A couple of days ago the Constituent Assembly of Nepal dissolved after another extended term went without the outcome of an agreed concept constitution. Wether that is bad news or good news remains to be seen.
Seat of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal, Kathmandu
After the overturning of the monarchy almost a decade ago and the ending in 2006 of the ten year long civil war that devastated the countries economy and homogenity there have been elections only once. The outcome of those events was the installation of a Constituent Assembly and the dawn of the provisional Federal Republic of Nepal. Elections were held and a government was formed. And that government fell. A new one was formed. Which fell also. And another one and another one. Nepal became politically unstable with none of the major parties (including the Maoists who started the revolt against the former king) being large enough to stay in power for long. The core problem of Nepal turned out to be the many divisions in politics.
The country became paralized but because of the intentions of becoming a democratic nation it also became one of the countries with the largest support from international organizations, NGO’s and governments. The country became dependent on aid as the successive governments proved unable to bring the country from revolt to stability, to improve the economy and to improve the many infrastructural and social challenges that were present. In the meanwhile many Nepalese had hopes of the effects of a new constitution that was in the making. But that constitution never materialized. Terms for the 2008 elected Constituent Assembly (with its ludicrous large number of 575 seats) were extended several times. The 60% ballot turnout proved the high hopes of the people of Nepal. But these hopes deteriorated quickly due to the continuous inability of the assembly to come up with a draft constitution on time and agreed by a majority.
Still, that draft that didn’t materialize did have some very specific topics handled in a revolutionary manner in the last Hindu ex Kingdom and the results have been brought to a provisionary implementation by the government recently. The caste system became politically undesired which potentially freed millions of people from hardship and lack of opportunities and there was even a third or other gender introduced as a concept in gender identification releasing the gay and transgender communities from social pressure based on discriminatory laws.
But it all ended on May 27 of this year at midnight.
The Constituent Assembly outlived its term and its mandate and the government decided to dissolve the non working body. At the same time announcing general elections on November 22nd this year. The second general elections and the first one after four years of disappointment since the fall of King Gyanendra. At this moment in time the conditions for Nepal to come back to a stabile political solution are far from ideal. The political spectrum dominated by the Maoists, Marxist-Leninists and the conservative Congress Party is more divided than ever. No one is big enough, politicians are not trusted by the people any more because of the many broken promises and the country is in economically dire straits. The infrastructure of the country in areas like energy, transportation, education and health care are all in a very bad state. The international monetary crisis is devaluating the Nepali Rupee at an alarming rate and impovering the country faster and faster. The political squeeze from India and China is becoming more vivd in daily life because of the dependencies on those neighbours for basic resources like food and energy. There is an energy crisis in the country that is lasting for years now and becoming worse. India pretty much owns Nepal’s oil consumption which effects the economy.
The Nepalese are demotivated by the politics in the country. Young peoples main desire is to leave the country and indeed there’s a brain drain going on of enormous proportions. The number of refugees and stateless people in the country push an extra burden on the economy and mental stretch of the people. As the politicians are unable to bring salvation many groups in the country (political, ethnic and otherwise) are increasingly grabbing the only instrument they have to force the government to give them what they want: they strike. The destabilizing bandhas (strikes) have become a daily routine in many parts of the country and especially in the Terai, the southern part of the country which is of key importance for food production and the little industry the country has. These strikes slowly kill what’s left of the economy and by their nature prove the worst possible ‘solution’ to the many problems.
It remains to be seen wether the failure of the Constituent Assembly is a bad thing for Nepal. If on November 22nd elections turn out to be clear on which political parties should rule the country then a faster solution to the constitutional crisis is in sight. But that would be a miracle to be honest. Looking at the current political situation, the bad economy, the institutionalized fraud and corruption, the instability of the armed forces (the integration of Maoists in the Nepal Army is still very shaky) and the hunger for individual power of the politicians, it is impossible to be optimistic on the outcome. If it doesn’t work out later this year it will only mean that the largest of the former Himalayan Kingdoms will remain without a formalized constitution and with less hope of overcoming the many crisises the country is facing.
Hopefully the international community will be fully aware of Nepal’s problems and not turn it’s back on the country with it’s almost thirty million inhabitants. Nepal needs solid international backing and attention now more than ever.
Alice Anna Verheij © 2012