Make this the first breakdown of a foreign election from C&C. We’ll continue to write about foreign elections and politics, especially those that aren’t covered by the American press, and hope to do so in an engaging, helpful, and informed manner.
Nepal re-elected Bidhya Devi Bhandari as President the evening of the 13th in Nepal (early morning CST here in the ‘States, for those as confused about time-zones as we are).
Bhandari, who became Nepal’s president in 2015, coasted to an indirect re-election (appointed by an electoral college comprised of Nepal’s Parliament and provincial (similar to a state) legislatures) over Kumari Laxmi Rai, a leading member of the Nepali Congress political party. Nepal’s presidency is almost entirely ceremonial, with the real power being vested in the Prime Minister’s office.
Nepal, which became a republic in 2008 and adopted a new constitution in 2015, has struggled with political stability since the end of the Nepali Civil War in 2006. We’re going to bet you had no idea Nepal fought a Civil War until 2006. To be fair, neither did we. That’s why we’re writing this!
Faced with rapid population growth (20 million more people since 1955), poverty, outsized inflation, undue Chinese and Indian influence, and a host of other issues (not to mention yesterday’s plane crash), it’ll be interesting to see what unfolds within the nation’s politics over the next few years. Nepalis on the country’s specific subreddit expressed little interest in the presidential race or presidency, with some even calling it a complete waste of resources and a symbolic overture to India, which it shares a border with.
The real interest is in Prime-Minister Khadga Prasad Oli. Oli, who served as Prime Minister from 2015 – 2016, became PM again in February after his left-wing coalition secured a 2/3 majority in Parliament. He is the first Nepali PM with a mandate in nearly 30 years, and his party has enough seats to hold on to power regardless of what their coalition does.
Even the most powerful pm [in] Nepal isn’t as powerful as the [weakest] U.S. President
One Redditor, who opined about Nepal’s issues with stability and K.P. Oli as he’s known, discussed Oli’s moves to centralize the government and power, including appointing a non-political bureaucrat as Finance Minister and bringing several government departments (intelligence and finance, among others) directly under the PM’s control.
Stability, it seems, overshadows all other issues in the mountainous Asian nation. Simultaneously understandable and deeply troubling in a place as divided as Nepal, especially given the ongoing search for justice after the civil war’s resolution. According to Human Rights Watch, over 13,000 people were killed and 1,300 kidnapped during the war, at times by people within Nepal’s current government. In October of last year, a leader from the civil war was finally arrested after being convicted in 2004 of committing a murder in 2008. Yes, a convicted murderer was protected by politics.
Other reforms are also needed. Amnesty International estimates that nearly 70% of people displaced by the 2015 earthquake are still in temporary shelters and press freedom is a major concern, especially after Nepali journalists were arrested after writing stories critical of the government. Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, and calls to address human rights issues in the most recent constitution have largely been ignored.
Still, there’s cause for hope. My limited perusal of Nepal’s internet presence presented a culture of kindness, and it has made great strides forward since the end of its monarchy in the 90s. Whether the sickly young democracy will mature remains to be seen.
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