Monday, November 19, 2012

Political Situation in Nepal - Prashaant Singh

Prashaant Singh
My friend Prashaant Singh put the mess we are in Nepal in very few words. Its worth a read. Prashaant is the head of the Himalayan Climate Initiative based in Kathmandu, Nepal


A post for Friends from outside Nepal that love Nepal and want to know what is the problem in Nepal but do not have time to read long analytical articles. This possibly is the shortest summary possible.

The challenge for us Nepalis is not to have a system (a firm constitution) in place through which we could have democratic elections every 4-5 years and such elected governments, as in other democratic countries, do the development work as per their manifesto and vision, and then come back to us the people to ask whether or not they have done a good job, and compete with other parties for our votes in the next election.

We do have an interim constitution that was written as a compromise following 2006 public movement through which the King was ousted and an interim government of legitimate political parties (that were leading the street protest) was put in place. The interim government got an election conducted for the constituent assembly (CA) of 601 members in 2008 to get a new constitution written in two years time. The elected CA in their first meeting endorsed the interim constitution, and declared Nepal a secular state while abolishing monarchy, but they could not deliver the constitution even in four years (two years of self extension) time. Following public interest petition at the Supreme Court of Nepal, the court gave a verdict that the CA members cannot extend the CA's term any further than the already extended period of four years. The parties could not agree whether or not make Nepal a Federal country, and even if the country goes federal, whether or not ethnicity could be the basis for splitting the country in different provinces within the stipulated period. The constitution, therefore, could not be written in time.

The CA got automatically dissolved on 27 May 2012. Now the current Prime Minister (from Maoist party) wants to continue in power, and get the election done in his tenure. Other parties have no faith in the guys in power because of their dubious record of telling lies and using unfair means, state power and physical threats to win political supremacy. The ones outside power want to get the current Prime Minister ousted, and a new National Government formed who would see through the next general election. Both scenarios are not as per any strict interim constitution proviso. This requires consensus and political decision involving all parties which is far from happening. The President (who is duly elected by the CA and the head of state) has no power to amend the existing interim constitution, and this constitution had not visualized such a situation.

Therefore Nepal is forced to undergo this political impasse and constitutional crisis, and common people like us are tired yet clueless as to how to react and who to support as in the last four years all political parties have been equally bad in conducting their business, and most of the common people are not particularly happy with any one of them.

The life goes on, but with a discomfort and restlessness in Nepal because of the future uncertainties and lack of economic focus in the government that has basically become a device to misuse tax-payers' money to return political favors by the people in power.


What does this mean for travel?

Life goes on. We are not having any crazy protests yet, though I did hear that it might start again. Even if that happens, the travel advice remains the same. Tourists are safe, unless you are very much in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We probably had our best Fall Season yet. Nepal was teeming with travellers during the peak season from October to mid-November... its tapering off now, as Nepal gets colder and travellers prefer the beaches of Goa or Thailand.

Actually, right now is the smart time to come. Its still not too cold, and the trekking highways are emptying out. Hotels are available again, and not that expensive.

Top Advice - Listen to locals. They know whats happening.

Happy Travels!

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