Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bandhs, Political Theater, and the CA's Extention

Over the last few weeks life in Nepal has been about one word really- Bandh. While it's easy to understand why people would want to call a general strike to bring attention to their cause, such strikes only make sense to me if they are done in solidarity with the population at large, and not forced on them via thugs with sticks. Despite this, half of last week was marred by strikes that half shut down the city and getting anything done has been a bit of a hassle. The strikes have been called for everything from the want of ethnic federal states (what a terrible idea) , to people wanting to bring attention to the fact that the constitution is still not done, despite yesterdays deadline for the constituent assembly (CA).

So Saturday at midnight the constituent assembly was set to expire, and there was really little doubt that there would be an extension, though some other options had been floated. Some said that the Maoist hardliners would take up arms and go back to the hills, more reasonable voices called for the disbandment of the body and adhering to actual democratic principles calling for fresh elections. In true political theatre the politicians announced at 4AM Sunday that  they had reached a deal to extend the CA for another three months. The 5 point deal signed by all three major parties is as follows;

1) To complete the basic tasks of the peace process within three months.
2) To prepare the first draft of the constitution from the constituent assembly (CA) within three months.
3) To implement effectively the various past agreements with the Madhesi Front, including the one to make the Nepal Army (NA) an inclusive institution.
4) To extend the CA term by three months.
5) The Prime Minister to resign to pave the way for the formation of a national unity government.

Of these five,I expect that #4 will be adhered to, but only before another emergency meeting forces them to extend for just three months more. Last time it took them more than three months (seven actually) just to pick a prime minister, the maneuvering just to form a new government will take up all of their time, I hardly expect a first draft of a constitution to get done. These last minute political shows are slightly absurd, and it seems like they should just force deadlines on these guys every week, as it seems only when the last minute reels it's head around that these guys get anything done.

Despite the slightly absurd nature of it all, I'm happy that we can expect the bandhs to dissipate until August when the new deadline rolls around. During that time hopefully I'll be back in the US for a visit and I'll miss the next round of days where the whole of Kathmandu is shut down.


  1. Not sure what not having a constitution actually means for the daily lives of Nepalis and ex-pats living there, but is it maybe at least slightly true, as it is here, that the more incompetent and dysfunctional a government is, the better off the people under it are, precisely because nothing is getting done?

  2. There is an element of truth to that, no doubt. Unfortunately despite there being no real government the bureaucracy continues unabated, and the existence or lack of existence of a real central government doesn't seem to hinder the requirements for lots of paperwork, cash and signatures.


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