No Crisis, Just Nepali Politics

A crisis, from the Greek word for decision, is is a dramatic turning point or a condition of instability leading to decisive change. The current ‘crisis’ in Nepal is neither: It’s just more of the same.

The ‘Prachandagate’ videotape shot in January 2008, in which the prime minister is heard telling PLA officers that the Maoists’ participation in the democratic process is a sham, isn’t enough of a surprise to cause a crisis. The Maoists have been open about their long-term goals and say publicly that ‘bourgeois democracy’ is just a phase of the peoples’ war. And anyone paying attention knows that the Maoists fiddled the numbers and the UN when declaring their combatants and depositing their arms.

Every politician has a different message for the faithful and for the public. What’s so odd about reactions here to the Prachanda tape is the willingness to take the most inflammatory bits of his speech at face value rather than as political hot air. And it will be interesting to find out who leaked the tape now, with perfect political timing.

The brouhaha over the dismissal and reinstatement of Nepal’s army chief is wholly political. The constitutional fouls called by both the prime minister and the president are tactics made possible by a vague interim constitution. According to the fifth amendment, the president appoints the army chief of staff on the advice of the council of ministers and acts as supreme commander, but the method of removing army brass isn’t specified.

The question of whether Prime Minister Dahal should have consulted the president before acting or whether President Yadav overstepped his authority by blocking the PM’s move is already before the Supreme Court. No crisis, just a constitutional issue that will be decided by the high court and then cease to be useful politically..

The end of another government, the 18th in as many years, is no crisis either. With the pullout of the UML over the army issue, Dahal’s government was bound to fall. By resigning he got a great opportunity to lambaste his opponents and look noble rather than being driven from office by a no-confidence vote.

The frantic negotiations among the political parties to form a new government certainly don’t constitute a crisis or portend decisive change for Nepal. The same faces and tactics are already in action, and the result will be no different from the past: a shaky coalition of parties with deep internal rifts facing an opposition that uses the politics of obstruction.

And as usual the process will muddle along for weeks. The Maoists have already made the psychological leap to opposition status and are blocking meetings of the Constituent Assembly over the ‘unconstitutional’ action of the president. That issue will be settled by the end of May, just about the time the NC, UML and Madheshi parties cobble together a majority and form a new government.

No crisis at all, not even in the loosest sense of the word. The constitutional issue is with the supreme court, and the political system is working as is always has. While politics-as-usual in Nepal is not great news, it’s not a disaster or a dramatic turning point either. It’s just politics.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.