Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another Analysis of the events and th situation.

For a swiss mob- bit of background again- esecially if you havent been following the situaion may be of use.

The recent political clashes in the tiny Himalayan nation of Nepal have been well publicized- even in the western press. How ever the events on the surface can be misleading, as there are political undercurrents and forces which are not as obvious to the casual observer, yet are the root cause of the current political "crisis".

The real issue at the center of the recent political events is the question of power and the creation of a new Nepali state.

Up until in one way or another 2006 Nepal had been ruled by a autocratic monarchy. A mass movement in 1990 known as the Jana Andolan had won limited democratic reforms- but in essence the King still retained much of his power. This finally came crashing down when in 2006 when the pressures of a rural "Peoples War" launched by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) in 1996 combined with urban discontent led mostly by the "Seven Party Alliance", which was made up of the Parliamentary parties of the political mainstream.

These fores combined to launch the "Jana Andolan II" - the second peoples movement. This 19 day movement which paralyzed the nation brought a final end to the monarchy. The slate was wiped clean, the old was destroyed, and the "Jana Andolan II" was supposed to be the point where a new and - finally - a democratic Nepal was ushered into reality.

But the process of creating the new is proving to be much more difficult then destroying the old. While this process initially moved swiftly, it has now stalled, and is now deeply divided in the road forward.

Early agreements were reached. It was agreed that a Constituent Assembly would be elected- and for the first time in Nepal the sovereignty of the people would be absolute. The civil war in the countryside was brought to an end. The Maoist combatants moved into
UN monitored camps and it was agreed that they would be rehabilitated and integrated into the (new and no longer Royal) National Army. But while these agreements were reached, and allot of preliminary progress has been made, nothing concrete has happened yet. It was exactly when decisions of real importance were to be made- that the problems started to occur.

In 2008 the elections were finally held to the Constituent Assembly and it after the results of these elections the culture of consensus that had existed prior came crashing to an end. The Movement that had been cobbled together against the king but now that the king was gone, so was the "common enemy". The movement for a New Nepal fostered very different and mutually exclusive visions for what the New Nepal should look like.

The forces led by the Maoists are calling for a radically different Nepal. The Maoists are pushing for drastic institutional change and wish to set up the New Nepal on the basis of federalism, to give rights to various ethnic minorities, as well as special rights for women and people of low caste, as well as a Constitution that as well as political rights, enshrines the economic and cultural rights of the people. This would require a drastic reshuffle of the Nepali state and society- which is particularly dangerous to those political parties and people currently in positions of power within the status quo particular the two "major parties", the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (UML). These political parties in context of the post 1990 limited democracy, fused themselves into Nepal's extensive bureaucracies and power structures- neglecting the vast majority of Nepal's rural poor.

In theory any disagreements about Nepal's future should have been decided by the people of Nepal in the constituent assembly elections, held in April last year. In these elections the Maoists received a broad mandate for their agenda and the two "mainstream parties" the NC and UML were deserted by voters. While the Maoists did not win an absolute majority of the assembly, they won a million votes more than their nearest competitor, and make up 40% of the Assembly. Further, the Maoists, when couple with ethnic parties that split from them and other smaller leftist parties make up more than 60% of the assembly. The vote was decisive and the people endorsed a broad and radical vision for their future.

This vision has been impeded at every step by the bureaucracy, military, media, local elite and international power centers. The Maoist government was toothless and all of its decisions have been scuttled, including the budget which remains largely unimplemented due to the other parties and the uncooperative bureaucracy. This came to a head over the issues around the Chief of Army Staff. The CoAS General Katawal repeatedly disobeyed the directives of the Defence Ministry, placing himself and the military outside of civilian control. Especially seeing as Nepal has a history of military coups, the government then made the moves within the Constitution to sack him. After doing so, the ceremonial President Ram Baran Yadav of the right wing Congress party went outside of his constitutional role to reinstate him. This caused the Maoists to resign from government, as it was abundantly clear to everyone that while they had government, the power remained in the hands of the opposition.

Probably the decisive role in this decision however was not played by any forces within Nepal. Foreign ambassadors played a central role in pressurizing politicians and the Maoist government against taking action against Katawal. In particular the Indian embassy feels threatened by radical change due to its security and economic interests in Nepal. They blatantly backed the opposition and limited the government course of action with the threat of economic sanctions.

These moves by the opposition have created large amounts of public discontent. It has made perfectly clear to the Nepali people the difference between the Elected Government and the state power- and now they are demanding that the anti-democratic actions of the president be repealed. This has also created a dilemma for those within the elite within the NC and the UML. The agreements that they signed before the election, are now at the advantage of the Maoists- and while they have temporarily been able to protect their bureaucratic/military support- they have paid the price in their political legitimacy. Further to continue to protect their power bases they will have to continue to move outside of the Constitution and agreements, which is then complicated again by the existence of the Peoples Liberation Army- which drastically limits the chances of a traditional military coup.

At any rate the current political situation is one of uncertainty. The opposition has shown the entire nation that they will not relinquish power even to a democratically elected government. This has sparked protests across the country- with more to come- demanding the Maoists be returned to government. The Maoists have publicly stated that they will not enter another government that is impotent. The process can only progress with the Maoists involved, but the Maoists will only be involved if executive power is rightfully placed in the civilian government, a demand the opposition will not give into without a fight. Rather than resolving- the recent actions have just exacerbated the contradictions and power struggles within Nepal, and the winners and losers will be seen

2 comments:

Sukla Sen said...

The article in the main deals with "visions", evidently subject to
multiple interpretations.
I'd leave that at that.

But the problem arises when it describes facts.

Quote
In theory any disagreements about Nepal's future should have been
decided by the people of Nepal in the constituent assembly elections,
held in April last year. In these elections the Maoists received a
broad mandate for their agenda and the two "mainstream parties" the NC
and UML were deserted by voters. While the Maoists did not win an
absolute majority of the assembly, they won a million votes more than
their nearest competitor, and make up 40% of the Assembly. Further,
the Maoists, when couple with ethnic parties that split from them and
other smaller leftist parties make up more than 60% of the assembly.
The vote was decisive and the people endorsed a broad and radical
vision for their future.
Unquote

The UCPN(M), i.e. the CPN(M) merged with a much smaller faction,
occupies just less than 40% of the seats in the newly elected
parliament.
The CPN(M) had polled just about 33% of the votes cast.
Before the formation of the government, the parliament elected the
President and the Vice President. For both the posts the Maoists
candidates got defeated.
Subsequently, with realignment of forces, the Maoist supremo
"Prachanda" (the Fierce one) became the Prime minister.
On the issue sacking the Army Chief, the Cabinet badly split. The
major partners quit in protest. Apparently, the government lost its
majority.
The "elected" President overrode the "elected" PM's directive as
regards the sack (only).
The Prime Minister resigned in protest. He continues as the caretaker
Prime Minister.

As regards the Janandolan II, which brought about the downfall of the
King, the Maoists were not present therein, at least directly. They
had even, in the first instance, rejected the victory. Quickly
thereafter they shifted gear, rather quietly, sensing the overwhelming
public mood.

The Prime Minister, as it appears, resigned to trigger off massive
wave of public protests. Large protests have indeed been organised.
But nothing as compared to the largely spontaneous huge waves of mass
protests of the Janandolan II days. So that expectation, apparently,
has failed.

And all talks of "democracy" are, by all indications, only a ruse,
just a ploy to trash "(multi-party) democracy" over a period of time
by bringing the Army under exclusive party control. Prachanda has
enunciated that strategy in good details in a leaked video, not
disowned, available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5_dkKoNaVc
with English sub-titles.

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