
Photo: via Communist Party of Nepal-UML/FB