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Nepal’s Constitution: The Political Impasse

Kathmandu/Brussels - 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.

“To get the constitution-writing process back on track, mainstream politicians have to manage their parties better, listen to diverse opinions, and clarify their own agendas”, says Anagha Neelakantan, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for South Asia. “Otherwise they risk ceding political space to extremists who might appear more action-oriented or sympathetic to a frustrated polity”.

Nepali actors are deeply divided on the role of identity politics in the proposed federal set-up. Their differences reflect divergences within Nepali society. The parties have often not listened to their own members and done very little to explain their sometimes haphazard proposals for federalism to the general public. This has given rise to deep anxieties as well as high expectations. They also made secretive and top-down decisions that went over badly with smaller interest groups.

In the lead-up to the Constituent Assembly’s May 2012 deadline, a sharp social polarisation appeared between groups that demand a federal model based on identity and those that feel they will lose out in the new system. There were also instances of communally tinged violence. Although things are calm now, triggers remain.

“Nepal is undergoing a democratic transition and its political parties must use this to enhance the practice of participatory democracy at all levels”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Crisis Group’s Acting Asia Program Director. “Negotiating a broadly acceptable constitution is at the heart of this process. Difficult as it might be, this project cannot be abandoned”.


© Crisis International -

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