22-28 November 2013 #682

In the eyes of the beholder

Snippets from the foreign press on Nepal’s 19 November elections

Fractured Nepal

New York Times, 6 November

The principal disagreements among the parties are whether to adopt the American, French or British governance models and how to split the country into states.

The Cashists want an executive presidency similar to that in the United States, although none would admit to copying the United States since, well, they are Maoists. The Marxist-Leninists want a French system with shared power between a president and prime minister, but they, too, denied any hint of foreign influence.

Whether the parties will reconcile these divergent visions in the next Constituent Assembly after failing to do so in the last is anybody’s guess. In multiple interviews, Nepalis expressed a mixture of hope and despair about their future.

Himalayan chaos

The Financial Times, 7 November

The apathy is palpable. Yet the November 19 election for a new Constituent Assembly is seen by Nepalis and foreigners alike as the only sensible way forward after the traumas of civil war, the murder of the royal family which led to the abolition of the monarchy and the failure of the previous assembly to write a new constitution after 2008.

Nepal is the best

The Express Tribune, 14 November

Bitter political differences, pre-poll violence, lack of consensus over just what and how the political system of the country should be — that is the impression you would get if you were to follow the news from Kathmandu ahead of the elections next week. These are the second elections for a constituent assembly, after the previous constituent assembly could not finalise a new constitution for Nepal after four years of deliberations. The picture may look grim.

But take a long view and you will be amazed by Nepal. My Nepali friend, Prashant Jha, says that Nepal has gone from war to peace, monarchy to republic, theocratic to secular state, a monolithic hill-centric nationalism to inclusive citizenship, and possibly, from unitary to federal state. In fact, it is mainly the issue of federalism that remains to be resolved.

Return of Monarchy

The Hindustan Times, 15 November

But restoration of monarchy and the world’s only Hindu nation tag are issues that still resonate among voters as the country heads for another constituent assembly election next week. Most believe nothing of that sort will happen, but pro-monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal hopes to win seats by rooting for these two issues. In its manifesto RPP-N proposes constitutional monarchy and naming of Nepal as Hindu state with equal respect for all religions.

Disillusionment in spotlight

The Washington Post, 17 November

Nepalis go to the polls Tuesday to choose a special assembly to write a new constitution and try to end a period of political drift. But many here fear that no single party will get a clear majority and that the deadlock will last for years to come.

As they did in the last election, the Maoists have cast themselves as the party of the poor and insist they can fix the country if they win a clear majority.

In an interview at his residence, Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who goes by the nom de guerre Prachanda, said his party fought hard for the little political change that has taken place in the country, and that is why it should win a clear margin this time.

Press release from the Indian Embassy, 19 November

The successful conduct of free and fair elections today in Nepal for the Constituent Assembly-cum-Parliament is an important step towards realising Nepal’s goal of a democratic and prosperous future. The people of Nepal, political parties, Government and security forces and the Election Commission of Nepal deserve to be congratulated for this achievement. The impressive turnout reflects the faith that the people of Nepal have reposed in the democratic process.