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Nepal's Deteriorating Political Situation

Kathmandu/Brussels - Nepal’s major political players must rebuild their common purpose, bringing the Maoists back into government to prevent a possible return to conflict.

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Nepal’s Future: In Whose Hands?, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, warns of the deteriorating political situation after the fall of the Maoist-led government in May 2009. The collapse of consensus and widening rifts between the major players have fuelled a more militaristic atmosphere. Meanwhile, the grounds for compromise have become narrower.

“The recent upheaval reflects a deeper malaise underlying the political settlement”, says Rhoderick Chalmers, Crisis Group’s South Asia Deputy Project Director. “Political leaders have forgotten the spirit of the peace deal and risk betraying popular aspirations”.

The Maoists faced a mess largely of their own making. Ineffective in office, they had alienated powerful constituencies while failing to assuage doubts over their commitment to political pluralism and non-violence. Nevertheless, they still have significant support and a coherent agenda for change.

The army has adopted a more overt and assertive political role. It not only survived the republican transition but has thrived as an unreformed and largely autonomous force. Helped by timorous parties, it has retained its full strength and pressed for new lethal arms imports – in breach of the ceasefire.

Behind much of the recent instability lies an Indian change of course. New Delhi took bold steps to drive the peace process but had trouble digesting the Maoist victory in the April 2008 constituent assembly election. Its increasingly naked interventions to force a Maoist change of course are ill thought out. India risks harming the peace process and undermining its own interests.

Kathmandu’s political games look increasingly detached from the country’s complex, pressing problems. The constitution-writing process is behind schedule and losing credibility; many disaffected groups prefer to take their protests to the streets. Public security and local governance are alarmingly weak. Tough economic times are only exacerbating Nepal’s huge inequality and stalled development.

The Maoists’ strategic debates are unresolved but their marginalisation will not strengthen the case for peace. The established parties should lead by example and constructively support a transition that demands change on all sides. There is no viable alternative to reviving the spirit of consensus and compromise that peace requires.

“All parties, civil society and the international community urgently need to concentrate on completing the new constitution”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “If not, they may squander the legacy of a promising process”.

August 13, 2009
© Crisis International -
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