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Nepal - Den nationale krise og dens politiske karakteristikal!

NEPAL: The political context of the crisis in Nepal

IRINnews.org, 20. februar 2006

Nepals politiske krise forekommer stadig mere kompliceret, selvom der nu tegner sig et stadig skarpere billede af en meget omfattende politisk opposition mod Kong Gyanendra og hans magtovertagelse 1. februar 2005. Skønt hæren fortsat støtter Kong Gyanendra, isoleres kongen i forhold til stadig større dele af befolkningen, og initiativet med byrådsvalg i Nepals 58 største byer den 8. februar blev en total fiasko for kongen og en overvældende succes for specielt maoisterne samt de øvrige politiske partier, der opfordrede til boykot af valget. Den generelle situation ser i øjeblikket således ud: De politiske partier ønsker demokratiet genetableret hurtigst muligt, hvad der forekommer uløseligt uden yderligere politiske konfrontationer mellem de politiske partier og kongen. På den anden side kan den alliance de politiske partier allerede har indgået med maoisterne medvirke til en fredeligere overgangsfase, hvilket støttes af et bredt befolkningsmæssigt ønske om en fredelig udvikling. Stadig flere ønsker en markant indskrænkning af kongens fremtidig magt og indflydelse, selvom det er lige netop dette problem, det er sværest at finde en løsning på, så længe hæren er underlagt kongens kommando.

Pro-democracy rally in Kathmandu, protesting at the suspension of government by the king. - ©  Naresh Newar/IRIN
NEPAL, 20 Feb 2006 (IRIN) - The 1 February 2005 takeover of executive powers by King Gyanendra has led to a new era of uncertainty in the tiny mountain kingdom of Nepal. The king now rules the impoverished country of 25 million directly as chairman of the Council of Ministers.

The decision by the king to assume direct rule is the latest move by the monarch to undermine democracy in the country. Parliament was dissolved in May 2002 and elections - planned for November of the same year - remain postponed.

The king’s cabinet consists of administrators and politicians from a pre-democracy era, including elderly vice-chairmen who helped the king's father establish a party-less political system in the 1960s.

The detention of other political leaders has worsened relations between political parties and the king. King Gyanendra has said he wants to restore democracy, but the government he heads has censored the press and stifled criticism by non-governmental organisations.

While elected local governments in close to 4,000 villages and 75 districts ended their terms in office in July 2002, a recent attempt by Gyanendra to consolidate his power by holding municiple elections on 8 February in some 58 urban areas has proven unsuccessful.

Turnout was low amid an opposition boycott and a strike ordered by rebels, which was called off as polls closed.

Washington criticised the elections, calling them a "hollow attempt to legitimise power" by the king.

The political vacuum and lack of elected representatives in government has helped Maoists gain support among many people who feel robbed of democracy and view the king as an antiquated authoritarian figure.

As a result, Nepal remains entangled in a three-way fight between the monarchy, political parties and Maoists who say they are fighting to establish a communist state. In November 2005, the Maoists and the parties closed ranks to oppose the monarchy.

Recent political developments

The king has banked on growing public frustration over the poor performance of Nepal's political parties, with his direct rule beginning after three years of consolidating his authority.

Political groups in Nepal have a history of division and mistrust, and have been accused of failing to put the interests of the country ahead of their own ethnic or regional interests.

Nepal's recent political history unfolded in 1990 after popular protests forced late King Birendra - King Gyanendra's elder brother - to agree to a constitutional monarchy in April of that year. A new constitution was drawn-up in November 1990, and general elections held in May the following year.

The elections returned the Nepali Congress party to power with a simple majority, but fighting within it caused the government to collapse in mid-1993. Elections in November 1994 brought in a hung parliament, with the unified Marxist-Leninist faction of the Communist Party of Nepal becoming the largest party in the new parliament.

Six minority and coalition governments of different political hues, combinations and sizes, ruled Nepal between November 1994 and May 1999, when a third general election again returned the Nepali Congress party with a workable majority.

Even the post-1999 government was unable to provide a stable administration. Infighting again caused the Nepali Congress to change prime ministers three times in as many years, before the party split in mid-2002.

Another incident jolted Nepali politics in 2001. King Birendra, his entire family, and five royal relatives were killed in a bizarre shootout at the royal palace on June 1, after which the present King Gyanendra was enthroned.

Frustrated at what he saw as the failure of the political process, King Gyanendra began to reel in the parties, starting with the sacking of the elected prime minister in October 2002.

Parliamentary parties condemned the royal move as "unconstitutional" and launched street protests, refusing to join all successive governments except the last one - dismissed by the king on February 1, 2005 - which represented four parties and royal nominees.

Maoists capitalise on political chaos

Aided by political instability and lapses in governance, Nepal's Maoist insurgency, which began in a handful of districts in February 1996, spread rapidly to other parts of the country.

Increasing corruption, bad governance and the inability of governments to meet popular aspirations, meant the Maoists' manifesto of a communist utopia was easy to sell to Nepalis who felt cheated by their leaders.

Like many other women, this young girl in Khotang district, joined the Maoists to try to change the low status of Nepali women. However reports suggest that gender discrimination persists even with the Maoist movement. - ©  Sagar Shrestha/IRIN
The Maoists were clever enough to realise that ideology alone would not win them popular support, and began to take up issues close to the hearts of most rural Nepalis - exploitation, discrimination, poverty, corruption and inequality. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, they brought about an uneasy stability, though they were intolerant of dissent or even debate.

Although many Nepalis appeared to agree with the aims of the Maoists - namely an end to the absolute rule of the monarch and the introduction of a more equitable society - their methods soon alienated them from much international and local support.

Kidnappings, abductions, killings, rapes, disappearances and taxing the peasantry became widespread, along with a generalised offensive against the state that involved ambushing security forces and bombing district headquarters. Many civilians were killed in these attacks.

Then the notion that the monarchy represented continuity and stability, was dashed in June 2001 when a drunken Crown Prince Dipendra wiped out the entire royal family at the Narayanhity Palace, Kathmandu. Prince Gyanendra, the only direct member of the Royal Family who survived, was crowned king on 4 June.

An investigation said the prince carried out the killings because of a longstanding family dispute over the choice of his would-be bride, before turning a gun on himself.

Rebel consolidation

The Maoists, who by then had expanded their presence to all of Nepal's 75 districts, saw the royal transition as an opportunity to extend their grip on the country, and launched a fresh wave of violence.

The Royal Nepalese Army was deployed to combat them and a state of emergency declared. The government issued a new anti-terrorism law giving security forces the authority to detain suspects for up to six months.

Most political demonstrations by political parties are concentrated in the capital and major towns, such as this one in Kathmandu in December 2005. Many villagers have no access to national political representatives, who themselves rarely visit constituents. - ©  Naresh Newar/IRIN
Since February 2005, the king has been subject to heavy international criticism and pressure to give up his direct rule. Several countries, notably Switzerland and Denmark, have suspended their aid. The political crisis has led to very high profile international visits from the UN and the European Troika.

King Gyanendra has given himself three years to restore peace and security and restart the democratic process - a huge task in a country where politics is conditioned by caste, class, poverty, religion and the exclusion of minorities.

On 17 November 2005, the Maoists and seven of Nepal’s largest political parties announced an understanding to jointly oppose the monarchy. Though the modalities for implementing it remain unclear, generally the political parties have agreed to demand the holding of constituent assembly elections – a key rebel demand – and to the writing of a new constitution. For their part, the Maoists have agreed to join mainstream politics.

The government and Royal Nepalese Army are sceptical about the Maoist-declared ceasefire, saying the Maoists are buying time for military training and the purchase of weapons. - ©  Sagar Shrestha/IRIN
The rebels have also agreed to disarm under UN monitors before any constituent assembly elections are held.

Some differences between the Maoists and the political parties remain, however, unresolved. One is that the rebels want to appoint a new interim government to hold constituent assembly elections, whereas some of the parties want the last parliament, dissolved in May 2002, restored to oversee such elections.

The Maoists extended their ceasefire by a month on 2 December 2005, a move aimed at supporting protests by the main parties to create pressure on the government to work towards peace. The government though had made no peace overtures towards the parliamentary parties or the Maoists by early December.

The Maoists have categorically said they will not negotiate with the monarch until democracy is restored. On 7 December, the king reshuffled the cabinet, tasking it to hold February's municipal elections.

So in 2006, Nepal faces two differing scenarios: The country's political parties want larger democracy restored first, a tension that could lead to increased confrontation. Alternatively, the outcome could be more peaceful, with a ceasefire and the front formed by the political parties and the Maoists, increasing public demand for peace, forcing even the king to make concessions.

© IRIN - This article appeared originally on IRIN News.org and is published by engelund.dk according a general agreement. To view the original article, please click here.
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is a project of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]



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Opdateret d. 21.2.2006