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Nepal - Introduction

Nepal is governed by a Communist government, only the sixth in the world after China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos. Nepal, a small South Asian nation of 25 million people, landlocked between the world's two most populated nations, India and China, is often called a "yam between two boulders". Nepal has tried to play China off against India for decades. The Government of India is "not very happy" with Nepal's cooperation with China. Nepal faced a guerilla war by Maoists rebels.

Nepal in the early 21st century was still surrounded by giants and still in the process of integrating its many localized economies and cultures into a nation state based on the ancient center of the Kathmandu Valley. Landlocked between India and China with some of the most rugged topography on earth, Nepal was never colonized and remained totally isolated from outside influence until 1951. Since opening its doors, Nepal has made a remarkable transition from an isolated medieval kingdom without the most rudimentary infrastructure to a modern nation state. With eight of the world's 10 highest mountain peaks--including Mt. Everest at 8,848 m (29,000 ft.)--Nepal is a tourist destination for hikers and mountain climbers. Yet an unstable security situation hampered the growth of the tourist industry.

In 1961, the monarch King Mahendra overthrew Nepal's first-ever elected government and banned political parties. In 1990, Nepal made a dramatic political transition from a traditional Kingdom to a modern constitutional monarchy. Democracy was re-introduced after three decades of absolute monarchy. Many people in Nepal fear a return to political oppression. Nepal has been a monarchy for most of its history and largely isolated from the rest of world.

In 1990, the political parties pressed the king and the government for change. Leftist parties united under a common banner of the United Left Front and joined forces with the Nepali Congress Party to launch strikes and demonstrations in the major cities of Nepal. This "movement to restore democracy" was initially dealt with severely, with more than 50 persons killed by police gunfire and hundreds arrested. In April, the king capitulated. Consequently, he dissolved the Panchayat system, lifted the ban on political parties, and released all political prisoners. An interim government was sworn in on April 19, 1990, headed by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai as prime minister presiding over a cabinet made up of members of the Nepali Congress Party, the communist parties of Nepal, royal appointees, and independents. International observers characterized the May 1991 elections as free and fair in which the Nepali Congress won 110 seats out of 205 to form the government.

The transition to democracy produced an array of leftist political parties. The 1994 election defeat of the Nepali Congress Party by the UML made Nepal the world's first communist monarchy, with Man Mohan Adhikary prime minister. The 1994 elections resulted in a Nepali Congress defeat and a hung Parliament, with a minority government led by the United Marxist and Leninist Party (UML). One communist party faction was excluded from participation, and subsequently started a campaign of retribution against the ruling Nepal Congress Party. This communist party faction withdrew from the political process. Vowing a Maoist revolution modeled on Peru's Shining Path, it pledged to end parliamentary democracy and bring down the economic system. In mid-1994, the Parliament was dissolved due to dissension within the Nepali Congress Party. The subsequent general election, held November 15, 1994, gave no party a majority and led to several years of unstable coalition governments. The next 5 years saw five successive governments. Although the Nepali Congress won a clear majority (113 out of 205) in the parliamentary elections held in 1999, the pattern of short-lived governments persisted.





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