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Nepal - Politics

April traditionally is a month of political ferment in Nepal, primarily for meteorological, rather than ideological, reasons. Protests are almost a springtime ritual here, and the scent of spring flowers in the air is typically accompanied by the smell of burning tires, as the warmer, pre-monsoon weather draws various groups out into the streets to vent assorted grievances.

A final agreement regarding a constituent assembly election was adopted by the political parties in December 2007. It elaborated a plan for an assembly of 601 seats335 elected under a proportional representation system, 240 under a first-past-the-post system, and 26 nominated by the Council of Ministers. The election took place in April 2008, following months of delay and political maneuvering. Approximately 60 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

The Communist Party of NepalMaoist, which later became UCPNMaoist, won 220 seats to become the largest party in the constituent assembly. The Nepali Congress captured the second largest number of seats with 110, followed closely by the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified MarxistLeninist), which won 103. The Madhesi parties, collectively, captured the fourth largest share with 83 seats.

The final list of members elected under the proportional representation system was released on May 8, 2008. The members of the Constituent Assembly [CA] were sworn in on May 27, 2008, and the first session of the CA was convened on May 28, 2008. In this session, the CA voted to declare Nepal a federal democratic republic by abolishing the monarchy. Out of 564 members of the CA who voted, 560 voted in favor and 4 against the motion.

Historically marginalized groups around the country, radicalized by the Maoists in the decadelong insurgency, began to press with increasing intensity for their rights and a greater inclusion in national-level affairs. This movement was particularly pronounced among the Madhesi people living in the Tarai, Nepals southern plains. Unrest in the Tarai continued for many months, with periodic strikes, bandhs (shutdowns), outbreaks of violence, and the rise and proliferation of armed groups.

Elections - 2008

Some observers were concerned that widespread violence may return if the Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist (CPN-M), the group which waged a 10-year armed struggle against the former government of Nepal, felt its political agenda has been thwarted by political opposition in the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly elections of April 10, 2008, were a key step toward consolidating peace in Nepal and enhancing Nepal's democratic process.

The Constituent Assembly was elected to form the structure of the new government of Nepal. It was also confronted with the need to address economic development and ethnic issues. The Maoists would lead this process as they had the largest representation in the Constituent Assembly.

As violence associated with the former Maoist insurgency abated, intercommunal tensions mounted and at times become violent. This has been particularly acute in the Terai region where the Madhesi live. The Madhesi, or plains folk, seek autonomy to free themselves from what they feel is domination by Pahadis from the more mountainous parts of northern Nepal. The Madhesi added a new regional dimension to Nepal's struggle for political stability. A new threat to the political stability of Nepalemerged from a number of groups representing Madhesi in southern Nepal.

In August 2008, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Maoist) was sworn in as Prime Minister. Less than a year into his term, Prime Minister Dahal resigned from the government on May 4, 2009 following a dispute over his bid to dismiss the Chief of the Army Staff. On May 23, members from 22 of the 24 political parties represented in the Constituent Assembly elected veteran Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal as Prime Minister. Madhav Kumar Nepal was sworn in on May 25, 2009. On June 30, 2010, Prime Minister Nepal announced his resignation "for the sake of consensus" and to end the country's political deadlock following months of Maoist protests. On February 3, 2011, after 16 rounds of voting, Jhala Nath Khanal (UML) was elected Prime Minister; however, 6 months later on August 14, 2011 Khanal resigned from the government, citing the failure to make significant progress on the peace process. On August 29, 2011, Baburam Bhattarai (Maoist) was sworn in as Nepal's 35th Prime Minister, and the fourth Prime Minister since the 2008 CA election.

The CA could not promulgate a new constitution and dissolved on May 28, 2012,. It failed to finish the constitution drafting process despite repeated extensions, ending four years of constitution drafting. This created a constitutional and political void in the country until the Second CA was constituted. When the CA was dissolved there was a great disappointment among the population and some anger against political parties.

Elections - 2013

On November 19, 2013, Nepal held elections to replace the Constituent Assembly (CA), which was suspended in May 2012 after it was unable to draft a constitution by a deadline established by the Supreme Court. The elections of November 19, 2013 passed relatively peacefully with no serious malpractices reported. Of the total registered voters of over 12 million, 9.5 million (over 78%) voted. Although the total number of registered voters for the 2008 CA election was 17.6 million, the turnout was lower at 60%. Analysis suggested that the population was frustrated16 with the politicians for their conduct during the tenure of the first CA. They were also concerned about violence as the 33 party Alliance decided to boycott the election and disrupt the process. The population, however, still believed17 in the democratic political process and turned out to vote. The Carter Center and other international observers stated that the election was well conducted. The US, UK, India, China and other countries congratulated Nepal for a well conducted election.

Nepal's oldest political party won the most seats in the first set of results from last week's election ahead of two prominent communist parties. The election results showed that the Nepali Congress Party had won 105 of the 240 directly elected seats. The Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) had won 91 seats and the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had won 26 seats of the directly elected seats. Counting for the 240 directly elected seats was completed on Monday the 25th November 2013. The result of the proportional representation system also saw the Nepal Congress party winning 91 seats followed by UML 84 seats and the UCPN-Maoists 54 seats. The CA held its first meeting on January 22, 2014, and talks were underway among Nepals political parties to form a new government. Nepal continued to be governed by an interim election government, headed by the Chief Justice that was put in place in March 2013.

This was the countrys second Constituent Assembly elections, which international and domestic observers deemed essentially credible, free, and fair. In an effort to obstruct the 2013 elections, a breakaway Maoist faction, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) committed acts of political violence and intimidation and attempted to enforce a 10-day transportation ban. Despite such efforts, the Election Commission reported that more than 74 percent of registered voters participated, the highest figure in the countrys history. According to domestic and international observers, including the Carter Center and the EU, the elections themselves were conducted well and generally were free of major irregularities.

There had not been local elections since 1997. The government stated that local elections would be a priority once the new constitution was adopted. Elected local councils were dissolved in 2002, and in their absence senior civil servants conducted local administration in consultation with local political party representatives.

Nepal's interim government called on the newly elected Constituent Assembly to hold its first meeting on 22 January 2014. The assembly would attempt to write a new constitution and function as the parliament. Nepal held an election in 2008 after the monarchy was abolished. However, hopes of turning the country into a full-fledged democracy have been paralyzed for five years because of political wrangling, as well as ethnic, socio-economic and regional differences.

Nepal's parliament elected a prime minister February 10, 2014, ending a deadlock that has lasted since an election two months earlier. Sushil Koirala, the chief for the Nepali Congress party, was elected (with 405 votes of the 605-member parliament) Monday with the support of the communist UML party. It was not immediately clear whether other parties will join the coalition government. Koirala, 76, is the fourth member of his family to become prime minister. He must now oversee the drafting of a new constitution. The previous parliament was supposed to have written a new constitution in 2008 following the end of a decade-long Maoist insurgency and the overthrow of the centuries-old monarchy. However, the legislative body was riven by infighting and never finished its work.

In September 2015, Nepal adopted a new constitution a key step in Nepals post-conflict, democratic transition. In the Terai region (along Nepals southern border with India), ethnic and caste groups protested elements of the constitution. The dissatisfaction led to widespread strikes across the Terai and blockages along the India-Nepal border that halted cross-border trade and transit. The disruptions across the Terai lasted from August 2015 until February 2016. Some protests resulted in violent clashes with security personnel, and about 50 protesters and police were killed.

Protests in Nepal's southern provinces bordering India from mid 2015 to February 2016 resulted in shortages of fuel and other essential supplies throughout Nepal with resupply trucks from India unable to cross into Nepal. The situation has now eased with all border points now reopened and hotels and restaurants back to running full services. Although the violent protests and strikes over Nepal's new draft constitution that occurred in parts of the country have abated, it is possible these protests could reoccur over coming months.

More than 50 people had been killed in the first six months of 2016 in protests in the south where the minority Mashesi oppose a plan to divide their fertile plains bordering India into parts of several provinces. The unrest, which caused fuel shortages in Kathmandu as the Madhesis blocked imports of essential goods from India, was a threat to Prime Minister K.P. Oli, who survived an attempt by the opposition to topple his fractious coalition early this month. Many Madhesis want their region, home to half of the country's 28 million people, to become an autonomous state within Nepal and not be broken up into parts of six of the seven federal provinces as envisaged in the new constitution. Covering 23 percent of landlocked Nepal, the region is the country's bread basket, providing rice, wheat, and is home to industries including jute and sugar.

Freedom of assembly was generally respected for citizens and legal residents of the country, but during a period of widespread civil unrest, protests, and general strikes in the mid-western hills and Terai region, local administration officials imposed curfews and bans on gatherings in numerous districts and localities where violence had occurred. The law authorizes chief district officers to impose curfews when there is a possibility that demonstrations or riots could disturb the peace. The district administration offices in many Terai districts also declared certain zones to be riot-affected areas. In such zones gatherings of five or more persons were prohibited (so-called prohibitory orders) and police could arrest and search individuals without warrants. Such declarations also empowered chief district officers to call in the Nepal Army to assist civilian security forces, which occurred in several districts. Human rights organizations accused police of using excessive force, including firing rubber bullets and live ammunition, to enforce curfews and prohibitory orders, in some cases leading to deaths and injuries.

Police used excessive force while engaging in crowd control during large protests. In two Terai districts (Bara in February and Rautahat in April 2015), protests over government decisions to open branch administrative offices in the northern parts of these districts sparked clashes with police that led to numerous injuries of both civilians and police. In both instances demonstrators reached a settlement with the government after several days. As part of these settlements, the government agreed to conduct high-level investigations into the incidents of violence. On August 4, during a demonstration in Kathmandu by the Dalit community demanding more inclusive provisions in the draft constitution, numerous Dalit leaders--including several Constituent Assembly (CA) members--were injured in clashes with the police. Participants alleged that some police officers attacked them without provocation.

India hoped the resignation of Nepals Prime Minister, K.P. Oli, would pave the way for a restoration of warm ties with New Delhi. Oli had steered the Himalayan nation closer to China, which was trying to increase its influence in South Asia. However, analysts say Beijings growing footprint in Nepal may be there to stay. Oli resigned on 24 July 2016 just before a no confidence motion that could have toppled him. The two large groups that pushed for his removal, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) and the Nepali Congress were expected to form a share power-sharing government with Maoist chief Prachanda becoming prime minister. Some of Oli's supporters blamed New Delhi for the political jockeying that forced him to step down. Many were angry with India for putting pressure on the Nepalese government to address the grievances of the Madhesi community. During a visit by Oli to Beijing in March 2016, Beijing offered to improve road and explore building rail links over the high mountains to improve transportation links, which are minimal.

Elections - 2017

Nepal Map Nepal is holding provincial and parliamentary elections in two phases on November 26 and December 7. The 2017 elections are the final step in Nepal's transition to a federal democracy following a decade-long civil war till 2006 that claimed more than 16,000 lives. The polls took place under a new Constitution passed by lawmakers in September 2015 as part of a peace process that began with the end of a decade-long civil war.

With stiff competition expected from the alliance forged among the CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist Centre and other fringe leftist groups, the ruling Nepali Congress and Madhes-based parties are under pressure to forge electoral alliances across the Madhes districts neighboring India. Police had arrested more than 200 anti-poll protesters belonging to the Communist Party of Nepal, a splinter Maoist group, but the group had not claimed responsibility for the dozens of explosions across the country that targeted candidates.

Gerrymandering is alive and well in Nepal, for sure. The minority Madhesi community is comprised of people living in the lowlands of southern Nepal who share cultural and family ties with India. The Constitution as adopted in 2015 had a federal structure of six provinces, arranged from east to west, each aligned north to south - an arrangement that favored mountain ethnic groups. The Madhesis, who are strung out from east to west, felt did not meet their needs for representation, since their homelands were slivers at the southern tip of each province. They demanded a new demarcation of provinces, proportionate representation, and allocation of seats in the legislature based on population.

The 14 May 2017 elections are to pave the way for provincial and national elections, which need to be held by January 2018 according to the constitution. The first at the local level for nearly two decades left Kathmandu's already divided political establishment in turmoil. Parties representing the Madhesi ethnic group - who have long complained of being politically marginalised - refused to take part in elections without an amendment to the constitution that would redraw federal boundaries. The largest opposition party refused to back any charter changes.

The United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) is an alliance of Madhes-centric political parties protesting to press to get its demands addressed. Madhes-based parties on 12 April 2017 decided to boycott the local elections slated for May 14 and announced a fresh protest saying the new constitution amendment moved by the government is even more regressive than the previous one. They said the new proposal has not addressed revision of provincial boundaries, the key demand of Madhesis. The Federal Alliance, another bloc of parties demanding the Constitution amendment, also made similar decisions, claiming the amendments proposed were not enough to address their concerns and they ignored previous agreements.

The move by the alliance of seven Madhesi parties threw into disarray the plans of the government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to hold polls after a gap of 20 years. More than 70 people had died in Nepals southern belt during the anti-constitution movement after major parties in Nepal promulgated the new statute in September 2015 without approval from the Madhes-based parties.

On 12 September 2017 the Election Commission of Nepal announced the schedule of provincial and parliamentary elections to be held in two phases on November 26 and December 7 this year. Polling for the first phase will be held on November 26 from 7 AM to 5 PM. Voting for the second round will be held between 7 AM to 5 PM on December 7. As per the new constitution of Nepal, local, provincial and parliament elections need to be completed by 21 January 2018. Two phases of the local polls had already been conducted on May 14 and June 28 and the final round is scheduled on September 18.

Election rallies, meetings and door to door campaigns are being organised in almost every district. Various social media platforms are also being used to woo the voters especially the youths. Meanwhile, security has been enhanced keeping in view recent attacks on some candidates. Total 5184 candidates including 386 women are in fray for 165 constituencies of House of Representatives and 330 seats of Provincial Assemblies in 77 districts. Of the 1,945 candidates who entered the electoral fray for parliamentary elections, only 146 were women. And only 240 of the 3,239 candidates for provincial elections were women.

On 23 November 2017 the Rashtriya Janata Party Nepal released its manifesto for upcoming parliamentary and provincial election. The main agenda of RJPN are Identity, Right and Respect. The party focused on 15 points including prosperous and developed Nepal, meaningful constitution, inclusive state, equal society and sovereign citizens. RJPN and Sanghiya Samajwadi Froum Nepal are two major political parties of Madhes. They have formed an electoral alliance in Province 2.

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