Although it has been nearly twenty years since the Maoist insurgency began, Nepal remains the only country in the world without a constitution.
A first draft has been in the works for many years, though so far little has been achieved in what would, ultimately, be an odd mix of British law and Hindu beliefs. An example is the role of King Gyanendra, who amongst other things is also believed to be the reincarnation of the God Vishnu, the preserver of the universe.
Having spent ten years trying to take over the country, the Maoist revolutionaries ended the Civil War in 2006 when they came to terms with King Gyanendra. One of the conditions allowed for the creation of a parliament which the rebels were allowed to join, whilst the Maoists’ leader, Prachanda, took over as prime minister.
Having obtained a majority in the elections, the newly elected leader showed himself in public with his forehead covered in red powder, an honour usually reserved to the Gods.
Prachanda resigned soon after, following a botched attempt at trying to integrate his guerrilla troops into the regular army- a tall order for two factions who had until recently been shooting at each other.
The new Constituent Assembly didn’t fare much better, being dissolved after missing its May 2012 deadline to draft a constitution, as well as elect both a prime minister and a president. After months of negotiations, new elections were set for the end of 2013. Thousands of candidates put their names forward, bringing the total count up to a staggering 120 parties.
Though elections were held last November, Prachanda opposed them, claiming that it would be impossible to draft a constitution before solving some social problems. Many have questioned Prachanda’s motives, believing this to be a simple delaying tactic. It is also true, however, that the civil war has left a number of unresolved issues in its wake- notoriusly regarding the guerrillas. The rebels have, for example, been accused of forcibly recruiting civilians, often children. It is also believed the Maoists forced every family from territories under their control to each contribute a child to the war effort.
For its part, the Nepalese Army is suspected of having carried out summary executions, as well as being responsible for numerous cases of rape and torture.
Now that the war is over, many of the child soldiers are marginalised from society, especially as their victims belonged to the same communities they are tryinng to integrate in. Having been led to believe that they were heroes and liberators, their future is now uncertain. Having fought, killed and gone through some traumatic experiences, these children – now adolescent- are not receiving adequate support from the state. The same faction which gave them a measure of security and protection has also taken away their right to an education, whilst its empty promises have left them alienated and only too willing to commit acts of violence.
Despite all these issues, twelve million voters showed up at the polls in a climate fraught with tension and violence, culminating in a bomb attack on a polling station. Many were wounded in this as of yet unclaimed attack.Though the Maoists denied any involvement, it seems to be too much of a coincidence.
The Nepali Congress won out, whilst both the Maoists and the Monarchic party didn’t make the expected inroads. Prachanda refused to recognise the outcome, citing massive irregularities and threatening to boycott the assembly- though he is under both national and international pressure to accept the results. Nepal looks to have found a way forward but will have to tread carefully.