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Nepal votes in historic election: Here’s how its slow path to democracy began in 2006

Nepal’s two-phase elections for national and provincial parliaments are the first under the new post-war constitution born out of a peace deal that ended the 10-year Maoist insurgency in 2006.

world Updated: Nov 26, 2017 18:21 IST
Nepal,Nepal election,Nepal democracy
A Nepali voter shows his marked finger after casting his ballot at a polling station during the general election at Chautara, Sindhupalchowk district some of 100km east of Kathmandu on Sunday.(AFP Photo)

Nepalis were voting on Sunday for a new parliament in an election that is the first in the country since it turned into a federal republic and abolished monarchy in 2008.

More than a decade after the end of a civil war between Maoists and security forces, the country is hoping this election will complete its long journey to become a federal republic.

Nepal’s slow path to democracy began in 2006, when protesters forced the king to give up his rule. Two years later, it officially abolished the centuries-old monarchy and decided that a federal system would best deliver services to all corners of the nation, which remains one of the poorest in the world.

Nepal voted in 2008 and 2013 for a Constituent Assembly, which doubled as parliament, to write a post-monarchy charter that plotted the course to becoming a federal republic.

But bickering among political parties delayed until 2015 the implementation of the new constitution, which declared Nepal a republic.

The two-phase elections for national and provincial parliaments are the first under the new post-war constitution born out of a peace deal that ended the 10-year Maoist insurgency in 2006.

Soon after the constitution was implemented in 2015, protests by ethnic groups in southern Nepal turned violent and left some 50 people dead.

The ethnic Madhesi groups protested for months saying they did not get enough territory in the province assigned to them. They said they deserved more land because they represented a bigger population. Their protest blocked the border with India for months, cutting off fuel and other supplies in Nepal.

Lawmakers reject a government proposal to amend the constitution to meet some of the demands of the Madhesi minority.

Nepal’s new constitution lays out a sweeping overhaul of the political system and aims to devolve power away from the central government to the seven newly created provinces.

Rules laid out in the new charter will weed out some fringe parties from the parliaments and raises the bar for ousting a prime minister, leading to hopes that the next government could be the first to last a full five year term.

Nepal has cycled through 10 leaders in the last 11 years and corruption has flourished, hampering growth as well as the recovery from the 2015 earthquake that destroyed half a million homes.

However, analysts warn that the impact of the changes could be limited, with the three parties that have dominated the political stage since the end of the conflict expected to take the lion’s share of seats.

Under the new constitution a proportion of seats in the federal and provincial assemblies are allocated to women and people from indigenous communities and the Dalits.

First Published: Nov 26, 2017 12:39 IST