Nepal's Leadership Vacuum: No End in Sight

The Coat of arms of Nepal. Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Last Friday (October 1, 2010) the ninth bid in Nepal's parliament to elect a Prime Minister failed. This prolongs the country's political crisis which began with the resignation of Prime Minster Madhav Kumar Nepal on the 30th of June.

The sole candidate during the ninth cycle, Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress Party, managed to get only 105 votes, far from securing a majority in 601 member parliament. He has vowed not to withdraw his candidacy. The tenth cycle of elections will be held later this month.

This state of leadership vacuum and lack of direction in government is negatively affecting Nepal's already weak economy and also impeding constitution writing process. Even at the lowest level governance is broken, Martin Searle at Policy Innovations notes that:

“Nepal has had six constitutions over the last six decades. Its latest attempt to reconstitute itself follows a civil war that lasted from 1996 to 2006 between the Maoists and the state. During this time, the Maoists took over effective control of vast swaths of the country, expelling the state and administering government themselves. Despite the end of hostilities and entry of the Maoists into mainstream politics in the 2008 election (in which they gained an overwhelming majority), the ineffectiveness of the state is still manifested in many areas.

The UN's chosen proxy for state reach—the presence of Village Development Committee (VDC) secretaries—shows that as of December 2009 only 42 percent of VDCs have a full-time VDC secretary present in the duty station, and 39 percent of VDC secretaries are either partially present or providing services from district headquarters. “

From the outside it seems like Nepal's chaos is getting out of hand. But not every one is alarmed by the slow disintegration of governance in the country. Eurasia Review, commenting on the latest report from the International Crisis Group, says that Nepal is “in the midst of a complex rite of passage”:

“Nepal’s transition from war to peace appears chaotic. But the country is not in chaos; its transition may be messy and confusing but it is not anarchic. There is an order within the political change and the resilience of Nepal’s political processes acts against fundamental transformations.

“The shift from war to peace was rapid and remains incomplete”, says Jacob Rinck, Crisis Group’s South Asia Analyst. “But the peace process is much stronger than it often seems”.”

Rajan Koirala at Prout Journal, however, disagrees that Nepal's transition is on track. He notes that the country's ambitious “Visit Nepal 2011″ program which aims to boost Nepal's image as an ultimate travel destination around the world, is seriously falling behind because of the leadership vacuum at the highest level of the government.

Nepal – Island Peak – Impressive glacier icefall below peak, Image by Flickr user mckaysavage used under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic License

Frustration among the public is understandable, but in all honesty, a Prime Minister is not going to be the magical fix Nepal has been hoping for. Anup Kaphle at Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting notes the reality,

“But even if Nepal succeeds in electing a new prime minister tomorrow, he will confront the challenge of rallying a country in a serious political deadlock. Add to that the integration and rehabilitation of some 19,600 former Maoist combatants who are now living inside cantonments throughout the country, among the most daunting tasks Nepal has faced since the war ended in 2006.”

After three months of confusion and lack of direction, you cannot blame the people who are hoping for a fix-it-all leader, they are just being honest.

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