Digital Himalaya Journals

Nepal: Electing Chaos International Crisis Group 2006-01-31

Item Metadata


JSON: dhimjournal-1.0365076.json
JSON-LD: dhimjournal-1.0365076-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): dhimjournal-1.0365076-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: dhimjournal-1.0365076-rdf.json
Turtle: dhimjournal-1.0365076-turtle.txt
N-Triples: dhimjournal-1.0365076-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: dhimjournal-1.0365076-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

Asia Report N° 111 - 31 January 2006
Crisis Group
A. The Royal CEO Does What He Has To Do 2
B. A Belligerent Palace 3
C. Shades of 1990 5
D. The Municipal Elections 6
A. The Maoists Mobilise 8
B. "Striking the Head" 8
C. The Parties Protest 10
A. What's Wrong with Elections? 11
B. Basic Benchmarks 12
C. Lessons from Other Conflicts 13
D. Don't Jump the Gun 14
A. Map of Nepal 18
B. Map of Municipal Poll Locations 19
C. Map of January 2006 Security Incidents 20
D. About the International Crisis Group 21
E. Crisis Group Reports and Briefings on Asia 22
F. Crisis Group Board of Trustees 24
 Crisis Group
Asia Report N°lll
31 January 2006
Nepal's royal government is inviting confrontation by
forcing through, amidst a new crackdown on civil liberties,
municipal elections on 8 February 2006 which will not
be free, fair or credible. Filling local posts with palace
placemen will neither restart the national democratic
process, nor bring a peace process closer. The conflict
remains soluble: although the palace has refused to
reciprocate a four-month Maoist ceasefire and the rebels
have resumed their armed campaign, mainstream parties
and the Maoists have agreed a roadmap which permits
compromise with the monarchy. But after one year of royal
rule and ten years of insurgency, the priority should be
that peace process, not polls for offices with little power
that all mainstream parties are boycotting.
Holding elections in any conflict situation is a risky
undertaking. In Nepal's case, the polls are only the latest in
a series of moves which have inflamed political tensions
and increased the polarisation between the palace and other
political forces. The mainstream parties retain considerable
support and, with the Maoists agreeing not to impede their
activities, are bringing increasing numbers onto the streets.
But Maoist support for the boycott has given the king
an excuse for a security clampdown and hundreds of nonviolent political protestors are still under arrest. The use of
the army to suppress dissent has brought back memories of
royal opposition to the 1990 democracy movement.
With the first anniversary ofthe 1 February 2005 royal
coup approaching, the elections are a matter of pride for
the king. He is unwilling to compromise, even though far
fewer candidates have put themselves forward than there
are seats available. The local elections are meant to pave
the way for general elections, which the royal government
insists will reinvigorate democracy. But they have been
planned by a coterie of hardline royalist advisers who were
active in trying to suppress the 1990 democracy movement
and who are set on excluding the parties from power.
The confrontation between an increasingly isolated palace
and increasingly militant mainstream activists has benefited
the Maoists. Since they ended their unilateral ceasefire on
2 January, they have sustained an intense and effective
military campaign. Their new concentration on small
urban attacks has been carefully calibrated and well
planned. They have demonstrated that they remain a force
to be reckoned with, and their attacks on major cities
undermine the government's claim that it has broken their
back and rendered them incapable of serious trouble. Most
importantly, they are still the only political player with a
coherent strategy.
Despite the promise held out by the November 2005 seven
parties-Maoist agreement, there is a fundamental dispute
over how to progress towards peace. The traditional view
that the palace and parties must first unite and then deal
with the Maoists is still supported in certain quarters, most
vocally the U.S. Others, not least the mainstream parties
themselves, have given up hope of a stable alliance with
the palace and are looking to move more directly to a new
constitutional settlement that can bring the Maoists into
non-violent competitive politics.
The combination of peaceful party protests and armed
Maoist action has shaken the royal government and may
yet derail its proposed elections. But only a serious
change of course by the palace can dissipate the mood of
confrontation. The role of the outside world in forcing a
rethink is crucial. If King Gyanendra is to take it seriously,
international concern, with targeted sanctions against his
family and officials and a review of aid, must be both
more explicit and more coordinated. From February 2005
onwards, his calculation that he can essentially ignore
external pressure has yet to be proved wrong.
To the Royal Government:
1. Call off the municipal elections and initiate a
broad-based peace process.
2. Take up the UN Secretary-General's offer to help
broker and monitor a durable bilateral ceasefire to
create an environment for serious talks in which
to test Maoist willingness to compromise, and
seriously consider international offers to assist in
a process of reconciliation, including working
towards viable post-conflict elections.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N°ll 1, 31 January 2006
Page ii
To the Political Parties:
3. Go beyond the legitimate election boycott to
develop a clear peace agenda that contains a
positive message for steps to resolve the conflict.
4. Resolve internal differences over a peace process
before conducting further negotiations with the
Maoists, agreeing most critically whether to continue
calls for restoration of parliament or move directly
to an interim government empowered to hold
elections for a constituent assembly.
5. Embrace internal reforms in order to boost
organisational capacity and regain public
To the Maoists:
6. Respect fully stated commitments to observe
international humanitarian law and to abide by
international development agencies' Basic
Operating Guidelines.
7. Offer a concrete plan for disarmament as part of a
peace process and a renewed ceasefire to create
the environment for talks.
To the International Community:
8. Develop a united message that sets benchmarks for
elections as part of a peace process. The EU, which
has limited interests in Nepal and is viewed as more
objective than India or the U.S., can play an
important role in setting benchmarks, which the
UN is best placed to monitor.
9. Form a loose contact group of key states and the
UN to coordinate policy, leave no room for doubt
it is united in seeking a peace settlement and return
to democracy, and make clear to the king that
support for continuation of the constitutional
monarchy is neither unconditional nor guaranteed:
he does not have a blank cheque to veto peace
initiatives and pursue his project of dismantling
10. Impose targeted sanctions, including travel bans
and asset freezes, on the royal family, senior
officials and military officers, and review the
army's lucrative involvement in UN peacekeeping
11. Review all development assistance channelled
through the government.
12. Give appropriate help to the parties and Maoists if
they are prepared to negotiate further towards a
peace process on the basis of their twelve-point
agreement; do not stand in the way of third-party
facilitation of their dialogue if they want it; and
be prepared to help in a tripartite process should
the king decide to enter talks.
Kathmandu/Brussels, 31 January 2006
 Crisis Group
Asia Report N°lll
31 January 2006
Nepal's royal government is preparing for a showdown. It
insists that its proposed municipal elections are a democratic
exercise and that the king only stepped in because earlier
democratic governments failed. However, the palace's
real aim is to sideline democratic parties and consolidate
monarchical rule in the form that existed before the 1990
democratic movement. Arguing that the Maoists will
infiltrate party demonstrations, the government has
imposed curfews and banned peaceful protests. In a move
reminiscent ofthe 1 February 2005 royal coup, on 19
January 2006 it arrested dozens of political leaders and
activists before dawn, cut phone services and imposed
a curfew. The crackdown was widely condemned at
home and abroad, with the UN calling the measures
disproportionate and in breach ofthe government's legal
commitments. Many activists remain in detention,
including senior democratic party leaders such as Madhav
Kumar Nepal, who is under house arrest.
The crackdown also appeared to contradict the
government's earlier insistence that it had restored peace
and security. The previous month Senior Vice Chairman
ofthe Council of Ministers Tulsi Giri had explained that
"February 1 had three objectives - tackling corruption,
settling terrorism and holding polls - to strengthen
democracy.... Since the government has controlled
corruption and broken the back of terrorism, it is preparing
to accomplish the third objective".1
The government may yet call a ceasefire or reach out
to the Maoists for talks. Either option would undercut
the peace agenda ofthe mainstream parties. But the
anti-ceasefire constituency within the military and palace
is strong, and the government has less room to offer
substantive dialogue than during the failed negotiations of
2003. The Maoist leadership seems to have realised that
no side in this conflict can win a simple military victory
but the royal government has not: it acknowledges the
need for a political solution but insists this can come only
after the Maoists have been forcibly disarmed. The Royal
"No ceasefire, no reconciliation with seven parties: Dr Giri",
The Kathmandu Post, 21 December 2005.
Nepalese Army has said that it will provide the necessary
security for the polls.2 It insists that it is a democratically
controlled institution which does not take sides and
is committed to protecting human rights.3 However, a
leading role in forcing through the elections may draw it
further into political controversy and invite claims that it
is serving the palace rather than the people.
Holding elections in the midst of revived conflict and in
the absence of effective rule of law would be a mistake.
The prospects for free and fair elections are limited not
only by Maoist violence but by a compromised, palace-
leaning judiciary and Election Commission. The U.S.
ambassador has warned the royal government that polls
held without the participation of mainstream political
parties would be a "hollow exercise...unlikely to have
national and international legitimacy"4 and that "Nepalis
and the international community alike worry that the King
is less interested in conducting free and fair elections than
in elections intentionally designed to validate his continued
rule".5 In any case, election of local representatives would
do little to revive democratic institutions as long as all
meaningful political decisions are made by the king and
his small coterie of advisers.6
Pressing ahead with the election plans is exacerbating a
situation where, in the words ofthe European Union,
"political forces seem to be moving towards an ever more
severe confrontation and polarisation thus increasing the risk
of deepening the political crisis".7 The EU also condemned
the elections as "another step backwards for democracy".
Most of Nepal's political spectrum, including monarchists,
shares a similar analysis. Even Pashupati Rana, the leader
ofthe major royalist party, has urged the king to call off
"RNA providing security for municipal polls",,
30 January 2006.
3 Crisis Group interview, senior army officers, JKathmandu,
January 2006.
4 "Polls sans parties a hollow exercise: Moriarty", Kantipur
online, 27 October 2005.
5 "U.S. troubled by circumstances surrounding polls", U.S.
embassy press release, Kathmandu, 26 October 2005.
6 Why February 2006 local elections would be a mistake is
discussed more extensively in Section IV below.
7 "EU Declaration on Recent Events in Nepal", Vienna and
Kathmandu, 27 January 2006.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 2
the polls, cautioning that there is no possibility of party/
palace reconciliation in the near future and that, given the
choice, Nepal's people would probably now opt for a
The prospect of a vigorous leadership by a businesslike
monarch was appealing to many in a country that has
suffered from more than its fair share of ineffective
governments. Since his first dismissal of a democratic
government in October 2002, Gyanendra had repeatedly
promised a no-nonsense approach developed from his
years of private sector experience. He robustly faced down
international disapproval by insisting that "they will have
to say what they have to say, and I will have to do what I
have to do".9 This appealed to those who felt that politicians
had been too willing to bow to outside - especially Indian
- pressure instead of standing up for Nepal's national
As the first year of direct rule nears its end, Gyanendra's
ministers and supporters are boasting of his achievements.
'The first thing each ofthe king's advisers told us was that
they had broken the Maoists' back", commented a senior
diplomat who visited Nepal in late 2005.10 From the
government's perspective, the deal between the Maoists
and the seven parties was a sign of both sides' inherent
weakness. Ministers also claim to have rooted out
corruption and restored good governance while protecting
the national identity and sovereignty. They insist that calls
to restore democracy are misguided, that democracy is in
place, reinvigorated by the king's leadership.
But has the year of exclusive control earned the king a
performance bonus? The assertion that the Maoists have
been crippled by a better managed counter-insurgency
campaign cannot be dismissed out of hand. The Kathmandu
valley has been more secure, and the army has improved its
intelligence capacity, repeatedly frustrating Maoist efforts
to organise in the capital. It recognises it cannot deliver
security across the countryside but points to fewer
blockades and better security in major urban areas as
evidence of progress.
Whatever the failings ofthe proactive counter-insurgency
efforts, the security forces' ability to hold defensive
positions has contributed to the Maoists' more realistic
assessment oftheir chances for military victory. But the
"No possibility of reconciliation between king and parties:
Rana",, 30 January 2006.
Rabindra Mishra, "Nepal's shrewd, smooth operator", BBC
News, 30 April 2005. King Gyanendra made the comment in
an interview with the national press on 24 February 2005. See
Narayan Wagle, "Shantiko karyasuchima Nepal pravesh",
Kantipur, 25 February 2005; the exact phrasing has been
variously rendered.
Crisis Group interview, January 2006.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 3
Maoists were more hampered by internal divisions than
army offensives; now that they have resolved their policy
arguments, they are demonstrating as effective a military
and political strategy as at any point in the recent past.
Coordinated attacks in and around Kathmandu on 14
January 2006 exposed the weakness of state security
measures; the Maoist commander in the Kathmandu valley
boasted that this was a sharp answer to the government's
claim that it had weakened the insurgency.11 The mid-
western garrison town Nepalgunj is effectively under
siege, with bombings or shootings on most days since the
end ofthe ceasefire. Meanwhile, the agreement with the
mainstream parties - and India's tacit backing for it - holds
out the prospect oftheir becoming a potentially powerful,
legitimate force should they disarm.
In general, the decisiveness with which royal edicts
are proclaimed contrasts starkly with their impotent
implementation. The king - and, perhaps even more, his
ministers - must be hoping that Nepalis have forgotten
the ambitious plan announced after the first post-coup
cabinet meeting. Like the commitments made in the
king's 1 February 2005 proclamation, its 21 points have
not been met. For an authoritarian administration, the
royal government has shown a surprising weakness in
pushing through practical change.
The king's supporters will have been heartened by his
determined refusal to bow to domestic and international
pressure. For diehard royalists, the effort to revoke the
transfer of power to elected politicians in 1990 has been
satisfying in itself. However, the record of inaction or
incompetence on most other fronts has disappointed those
who were willing to let the royal CEO prove himself The
business community is restive, and tourism entrepreneurs
publicly criticised the failure to reciprocate the ceasefire.12
International proponents of economic reform who were
initially sympathetic wait in vain for delivery on promised
When he seized power in February 2005, Gyanendra
emphasised that Nepalis' only wish was to end the
violence and warned that "those who cannot stand in
favour of peace will stand condemned by the motherland".13
However, his government has concentrated on cementing
his political supremacy and has become the most
11 Prabhakiran, press statement, 20 January 2006.
12 For example, the chairman of the Hotel Association of
Nepal (HAN), Narendra Bajracharya, said, "we had urged
the government to reciprocate the trace but it did not oblige,
which is very unfortunate for the country". Pratibedan Baidya,
"Calling off of ceasefire draws mixed reactions",,
2 January 2006.
13 King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, "Proclamation to the
Nation", 1 February 2005, available at
significant obstacle to peace. When presented by the
Maoist ceasefire with an opportunity to end fighting and
move to talks, the king and his advisers chose not to "stand
in favour of peace". It is perhaps on the issue of elections
that Gyanendra has been truest to his word. On 1 February
2005 he promised elections and return to democratic
rule within three years, and he has charted a roadmap
that promises just that. The questions are: what kind of
democracy - and will it bring peace?
The Maoist ceasefire, even if partly tactical, offered an
opening for dialogue. However, the royal government
resolutely spumed domestic and international appeals to
respond positively and appeared determined to ensure
the Maoists would not extend it. It also dismissed the
November 2005 agreement between the mainstream
parties and Maoists as an "unnatural alliance".14 The
Maoists ended the ceasefire on 2 January 2006.
Throughout four months of relative Maoist restraint
(although the rebels were responsible for around a dozen
killings as well as continued extortion and forced political
indoctrination), state security forces remained active, their
operations resulting in dozens of deaths.15 The Royal
Nepalese Army says it has killed 275 Maoists from the
start ofthe ceasefire to 30 January 2006, and a total of
5,086 since the breakdown ofthe previous ceasefire in
August 2003.16
The military argued that the truce was a tactical cover the
Maoists were using to regroup before launching a renewed
offensive.17 This is partly hue: the Maoists did indeed use
the ceasefire to hold a two-week-long expanded central
committee meeting, restructure their command and
increase - at least on paper - their military capacity. Their
attacks in January 2006 indicate a continued appetite for
For an analysis ofthe twelve-point parties-Maoist agreement,
see Crisis Group Asia Report N°106, Nepal's New Alliance:
The Mainstream Parties and the Maoists, 28 November 2005.
Crisis Group's extensive reporting on the February 2005 royal
coup and its aftermath is available at
15 According to reliable estimates, state security forces were
responsible for 62 deaths during the first three months of the
ceasefire; in the same period the Maoists killed thirteen people.
"Three Months of Ceasefire", Informal Sector Service Centre,
Kathmandu, December 2005. Announcing the end of its
ceasefire, Prachanda, the Maoist chairman, accused the army of
killing dozens of unarmed cadres in Palpa, Morang and other
districts during the ceasefire. Press statement, 2 January 2006.
16 "RNA providing security for municipal polls",,
30 January 2006.
17 "Yuddhabiram natak matra: sena", Gorkhapatra, 17
September 2005.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 4
fighting and a belligerent strategy.18 However, a major
army sweep into the Maoist heartland in late December
2005 boosted suspicions that the government wanted to
draw the rebels back into combat. Hundreds ofthe army's
best-trained troops were quietly withdrawn from the area
as soon as the ceasefire ended.19 The Maoists' return to
war may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the political front, the battle-lines have been clearly
drawn. The royal government's refusal to consider
reciprocating the truce was matched by a steadfast
rejection ofthe parties-Maoist agreement, which held out
the possibility of accommodating the monarchy in a
revised political set-up.20 As the parties and Maoists
launched their active boycott ofthe polls, the king set off
on his second post-coup tour of eastern districts. The
whistle-stop schedule of photo-opportunities and generous
state media coverage suggested electioneering but his
preference for combat dress underlined the administration's
The Rajparishad (Royal Council), an advisory body
appointed by the king with no statutory powers other
than to oversee royal succession, has geared up for
confrontation with the parties. Standing committee
member Sachchit Shumsher Rana, a long-retired general
who has taken to speaking on behalf of the government,
threatened the parties with "dire consequences" if they
did not participate in the polls and warned that "all the
members ofthe Rajparishad are ready to fight".21
Vice Chairman ofthe Council of Mnisters Tulsi Giri has
ruled out a ceasefire with the rebels and reconciliation with
the parties.22 Home Minister Kamal Thapa has warned
the parties of "stem action" if they boycott the polls but
accepts that there is no constitutional provision to ban
them.23 Nevertheless, the steady stream of threatening
statements appeared to herald a further crackdown, just
as similar warnings of "autocracy" by ministers and
prominent royalists in late 2004 presaged the February
2005 takeover.24
Thapa again warned the parties on 18 January that if they
"knowingly or unknowingly" supported the Maoists, the
government would "be compelled to take strong action
under law, which may lead to an unpleasant situation".25
The crackdown came the next day, and while justifying
the measures to diplomats, Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath
Pandey threatened "unpleasant action" against anyone
trying to disrupt the polls.26
The palace calculation is simple but may prove effective:
once the municipal elections are held, however troubled
the process may be, the king will have a clear run to his
proposed general election. The government may quickly
announce dates, probably involving several phases
between late autumn 2006 and early spring 2007.27 Snap
elections are theoretically a possibility and could throw
the parties into disarray over their response. However,
they would only be viable ifthe local polls were to pass
off without too much disturbance, a condition which can
no longer be met.
Ifthe international community does not offer a principled
critique ofthe municipal polls, it will be in an even weaker
position to reject a royal roadmap for national elections,
whether or not they are designed to further peace and
reconciliation. The king may have some surprises up his
sleeve - he could undercut the parties by announcing a
ceasefire or inviting the Maoists for talks - but the problem
of a substantive agenda remains. The palace is ever more
firmly committed to asserting its political dominance and
has consistently rejected the baseline Maoist demand,
now accepted by the parties, of a constituent assembly to
rewrite the constitution.
The question remains open whether the palace has a plan,
or even desire, to resolve the conflict. Victory, in the words
of a Western envoy, "would allow the king to portray
himself as a messiah"28 but the palace may see advantage
in continued low-level conflict since eliminating the
insurgency would undermine the case for authoritarian
rule. The palace plans for war, and the king calculates
that he can continue to fight on two fronts, containing
the Maoists militarily and suppressing the democratic
Baburam Bhattarai, "Phauji ra gair-phauji sangharshako
samyojanko prashna", Samaya, 12 January 2006.
19 "RNA halts Rolpa operation", The Kathmandu Post, 4
January 2006.
20 See Crisis Group Report, Nepal's New Alliance, op. cit.
21 "Rajparishad ready for confrontation: Report",,
5 January 2006.
22 "No ceasefire, no reconciliation with seven parties: Dr
Giri", op. cit.
23 "Govt, will take strong measures against attempts to foil
polls: Minister Thapa",, December 2005.
24 See Crisis Group Asia Report N°91, Nepal's Royal Coup:
Making a Bad Situation Worse, 9 February 2005.
"Dal mathi kada kadam chalina sakcha: Griha Mantri",
Nepal Samacharpatra, 19 January 2006.
26 Statement at a briefing session for heads of diplomatic
missions in Kathmandu, 19 January 2006.
27 King Gyanendra has said that parliamentary elections will be
held in the Nepali year 2063, which starts in mid-April 2006.
"Pratinidhi sabha chunav nirdeshan", Kantipur, 15 October
2005. Election timing is traditionally heavily influenced by
seasonal factors: spring and late autumn/early winter are the
most viable periods.
28 Crisis Group interview, Kathmandu, January 2005.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 5
C.    Shades of 1990
The memory ofthe 1990 people's movement that ended
the Panchayat system hangs over all players in the current
confrontation. The palace has set the scene for a replay of
the palace-people showdown by reviving Panchayat-style
direct royal rule and bringing back into power some ofthe
key actors of that period. The political parties are trying to
prompt a revival ofthe 1990 mood, hoping that cumulative
dissatisfaction with the king's administration can be turned
into a successful mass movement. The Maoists - some of
whom were part ofthe 1990 movement - have also used
this history to explain their alliance with the parties.29
In the aftermath ofthe people's movement, Krishna
Prasad Bhattarai's interim government established a
judicial commission to investigate abuses committed by
the Panchayat government in suppressing protests. The
chairman of the three-member body was Janardan Lai
Mallik, then chief judge ofthe Eastern Regional Court; the
other members, both judges, were Uday Raj Upadhyay
and Indra Raj Pandey. The Mallik Commission was
constituted on 23 May 1990 and submitted its report to
the interim government on 31 December 1990. In the
course of its investigations, it heard testimony from
victims (or the relatives of those killed), eyewitnesses
and those accused of violations. It concluded that over
100 officials and politicians were directly or indirectly
responsible for abuses, many of which resulted in death.
The report caused problems for the interim government.
Charged with overseeing the first democratic elections in
decades, it was worried that pressing charges against
police officers would demoralise them and perhaps turn
them against the new dispensation. Arguing that ensuring
law and order took priority, on 1 February 1991 the cabinet
decided not to act against police officers and forwarded
the report to the attorney general's office for consideration
ofthe remaining cases. Attorney General Moti Kaji Sthapit
cited the cabinet's decision to drop cases against the police
as one reason for not proceeding with other prosecutions
and cautioned that "court action cannot be taken against
anyone solely on the basis ofthe commission's report".30
The interim government's calculation that avoiding
confrontation with the palace and security forces was
the best way to move forward peacefully was not
For example, Baburam Bhattarai, one of the senior Maoist
leaders, has argued that an alliance of capitalist and socialist
forces against feudal forces has always been productive, going
so far as to blame Third World underdevelopment on the
blocking of "capitalist people's revolutions". "Andolanko
utkarsha ra trasta satta", Nepal, 29 January 2006.
30 Letter to the cabinet, 7 July 1991, cited in "Mallik ayogko
prativedan: karvahi kina ra kaslai", Kathmandu, 1991, p. 85.
unreasonable. The elections were a success, and the first
democratic government did not have to pursue bitter legal
straggles against leaders ofthe former regime. However,
the decision to ignore the Mallik Commission's findings
was criticised at the time by activists who insisted that
justice demanded a proper accounting for crimes committed
by the state. The king has now chosen to surround himself
with many of those implicated by the Mallik Commission.
Given the role these individuals played in suppressing
the last democracy movement, it is not surprising that
the parties doubt the current government's desire and
capacity to conduct free and fair polls.
The dying days of the Panchayat were overseen by a
confusing cluster of committees, some of which were
constituted specifically to suppress the democracy
movement. The Mallik Commission concluded that these
bodies were primarily responsible for the excessive and
unjustified force which resulted in the deaths and injuries
of thousands of unarmed protestors.31 Among the persons
it identified as playing the most serious roles and against
whom it recommended legal action be taken were the
following senior members ofthe current administration
and royal advisers:
Rajparishad Chairman Parshu Narayan Chaudhary:
in 1990, as education and culture minister and convener
ofthe Central Coordination Committee (CCM), which
was charged with suppressing the movement, he
coordinated the actions of various government agencies.
He accepted collective responsibility for loss of life and
property but complained that under Prime Minister
Marich Man Singh there was no discussion in cabinet
and no attempt to defuse the protests politically.32
Law Minister Niranjan Thapa: as state minister for
home affairs, he was in charge ofthe Central Security
Coordination Committee (CSCC), which was tasked with
developing and implementing policies to suppress the
movement. The commission heard that as its head he was
"active" in suppressing the movement and ordered local
administrators to "do whatever needs to be done to save
the system".
Home Minister Kamal Thapa: as state minister for
communications, he was a CCM member. The commission
found that he pressed local administrators to use extreme
force against demonstrators. Thapa accepted moral
responsibility for his ministerial decisions but argued that
it was not unnatural to be opposed to the democracy
movement, and the charges against him were political.33
"Mallik ayogko prativedan: karvahi kina ra kaslai",
Kathmandu, 1991, p. 82.
32 Ibid, p. 77.
33 Ibid.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 6
Royal Council standing committee member and informal
royal spokesman Sachchit Shamsher Rana: as Chief of
Army Staff, he chaired the Central Security Committee
(CSC), which advised the government on overall security
Royal Commission for the Control of Corruption
Chairman Bhakta Bahadur Koirala: as acting home
secretary, he was a member ofthe CCM, CSC and CSCC.
The commission heard that he repeatedly ordered local
administrators to use inappropriate force and ensured
General Administration Minister Badri Mandal: as law
minister, he was a member ofthe cabinet's political
committee, which worked alongside the powerful
Panchayat Policy Investigation Committee in countering
the democracy movement.
Armed Police Force Inspector-General Sahabir Thapa:
as police superintendent in Lalitpur, he was cited for his
role in the deaths of Gyan Bahadur Shahi and Sagar
Singh on 30 March 1990. The fatal shots were fired
by the team under his command in contravention ofthe
Local Administration Act.35
Chief Election Commissioner Keshav Raj Rajbhandari:
as chief district officer of Kathmandu, he was cited in
connection with the killing of Kumar Udas Shrestha on 2
April 1990. He gave verbal orders to police to fire warning
shots at "extremists"; Shrestha, who was cycling home
from his office, was hit in the head and killed. Rajbhandari
told the commission that he had supported opening fire.36
influence is now wielded by Panchayat-style regional and
zonal administrators answerable only to the palace.
These will be the third local elections following the 1990
democracy movement.38 The Communist Party of Nepal
(Unified Marxist-Leninist, UML) dominated the last set
in 1997, winning more than half the votes, well ahead of
the Nepali Congress (NC).39 The Election Commission
has issued a code of conduct transferring polling-officer
responsibility from district judges to chief district officers,
who are central government-appointed bureaucrats. Chief
Election Commissioner Keshav Raj Rajbhandary has tried
to address the security fears of officials and candidates by
offering them life insurance.40 However, civil servants,
who have been banned from taking leave until the polls
are concluded, have themselves called for the elections to
be postponed.41
The number of eligible voters is relatively low - around
two million (12 per cent ofthe electorate). As one
commentator pointed out, ifthe palace sets a 25 per cent
turnout target, it need mobilise only 500,000 voters.42
However, candidates have been hard to find: nationwide,
only 3,255 filed nominations on 26 January, the sole day
to do so. Given the chance two days later, more than 600
candidates withdrew. Many of them were reportedly
unwilling participants in the first place; some complained
that their names had been put forward under duress or
without their knowledge. This left 2,104 seats without any
candidates whatsoever: Kathmandu, for example, has 177
posts at stake but only 98 nominations, many of them for
the same jobs. In the Kathmandu valley not one candidate
is from a recognised national party.43 Overall, one third
of seats will have only a single candidate and therefore
no competition. No municipality has candidates for all
The 8 February 2006 elections are for 4,146 positions in
58 municipal bodies across 43 of Nepal's 75 districts.
However, just over half of the seats have no candidates
at all, while many others have attracted only a single
contender, who will, therefore, be elected unopposed.37
The positions have very limited authority: few powers
have been devolved to local bodies, and they are dependent
on the central government for their budgets. Apart from
chief district officers appointed by the home ministry, real
34 Ibid., p. 76.
35 Ibid., pp. 58-59.
36Ibid., pp. 46-47.
37 For lack of contestants, there will now be no elections in Ham,
Damak, Bhimeshwor, Bhaktapur, Banepa, Panauti, Dhulikhel,
Ratna Nagar, Prithvi Narayan, Vyas, Waling, Palpa, Ram Gram,
Butwal, Kapilvastu, Baglung, Birenndra Nagar, Dashrath Chand
Amargadi, Dipayal, Nepalgunj and Gulariya municipalities.
"Municipal elections: No candidates for more than half seats",
The Kathmandu Post, 30 January 2005.
Previous local elections were held in 1992 and 1997.
39 The UML won 51.06 per cent, the NC 30.01, the Rashtriya
Prajatantra Party (RPP) 12.60, the Sadbhavana Party 1.23
and others 5.09 per cent. "Party's Position in the Local
Bodies Election 1997", Nepal Election Commission,
40 "Nirvachanma khatine karmachariko bima garine",
Gorkhapatra, 2 January 2006; "Accident insurance for
candidates", The Rising Nepal, 26 January 2006.
41 The Nepal Government Employees' Organisation (NGEO) and
Confederation of Nepalese Professionals (CONEP), an umbrella
organisation of 400,000 professionals, called on the government
to put off the polls until there was political consensus. "Civil
servants urge government to postpone polls",,
24 January 2006.
42 Bharat Bhushan, "A poll to crown king of municipalities",
The Telegraph, 16 January 2006.
43 "3,255 candidates file nominations for municipal polls",, 27 January 2006.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 7
positions, from mayor through to ordinary council
The government created an escape clause on 24 January by
issuing an ordinance enabling the tenure of current local
officials to be extended.45 Some ministers have hinted that
the elections could yet be cancelled or postponed.46 But
despite the lack of candidates the government seems likely
to press ahead; the chief election commissioner announced
that extra dates for filing nominations could be given
or that vacant posts could be filled after the election was
completed. State-run media has hailed the nomination
process as a success, and the continued propaganda
drive implies that the palace's prestige remains tied
to completion ofthe exercise under any conditions. The
Rising Nepal, a government mouthpiece, claims "the
eagerness ofthe voters in all municipalities is a reflection
oftheir optimism" and hails the "surge in their zeal".47
The fact that royalist politicians have not displayed such
zeal has not undermined the government's determination.
Only one ofthe 72 political parties which have registered
with the Election Commission to participate is a national
entity - the faction of the Tarai plains-based Nepal
Sadbhavana Party (NSP) headed by Badri Prasad Mandal,
the minister for general administration.48 The others are
generally obscure, with minimal organisational bases, but
many are headed by well-known individuals who are
relying on their personal appeal. Most other parties
are vehicles for Panchayat-era royalists.49 None has an
44 "Municipal polls fiasco looms", The Kathmandu Post, 27
January 2006.
45 "Government promulgates ordinance empowering cabinet to
extend the tenure of local body",, 25 January
46 "Will the municipal polls be called off?",,
23 January 2006.
47 "Polls for peace, democracy", The Rising Nepal, 27 January
48 The other NSP faction is led by Anandi Devi, the widow
of party founder Gajendra Narayan Singh. It is a member of
the seven-party alliance.
49 These include former Rajparishad chief Keshar Jung
Rayamajhi's Janata Dal (Samajbadi Prajatantrik); former
Rashtriya Panchayat [parliament] Chairman Rajeshwar
Devkota's RPP (Nationalist); and Panchayat-era Foreign
Minister K.B. Shahi's Sanyukta Prajatantra Party. Ministers
from the royal administrations since 2002, including some
current ones, are also fielding parties: Salim Miya Ansari's
Samajbadi Party Nepal; Narayan Singh Pun's Nepal Samata
Party; Asharphi Shah's Rastriya Bikas Party; Gore Bahadur
Khapangi's Prajatantrik Janamukti Party; Keshar Bahadur
Bista's new Prajatantrik Nepal; Durga Pokharel's Nepali
Congress (Nationalist); Kuber Sharma's Hariyali Party; and Prem
Bahadur Singh's Samajbadi Prajatantrik Janata Party Nepal.
Further parties are fronted by personalities from other walks of
life, for example wrestler Bharat Bahadur Bisural (Conservative
established electoral record of any significance.50
Following the Election Commission's decision not to
recognise Kamal Thapa's pro-palace faction as the official
Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), most of its candidates
filed nominations as independents.
Unless the mainstream parties and Maoists manage to
derail the polls entirely or the king changes strategy, the
royal government will certainly declare the municipal
elections a success. As with the unimpressive nominations
process, ministers will seek to turn obstacles to their
advantage. The harder the parties push to block the polls,
the more the government will boast of its commitment to
granting the people their democratic rights. The absence
of impartial monitoring - potential domestic and
international observers do not want to legitimise the
exercise - will make it easier to advance exaggerated
claims on turn-out and conduct. State television will
show queues of voters and run interviews with voters,
candidates and officials.
Reliable sources report that the palace secretariat has met
with local and zonal administrators to establish guidelines.51
Palace-appointed officials are to examine the candidate
lists for each municipality and identify those who should
be supported. Favoured candidates may be offered
financial and organisational assistance. Those belonging
to the pro-palace faction ofthe RPP are likely to have
preference but administrators have been instructed to
persuade individual mainstream politicians to reject their
parties' boycott and stand. Government employees and
their families are required to vote and expected to urge
friends and neighbours to do the same. While these orders
will be verbal, the effort to boost turn-out will be backed
by a concerted state media campaign. However, without
enough candidates to create even an impression of
competitive politics, the government can hardly avoid
charges that its elections have failed before the polling
stations even open.
Party) and boxer Prakash Gurung (Deshbhakta Prajatantrik
Party). "Agami Mahanagarpalika, upamahanagarpalika ra
nagarpalikako nirvachan prayojanko lagi darta bhaeka rajnaitik
dalham", Nepal Election Commission.
50 In the 1999 general election, even the venerable Praja Parishad
collected only 817 votes nationwide. Others fared less well:
the Rastrabadi Ekta Party secured 120 votes, Rastrabadi Janata
Dal 105, Dalit MajadurKisan Party 92, Samajbadi Garib Party
86, Mechi Mahakali Jana Samanvaya Dal 35 votes, Liberal
Samajbadi Party ten and Nepali Rastriya Ekta Party eight.
Election Commission data.
51 Crisis Group interviews, Kathmandu, January 2006.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page <
The king and the parties have battles on their hands but
the line each intends to follow is relatively clear: the king
means to press on with elections regardless of opposition,
and the parties to marshal enough street opposition to derail
them. The Maoists have benefited the most from the
events of 2005 and remain in a strong situation. However,
they face difficult choices. The end of the ceasefire and
resumption of fighting may have been inevitable given
the lack of government reciprocity but their next moves
must balance conflicting imperatives.
Keeping the parties on board. Using force while
maintaining a loose alliance with the non-violent
mainstream is a tough challenge. Some in the parties may
tacitly welcome armed support for their campaign against
the polls; others may find it unacceptable and push to end
cooperation with the Maoists.
Striking hard but not looking too dangerous. The
Maoists are under pressure to prove that they offered a
ceasefire from a position of strength and still have the
capacity to threaten the state militarily but know that if
they look capable of a full takeover, the world will back
Gyanendra regardless of qualms about democracy.
Satisfying their cadres. On 13 February 2006 the
insurgency enters its eleventh year. Battle-hardened cadres,
schooled for total victory, were becoming restive during
the ceasefire. The leadership will find it hard to offer
concessions if it cannot deliver results to its foot soldiers.
Keeping doors to dialogue open. The Maoists have
worked hard to build bridges with their domestic and
international opponents, presenting a more moderate
face and committing themselves to democracy and
respect for fundamental human rights. Maintaining
this approach will be hard while they are fighting.
The end ofthe ceasefire prompted widespread international
disappointment. India termed it an "unfortunate
decision... We have consistently called upon the Maoists
to abandon the path of violence and terror, accept the
discipline of multi-party democracy, and work for a
political settlement that contributes to the political stability
and economic prosperity of Nepal".52 The U.S. warned
that "there can be no excuse for the resumption of
"In response to a question on the withdrawal of ceasefire by
the Maoists in Nepal", Statement by the Ministry of External
Affairs' official spokesperson, New Delhi, 2 January 2006.
violence",53 as did the European Union, which also noted
that it was "deeply disappointed by the government's
failure to reciprocate the trace".54 In a last-ditch effort to
persuade both armed parties to move to dialogue, UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed concern at the
likely escalation in fighting and deeply regretted that
"despite the appeal of so many national and international
voices, including his own, no progress appears to have
been made towards a mutually agreed trace between the
Government of Nepal and the CPN-M".55
Nevertheless, the return to fighting was predictable. As
one diplomat put it, "The Maoists were hardly likely to
continue extending [the ceasefire] indefinitely without a
response from the government - to that extent their
behaviour is understandable. But they have to realise
that no one can condone an armed insurgency, and the
political parties will come under pressure to distance
themselves".56 So far, the Maoist calculation is that they
can ride out this level of political pressure.
The four weeks of resumed fighting have been the most
violent since 2001 in terms of numbers of attacks. The
Maoists do not appear weaker, and they have refined their
tactics. Attacks on Kathmandu and Nepalgunj indicate a
bolder targeting of urban centres but careful avoidance of
the head-on, mass assaults against well defended military
targets that led to high casualties in early 2005. Fewer
civilians have been killed or injured than in previous
The slogan for the new military strategy the Maoists
formulated during their October 2005 central committee
plenum is "stand on the spine to strike the head". The
spine refers to highways, peripheral supply routes and
military bases, while the head refers to urban areas in
general and Kathmandu in particular.57
The Maoists also restructured their military and its
operational methods. Alongside the Eastern and Western
Commands, they have established a Special Central
Command.58 Formation of the latter, which covers
Sean McCormack, spokesman ofthe U.S. State Department,
press statement, Washington DC, 3 January 2006.
54 "Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European
Union in response to the statement by Maoists to end the
unilateral ceasefire", Brussels, 5 January 2006.
55 Press statement, 30 December 2005.
56 Crisis Group interview, Kathmandu, January 2006.
57 Bharat Bhushan, "Target head in assault on spine", The
Telegraph, 15 January 2006.
58 The "in-charges" ofthe Eastern, Western and Special Central
Commands are Badal (Ram Bahadur Thapa), Diwakar (Post
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 9
Kathmandu and the surrounding area and consists of
four regional bureaus, reflects the increased priority they
are giving to the base of central state power. The Special
Central Command has been tasked with organising local
Newar and Tamang communities (which dominate the
valley and its surrounding hills respectively) as a mass
base. The first national gatherings ofthe Newa National
Liberation Front and Tamang National Liberation Front,
Maoist ethnic fronts, were held in December 2005,59
The plenum also expanded the armed force - the People's
Liberation Army (PLA) - from three to seven divisions.60
Under party Chairman Prachanda, the supreme commander,
four deputy commanders have been appointed: Ananta
(Special Command), Prabhakar (Western Command),
Baldev (Eastern Command) and Pasang (headquarters
and responsible for the "People's Military Academy").61
According to Prachanda, half of all political cadres will be
transferred to military duties to fill the ranks ofthe new
divisions.62 The plenum also demoted all party committees
and officials by one level. Following dissolution ofthe
central committee, politburo and standing committee, it
formed a 3 3-member Seventh Convention Organising
Committee under Prachanda.63 Regional and district
commanders have been reassigned across the country.64
The Maoists want to engage the security forces in small
actions to prove they cannot keep urban areas safe. They
have shifted to greater use of carefully targeted improvised
explosive devices and of close quarter attacks that rely
more on stealth and surprise than numbers. They have hit
the same locations repeatedly, increasing the general sense
of insecurity and underlining the weakness ofthe state
even during a period of heightened alert. Nepalgunj, the
mid-western headquarters and most fortified town
after Kathmandu, has experienced bombings or shootings
three or four times a week throughout January 2006.
The Maoists claim these serial attacks have led to five
security posts being removed from the town centre.65
Attacks on the cities are also conceived by the rebels as
preparation for their long-planned campaign of armed
urban insurrection. While the immediate aim is to disrupt
the polls, the mid-term goal is to pursue their strategic
offensive plan, which depends on greater success in urban
warfare and political mobilisation.66 While they have
pursued a negotiation strategy with the political parties
that envisages compromises, they continue to frame their
present actions as preparation for urban mass insurrection
to establish a republic.67
The Maoists have sustained a high-intensity campaign.
Through 26 January, they have carried out 52 bombings
across the country, over twenty targeting government
offices, launched seven shooting attacks on security offices
and check posts and been involved in some seven armed
engagements. They have killed at least one mayoral
candidate and abducted another.68 Although civilian
casualties seem to be low, both sides have taken heavier
casualties, with 40 security personnel and 41 Maoists
reported killed. A major assault on Phapar Bari,
Makwanpur district, resulted in the deaths of at least
seventeen Maoists, two civilians and six soldiers. Maoists
attacked the major district headquarters of Dhangadhi
twice, on 11 and 25 January, while Nepalgunj experienced
significant attacks on 20,24 and 25 January.
On 14 January, Kathmandu was targeted with multiple
simultaneous attacks for the first time, the strategically
most significant of which was on Thankot, the main road
entry point ofthe valley; other bombings and an attack on
a police station outside the city brought police deaths to
twelve, including one inspector, while the Maoists seized
31 guns. They will not be able to sustain a campaign at
this level indefinitely, and there has long been a question
mark over their ability to incite urban insurrection. But for
the time being they have demonstrated strength and tactical
sophistication. Their planned nationwide shutdown over
the election period will almost certainly be accompanied
by further headline blows at the country's "head".
Bahadur Bogati) and Ananta (Varshaman t?un) respectively.
Crisis Group interview, Nepal, December 2005.
59 Janadesh, 20 December 2005.
60 The first and second PLA divisions are under the Eastern
Command, the third division under the Special Central
Command, and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh divisions
under the Western Command. The fifth division's popular
commander, Sunil (Kim Bahadur Thapa of Rolpa), was killed
during an army helicopter attack at Jinabang, Rolpa district, on
29 November 2005.
61 Crisis Group interviews, Maoist sources, Nepal, December
62 Quoted in Naya Dishabodh, November 2005.
63 Prachanda, press statement, 28 November 2005.
64 Crisis Group interviews, Kathmandu, January 2006.
65 Krishna Sen Online, accessed on 25 January 2006.
The Maoists declared in August 2004 that they had entered
the third and final phase oftheir "people's war", that of strategic
offensive. Its first stage was completed by October 2005, and
current actions are conceived as part of a second stage. For
detailed analysis of Maoist strategy, see Crisis Group Asia
Report N°104, Nepal's Maoists: Their Aims, Structure and
Strategy, 27 October 2005.
67 Ananta, press statement, 15 January 2006.
68 The Maoists killed Bijaya Lai Das, an NSP (Mandal faction)
Janakpur mayoral candidate, on 22 January 2006 and abducted
Ram Kumar Tharu, also a mayoral candidate of that party,
from Gulariya, Banke district, on 25 January.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 10
C.    The Parties Protest
The parties have a simple short-term goal: to oppose the
municipal elections and, if they cannot persuade the king
to call them off, to expose their lack of credibility. This
second, more limited, goal may have been achieved
already. Few outside palace circles view the elections as
legitimate, and the latest crackdown will only make the
lack of a level playing field more obvious. However, it
will not be easy for the parties to derail the elections
altogether and reassert their political primacy.
Lack of numbers. The parties' only real weapon is their
support base but they have yet to bring sufficient protestors
onto the streets. If demonstrations do not reach a critical
mass, confident claims of ability to mobilise hundreds
of thousands will ring hollow. The cadre-based UML
has been more successful than the mass-based Nepali
Congress, whose more radical grassroots members and
student activists have not been inspired by the party's
current leadership. Resources may also be a constraint
when it comes to sustaining a lengthy protest campaign.
Still, gatherings such as the Janakpur rally of 12 January,
which drew well over 100,000, have buoyed party morale.
The 19 January crackdown suggests that the government
was afraid that the announced seven-party Kathmandu
rally would be even more impressive.
Dealing with the Maoists. The parties hailed their
November 2005 agreement with the Maoists as a
breakthrough but it will not be easy to put it into practice.
Concerns have come not only from some smaller members
ofthe seven-party alliance but also from senior leaders
within the Nepali Congress. The Maoists consider the
parties have not matched their concessions and still doubt
the commitment to face down the palace. But most
mainstream politicians will find it hard to stand by the
Maoists if they continue the armed campaign.
Unclear agenda. The agreement with the Maoists should
have allowed the parties to go to the public with a simple
message: that they could deliver peace. But policy
pronouncements have lacked clarity. Bold anti-monarchical
rhetoric has been balanced by calls for compromise with
the palace. As with their continued demand for restoration
ofthe last parliament, the seven-party alliance's focus on
disrupting the polls risks looking self-serving unless tied
to a peace agenda.69
Fragile unity. The seven-party alliance is holding
together; other parties have joined its boycott of the
polls, and it has been widely praised for drawing the
Maoists into a basic agreement to respect democracy.
But there are fractures within and between its constituent
elements, while top-level leaders still disagree on longer
term strategies. The UML's success at getting out its
supporters has heightened rivalries: there were more
protestors at its unilateral 2 December 2005 Kathmandu
demonstration than at the joint seven-party affair two
weeks later.
Nevertheless, these difficulties will not necessarily comfort
the king. The major royalist parties - the Rashtriya
Prajatantra Party (RPP) and its offshoot, the Rashtriya
Janashakti Party - have also refused to take part in the
elections. This prompted the RPP split, with senior leaders
who had been brought into the cabinet in a December
2005 reshuffle insisting on backing the royal coup and
campaigning. The palace had been conspicuously isolated
but now - by design, according to RPP officials who
accuse it of plotting and funding the schism - the king
may have his own party. Efforts to tempt mainstream
party members to participate in the polls, however, do
not appear to have succeeded.
The parties' real challenge is to transform the passive
public preference for democracy and peace into an active
movement with a forward-looking agenda. Leaders admit
that they are under increasing pressure from their own
activists to embrace a republican agenda and have
adopted a firmer stance towards the palace. "There will
be no compromise at the expense of democracy", insists
NC president Girija Prasad Koirala. "Any deal with the
king can only be on the basis of an end to autocracy and
the restoration of peace and full democracy".70 The UML
has ruled out talks with the king, and former Prime
Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's Nepali Congress
(Democratic) has, like its mother party, removed the
commitment to constitutional monarchy from its statute.
The parties see the candidate-registration fiasco as an
interim victory and are convinced their movement will
gather pace. They hope to bring enough protestors onto
the streets not just to disrupt the polls but to force the
palace to back down and restore democracy.
The parliamentary parties which make up the seven-party
alliance are the Nepali Congress (NC); Communist Party of
Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist, UML); Nepal Sadbhavana
Party (NSP, Anandi Devi); Nepali Congress (Democratic,
NC(D)); Janamorcha Nepal; Nepal Workers and Peasants
Party (NWPP); and the United Left Front.
Crisis Group interview, Kathmandu, January 2006.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 11
A.    What's Wrong with Elections?
Elections are overdue. A fresh mandate for political leaders
could reinvigorate democratic governance and provide
popular endorsement of an administration whose main
task would be to negotiate peace. Unfortunately, however,
the municipal elections will not be free, fair or credible.
Filling local posts with palace placemen will neither restart
the national democratic process nor bring a peace process
closer. The intention is more likely the reverse. Ifthe aim
is to work towards full national polls, the palace should be
trying to create conditions to bring in the mainstream
parties. In the words of a Western diplomat, "elections
should be part of a peace process, not a war process".71
The king's supporters argue that outsiders have no right to
judge Nepal's internal affairs.72 Foreign Minister Ramesh
Nath Pandey used his trip to New York for the September
2005 UN General Assembly to assert that there is no
universal model of democracy.73 The support that he
curried with states such as China, North Korea, Cuba and
Pakistan in the wake ofthe royal coup suggests the palace
has a broad definition of democracy. However, King
Gyanendra has set himself higher standards: "a meaningful
exercise in democracy can take place only when elected
representatives at all levels are given their share in
the governance ofthe country in accordance with the
principles of separation of powers".74 This statement
makes clear that the validity ofthe democratic exercise
will be determined by further conditions. The current
circumstances offer neither a separation of powers nor the
basic mechanisms to ensure a free and fair vote.
Continued rule by decree. In the absence of a legislature,
Nepal is governed at all levels by royal fiat. There are no
systems of democratic checks and balances, formal or
informal. Critical scrutiny of royal ordinances - which
constitutionally have to be ratified by parliament - is
impossible. The 19 January crackdown underlined the
possibility that security measures may be used deliberately
to target non-violent political opponents of the royal
71 Crisis Group interview, Kathmandu, December 2005.
72 The king himself further alleged that "foreign money"
was behind unspecified "undesirable things" happening in
Kathmandu. "Bideshi paisama nachahindo kam bhairahechha",
Kantipur, 23 September 2005.
73 Statement by Ramesh Nath Pandey at the UN General
Assembly, 21 September 2005,
74 King Gyanendra, "Proclamation to the Nation", op. cit.
Compromised judicial independence. Palace influence
over the appointment of judges has led to a breakdown of
trust between legal professionals and the judiciary.75
Attorney General Pawan Kumar Ojha surprised observers
by insisting that divine right places the actions of a Hindu
king beyond legal question;76 he was rewarded with
appointment to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Dilip
Kumar Paudel's enthusiastic attendance of Rajparishad
meetings has undermined hopes that some recent critical
judgements indicated a more independent-minded
Tainted electoral process. Chief Election Commissioner
Rajbhandari has been acting more as government
spokesman than impartial official. He has forcefully urged
all parties to participate and threatened to revoke the
recognition of those that boycott.77 Apart from his record
in suppressing the 1990 democracy movement, he faces
fresh allegations of using influence to take possession of
valuable government land in the name of a family trust.78
Election officials have been given extensive discretionary
powers such as allowing people to vote without proper
registration or identification; similar largesse was granted
to candidates who were allowed to file without the
required nominator and seconder being present.
Censored media. On 9 October 2005, Gyanendra
promulgated an ordinance amending six key media laws.
Following a detailed legal analysis ofthe ordinance, the
International Commission of Jurists concluded that "the
amendments entrench restrictions imposed on the media
by the Government during the three-month state of
emergency that ended in April 2005, and impose new
limitations that will further undermine freedom of
expression, press freedom and the right to receive
information in Nepal".79 According to Reporters sans
Frontieres (RSF), Nepal was responsible for more than
half the global cases of censorship in 2005; it also lists
Nepal as one of fifteen "enemies ofthe internet" for
blocking access to critical websites.80
See "SC regrets bar decisions", The Kathmandu Post, 4
January 2006; "Lawyers protest appointment of ad-hoc justices",, 6 January 2006.
76 "All orders from Hindu king constitutional", The Kathmandu
Post, 22 November 2005.
77 "Parties' recognition to be revoked if polls boycotted",
The Himalayan Times, 21 December 2005.
78 Kiran Bhandari, "Sarkari jagga hadapne dau", Samay, 27
January 2006.
79 "Power to Silence: Nepal's New Media Ordinance",
International Commission of Jurists, December 2005. The
report argues that the ordinance violates Nepal's international
legal commitments and its own constitutional guarantees of
free expression.
80 "Press freedom in 2005", Reporters sans Frontieres, 4 January
2006, The large number of individual
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 12
Insecurity. Preparations for the polls are taking place
against a background of intensifying conflict. While the
mainstream parties' "active boycott" may cause practical
disruption, the Maoists' resumption of armed violence
undermines the prospects for a meaningful vote. The
Maoists' commander in the Kathmandu valley has warned
that candidates, their associates and other officials "should
be prepared to suffer the most serious consequences" if
they do not dissociate themselves from the polls.81
Although the Maoists promised the UN that they would
not take physical action against individuals involved in
the polls,82 the killing of Bijay Lai Das, an NSP faction
candidate for mayor in Janakpur, suggests this vow has
been broken.83 The insurgents are also suspected ofthe
shooting and serious wounding of another mayoral
candidate, Dal Bahadur Rai, on 30 January in the heart of
Kathmandu's twin city, Patan.84 Even royalist parties have
threatened to pull out ifthe government cannot guarantee
their security.85 Meanwhile, just as some people were
forced to stand as candidates, the possibility of security
forces exerting pressure on citizens to vote and to prevent
opposition demonstrations remains.
Ifthe primary aim ofthe government and people is peace,
the most important test ofthe municipal polls is whether
they will contribute to a peace process. The heightened
political tensions ofthe post-royal coup environment and
the return to armed conflict make this a particularly
challenging test. Even in the context of a negotiated peace
censorship incidents does not necessarily relate to the general
level of threat to independent journalists. The other "enemies of
the internet" cited by the organisation are Belarus, Burma, China,
Cuba, Iran, Libya, the Maldives, North Korea, Saudi Arabia,
Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
81 Prabhakiran, press statement, 20 January 2006.
82 When asked for a clarification oftheir threats of "people's
action" against candidates and officials involved in the polls, the
Maoists responded that they did not intend to use violence. See
"OHCHR receives assurance from CPN(M) leadership", United
Nations Office ofthe High Commissioner for Human Rights in
Nepal press release, 28 December 2005,
headlines.php; "No physical action, Maoists tell Martin", The
Kathmandu Post, 28 December 2005.
83 The Maoists have not claimed responsibility for the killing
but the UN OHCHR has called on them to condemn it and
hold its cadres to account if they were responsible. OHCHR
Press Release, 23 January 2006.
84 "Mayoral candidate shot in Patan",, 30
January 2006.
85 The general secretaries ofthe NSP faction that is a member
of the government and of the Prajatantrik Nepal Party issued
this warning after the Maoist attacks around Kathmandu on 14
January, Annapurna Post, 16 January 2006.
settlement, management of elections is fraught with
difficulties. An expert explains:
To demilitarise politics entails building norms and
institutions that bridge the structures of wartime
based on insecurity and fear (such as militias and
extreme nationalist groups) to structures based on
security and trust that can sustain peace and
democracy (such as political parties and civil
society). The powerful actors that developed and
were sustained during a protracted civil war cannot
be wished away: Neither can the enabling
environment for peaceful political competition be
proclaimed into existence.86
Despite several successful elections between 1991 and
1999, Nepal does not present the most promising base
for using voting to force-feed either conflict resolution or
democratic consolidation. Even before the first royal
power grab of October 2002, a close observer had
characterised the country as a clear example of "feckless
pluralism", a state in which broad popular participation
in elections does not otherwise translate into political
participation and in which public belief in the ideal of
democracy contrasts with disaffection with disconnected
political elites.87 While such an assessment appears to
complement royalist criticisms of democratic politicians,
the municipal polls do not appear part of a plan to address
this fundamental difficulty. Indeed, they are more likely
to reinforce the obstacles to meaningful democracy.
Indian and Western diplomats share the democratic parties'
conviction that the ultimate objective of an election
process must be the return to parliamentary rule and
not Panchayat-style guided democracy under palace
direction.88 In preparation for the visit ofthe European
Union Troika in October 2005, EU diplomats had identified
five basic requirements for meaningful elections:
□        restoration of political normality;
Terrence Lyons, "Post-conflict Elections: War Termination,
Democratisation, and Demilitarising Politics", Working Paper
20, Institute for Conflict Analysis & Resolution, February 2002,
p. 13.
87 Thomas Carothers, "The End of the Transition Paradigm",
Journal of Democracy, vol. 13: 1, January 2002, pp. 10-11.
88 For instance, Indian Ambassador Shiva Shankar Mukherjee
told a television interviewer: "The political parties [are]
boycotting the municipal polls...and the seven-party alliance
represents about 95 per cent in the old parliament. That puts up
in our mind a big question mark as to whether these elections
will be free and fair, whether they will be credible". Kantipur
Television, 8 January 2006. See also "Monarchy should not
compete with political parties: Indian envoy",, 8
January 2006.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 13
□ the  security situation to allow them to be
□ the parties to be able to compete on a level playing
field for posts carrying real responsibilities;
□ that they be free, fair and transparent; and
□ that they take place in the context of a wider
agreement on an overall peace process.
In public comments, the Troika leader, Tom Phillips ofthe
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, diplomatically
observed that "in a country in a conflict situation, elections
usually come at the end of a peace process".89 The EU
also underlined that it supports the right to peaceful
protest.90 A month later, noting that elections were
announced around the same time as the restrictive media
ordinance, U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty agreed that
"the parties have legitimate concerns whether elections
under the current circumstances can be free and fair....
The impression given is that there is not going to be a
level playing field....Again, it's [incumbent] upon the
government to reach out to the parties and ask them what
they need to do for the parties to take part in the elections"91
C.    Lessons from Other Conflicts
Holding local elections is a relatively uncommon strategy
in conflict or immediate post-conflict situations. Countries
emerging from conflict normally aim for national
elections, parliamentary or presidential. Local elections
are usually seen as less of a priority and are often held
only after some years of transition.
There have, however, been instances of local elections in
a conflict or near-conflict situation preceding national
elections. Indeed, the "bottom-up" approach of starting
with municipal elections has become a feature of UN
practice in countries which lack democratic experience.
According to one analyst, "this approach is particularly
suited to 'state-building' elections, which can help develop
party politics from the ground up".92 Nevertheless, Nepal
"There is a strong risk of political collapse in Nepal: EU
Troika",, 6 October 2005.
90 European Union press statement, Kathmandu, 6 October
91 "Nepal will collapse without reconciliation: Moriarty",
Kathmandu Post, 8 November 2005.
92 Benjamin Reilly, "Postconflict elections: Constraints and
Dangers'"', International Peacekeeping, vol. 9:2, Summer 2002,
p. 122. Crisis Group recommended a similar approach in Iraq,
arguing that local elections could be a viable interim solution
until the security situation permitted national elections. Crisis
Group Middle East Report N°33, Iraq: Can Local Governance
Save Central Government?, 27 October 2004; see also Robert
does not have the same need "to encourage the
development of party politics and to inculcate voters in
the routines of electoral politics"93 as the areas, such as
Kosovo, to which such arguments have been applied.
The record of cases where local elections have preceded
national elections in a post-conflict situation is mixed.
Two African examples are fairly positive. Local elections
in Rwanda in 1999 were deeply flawed - primarily due to
the absence of secret balloting in many constituencies -
but did not lead to chaos. District elections in 2001 and
national elections in 2003 showed gradual progress.
Burundi held local elections in June 2005 against an unsure
backdrop but these led to sounder national elections later
in the year.94 It had the advantage of learning from less
successful polls in June 1993, which had inflamed ethnic
tensions domestically and in neighbouring Rwanda.
Other experiences illustrate potential dangers. The
widespread view that 1987 local elections in Indian-
administered Kashmir were rigged contributed to a boycott
ofthe 1989 parliamentary elections and the flaring up of a
violent secessionist movement. Algeria's local elections in
1990 were seriously rigged and boycotted by the centrist
parties. Despite the rigging - and probably because ofthe
boycott - the fundamentalist FIS won decisively. When it
also won national elections the following year, a military
coup kept it from taking power, and democracy was
suspended for years.
In Bosnia in June 1996, Crisis Group monitored Mostar's
city elections and recommended that the general elections
scheduled for September be postponed and that the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) "should not preside over an election which will
only lend a sheen of democratic legitimacy to a process
neither fair nor free".95 The polls took place and led, as
the then OSCE Chairman in Office Flavio Cotti had
warned, to a "pseudo-democratic legitimisation of extreme
nationalist power structures"96
There is no universal argument against holding local
elections before national ones, even if execution is likely
to be flawed. Because local elections generally have lower
stakes than national ones, they can build confidence among
the parties, provided they are reasonably honest as by and
Malley and Joost JJilterniann, "Think small in Iraq", The New
York Times, 30 November 2004.
93 Benjamin Reilly, op cit.
94 Crisis Group Africa Briefing N°31, Elections in Burundi: A
Radical Shake-up ofthe Political Landscape, 25 August 2005.
95 Crisis Group Europe Report N°14, Why the Bosnian
Elections Must Be Postponed, 14 August 1996.
96 Crisis Group Europe Report N°42, Doing Democracy a
Disservice: 1998 Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 9
September 1998.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 14
large was the case in Rwanda and Burundi. However, if
they are dishonest or heavily boycotted, they are more
likely to inflame a conflict and reduce the chances for
viable national elections, as illustrated in Algeria and
Kashmir. Sri Lanka, which has continued to hold elections
of all kinds through great instability, offers less clear
Given the confrontational circumstances of Nepal's
proposed polls, it is reasonable to anticipate they will not
advance conflict resolution or successful general elections.
The relative rarity of local elections in conflict situations
means there is no clear pattern of empirical evidence but
the royal government is not approaching them as an
exercise in consensus building or conflict resolution. The
most direct parallel to Nepal may be Pakistan under
President Musharraf, where the progression from tainted
local polls to tainted general elections provided a
democratic facade to authoritarian rule. Nepal's royal
government has no doubt studied the Pakistani model
for using local elections to pave the way for a tame
D.    Don't Jump the Gun
Elections are indeed an essential part of any democratic
system, but only one part. Experts in democratisation
have cautioned against the "very high expectations for
what the establishment of regular, genuine elections will
do for democratisation" and the assumption that "elections
will be notjust a foundation stone but a key generator over
time of further democratic reforms".98 The assumption
that elections are a democratic panacea for post-war
recovery is also misleading.
Premature elections are particularly dangerous, often
inflaming conflicts rather than helping to resolve them,
especially if participation is likely to be limited. For
example, experts at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace cautioned against hasty elections in
Iraq, noting that "if elections are rushed and held without
adequate political participation, they can provoke
political conflict, distort emergent processes of political
representation, and aggravate rather than heal societal
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°43, Pakistan's Local Polls:
Shoring Up Military Rule, 22 November 2005.
98 Thomas Carothers, "The End ofthe Transition Paradigm",
op. cit, p. 8.
99 Marine Ottaway and Thomas Carothers, "Avoiding the
Dangers of Early Elections in Iraq", Carnegie Endowment
Policy Brief 27, October 2003, p. 7.
Nepal is far from the only country where early elections
have threatened further violence. In the run-up to Liberian
presidential elections in 2003, Crisis Group called for
the postponement of an unfair vote designed to preserve
the status quo under Charles Taylor until a campaign
unhindered by violence and intimidation became
possible.100 In March 2005, Crisis Group argued that
certain elements needed to be in place before Cote d'lvoire's
presidential (October) and parliamentary (December)
elections were to take place. These included implementation
ofthe disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration
(DDR) program, voter registration and a prior referendum
on a key constitutional article determining presidential
eligibility.101 These conditions were not met, and the
elections were not held. More recently, Haiti's elections
were postponed because of factors including bad timing
(Christmas holidays), poor preparations, insecurity,
corruption and lack of reconciliation between the
political parties within the transition process.102
It could be argued that Nepal's polls should not be
compared to those in other war-ravaged countries:
elections were held earlier during the Maoist insurgency,
and the government asserts that state structures remain
largely intact. However, King Gyanendra himself has
recognised that Nepal has been close to becoming a failed
state and based his call for elections on an "improved
security situation".103 While his ministers have repeated
the failed state warning,104 claims that security has
improved ring hollow after the violent disarray following
the end ofthe Maoist ceasefire.
Crisis Group Africa Report N°62, Tackling Liberia: The
Eye ofthe Regional Storm, 30 April 2003.
101 Crisis Group Africa Report N°90, Cote d'lvoire: The
Worst May Be Yet to Come, 24 March 2005.
102 See Crisis Group Latin America/Caribbean Briefings N°8,
Can Haiti Hold Elections in 20057, 3 August 2005 and N°9,
Haiti's Elections: The Case for a Short Delay, 25 November
2005. Crisis Group Senior Vice President Mark Schneider
warned that "empty elections that produce a government with
little legitimacy could drive Haiti into permanent failed state
status, run by drug and criminal networks". "Q&A: Haiti's
security dilemma", BBC News, 5 January 2006.
103 His Majesty Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, "Address to
the Thirteenth Summit ofthe Heads of State or Government of
the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
(SAARC)", Dhaka, 12 November 2005.
104 For example, "Polls to stop country from becoming a
failed state: Lama",, 15 January 2006.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 15
In the aftermath ofthe municipal polls - and assuming the
parties and Maoists do not gain sufficient momentum to
topple the current government and general elections are
announced - the international community could be
tempted to accept the new status quo. Whatever the degree
of resignation or frustration in certain diplomatic quarters,
there will be little appetite for unproductive opposition.
India, which strongly demanded a return to democracy
following the royal coup, may choose to be satisfied that
the king has at last produced the "roadmap" which Prime
Minister Singh insisted on in Jakarta in April 2005.
Following Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran's December
2005 visit to Kathmandu, one analyst concluded India has
decided to reengage with the royal government: "Shyam
Saran's visit is a clear indication of this change. Pakistan
has already made a heavy-handed offer to replace any aid
withdrawn by India. Now security factors have become
more important for India than the restoration of democracy
However, for the time being at least, there has been
no dramatic softening of Delhi's stance. The messages
conveyed by Shyam Saran privately to the king appear to
have been little different from those given in public. He
reiterated that India is not opposed to the monarchy per se
and is ready to help the king engage the political parties
and Maoists in constructive dialogue. Discreet back-channel
diplomacy has been used to convey similar messages
rather than to pave the way for a change in course.106
India is not willing to push too hard for a settlement if it
means intervening directly in Nepal's affairs. The greatest
danger may be that its willingness to engage all three
major players could slowly solidify into a new three-pillar
policy for stability - a stalemated palace-parties-Maoists
triangle that could be the basis for a durable form of
disorder. Nepal's domestic political dynamics do not,
however, suggest a stable balance of power is likely.
Although the international community has not had a
receptive audience, it has presented a slightly more united
front. Days before the Maoist ceasefire was due to expire,
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan let it be known that he
"deeply regrets that despite the appeal of so many national
and international voices, including his own, no progress
appears to have been made towards a mutually agreed
truce between the Government of Nepal and the
Sathish Kumar, "Rapprochement with Nepal: India's
Security Concerns", Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies,
New Delhi, article no. 1,917, 3 January 2006.
106 Crisis Group interviews, New Delhi and Kathmandu,
January 2006.
CPN-M".107 This was immediately followed by an EU
presidency statement supporting the UN's offer to assist
in brokering and monitoring a ceasefire.108 Following a
lengthy television interview with the Indian ambassador,
British envoy Keith Bloomfield commented that "I was
struck by the closeness of our analysis ... we are very
close".109 The Nepal mission ofthe Office ofthe High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) seems to be
encouraging both armed parties to improve their behaviour
and take more seriously their obligations under
international humanitarian law.
The 19 January crackdown also appears to have
encouraged two important - but generally silent -
countries to speak out. Japan, Nepal's largest bilateral
donor, has generally refrained from commenting on
political developments and been seen as sympathetic to
the monarchy. But it expressed grave concern at the
arrests, urging that "political leaders be released and that
the freedom guaranteed by the constitution [be] restored
promptly".110 China, to which the palace had looked for
support as its relations with other states cooled, noted that
it is following "changes in Nepal's political situation" and
called on "all parties" to narrow their differences through
dialogue.111 However laconic the statement, it implies a
significant shift in approach, signalling that China may
not oppose the coordinated action of countries which have
been more vocally critical of royal rale and more insistent
on seeking a democratic peace settlement.
A focus on sustained military action against the Maoists
still sets the U.S. apart from Indian and European
concentration on political engagement. Washington
refused to view the Maoist ceasefire as an opening
for peace, instead insisting that every indication of
compromise was designed to send false signals.112
Nevertheless, the U.S. indirectly urged the king to
consider reciprocating the trace: "We may not have said
so as directly as some others but in diplomatic language
our message was perfectly clear", explained a senior
"Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-
General", New York, 30 December 2005.
108 "European Union Presidency Statement on a Mutual
Ceasefire", Kathmandu, 31 December 2005.
109 "Bloomfield doubts fair polls: Report",,
11 January 2006.
110 "Statement by the Press Secretary/Director-General for Press
and l?ublic Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the Arrest
of Persons concerned with Political Parties in the Kingdom of
Nepal", 19 January 2006,
111 Statement by Kong Quan, Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokesman, 24 January 2006,
cenp/ eng/fyrth/t232764.htm
112 Crisis Group interviews, U.S. diplomats, Kathmandu and
New Delhi, September and December 2005, January 2006.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 16
diplomat.113 American and Indian alignment on Nepal
policy was emphasised during Under Secretary of State
Nicholas Burns's visit to New Delhi. Speaking alongside
Shyam Saran at a joint press conference, he observed that
"the United States is very concerned by the actions of His
Majesty the King....We have issued a statement frankly
very critical of that. We are equally critical, of course, of
the Maoists... .So what India and the United States can do
together is to try to assert a joint appeal for peace and
for democratic reconciliation in Nepal, which is very
For the king, the municipal polls are a test of strength
against not only the parties and Maoists but also the
international community. So far he has faced down calls
for compromise. His advisers probably feel they have
successfully called everyone's bluff, bar some raffled
diplomatic feathers and temporarily strained relations. If
the international community is to play a meaningful role
in encouraging conflict resolution, it will have to revise
its approach. As a former royalist prime minister put it:
As well as the king and the political parties, Nepal's
friends must recognise that their policies to date
have failed. If they want to move forward, they
must use fresh thinking and take advantage of new
openings - even the twelve-point agreement
[between the Maoists and the parties], which I
would prefer not to have happened, could be a
useful starting point".115
The international community needs to make clearer to the
king that it will not accept his effort to turn Nepal's political
clock back a generation. Donors are understandably
concerned that aid to the poorest and most vulnerable
population groups should not be used for political
leverage.116 In any case, crude restrictions on aid might
not have much impact: the economy is already in serious
trouble, though the government seems prepared to tighten
its belt and ignore the warning signs.117 However, given
not only the political situation but also the state's lack of
capacity to implement development projects, it is time to
reconsider the benefits of channelling aid through the
government, whether as general or sectoral budget support.
There are also forms of leverage that would effectively
focus minds in the palace and among its supporters without
hurting the people at large. Targeted sanctions against the
royal family, ministers and senior security officials - such
as visa bans and limitations on contacts - might cause
enough short-term discomfort to prompt a rethink.118
Crisis Group interviews, U.S. diplomat, December 2005.
114 "US, India joint appeal on Nepal", The Kathmandu Post,
22 January 2006.
115 Crisis Group interview, Kathmandu, January 2006.
116 Crisis Group interviews, diplomats and aid agency staff,
Kathmandu, January 2006.
117 Nepal is in its second year of negative per capita GDP
growth, and inflation has risen to over 8 per cent. On the
economic pressures facing the royal government, see Crisis
Group Asia Briefing N°41, Nepal: Beyond Royal Rule, 15
September 2005.
See Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°36, Nepal: Responding
to the Royal Coup, 24 February 2005.
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006 Page 17
Postponement ofthe elections and government willingness
to consider a ceasefire could yet form the basis for
productive tripartite talks. But this is a crucial test for the
international community. Gyanendra has had the upper
hand, and if he manages to brash aside opposition to the
polls, his calculation that the outside world has no appetite
to push too hard for democracy and peace could prove
The dangers of holding local elections in a context of
armed conflict illustrate the benefits of seeking informed
advice and reconsidering the current plan. The parties
have made clear they are still willing to talk - as are the
Maoists - on the basis of minimum conditions which do
not include abolition ofthe monarchy. No one can be sure
ifthe Maoists are sincere about dialogue and compromise
but the only way to test them is by their actions. Closing
the door to a possible peace process on the assumption
that they will not deliver leaves continued conflict as the
only option - one that has already been tried with no
success. Pursuing it further would likely increase the risk
of Nepal's political collapse and certainly increase the
suffering of its people.
Kathmandu/Brussels, 31 January 2006
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 18
Boundary mpresentatmn is
not necessartty authoritative.
1 MatiakaFi
8 Gandaki
9 Narayani
3 Karnali
10 Bagmati
4 Bheri
5 Rapfi
12 Sagarmatha
G DhawalagirT
7 Lumbini
14 Mechi
Base 801532 (B00750) fi-90
Courtesy of The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 19
NEPAL   Municipalities with Elections Scheduled on Feb. 8, 2006
O Tdtlpur N.P. Goim -,       QLrthannhN.F
r r* FMtahbazarNP. O o.i*j,k. mo
Onnu    T"">'     f^-4,
■ Qp'"""J       „,„„«,, URjirHnjjjrN.p. «■»(»»'■ r    shuiijmi
irh.v   if   '"! f-|       Of*>TiriniN.P.      »Hv»s» B»™n>Jr        uliporODftiilkhalMP
add run n Nacjs i HP (J HU «una N.p.
« OKonrhimDl
rfrh*mj«  P3n*,(ar
O Ohanhuia N.p. lam HP.
r'lnnrjM O
O   Municipal ID es with Scheduled Elections
Development Region
Districts with Scheduled Elections
No Elections Scheduled
'     .jUaiyaNP.     "* J ltu^
BigunjU.MNP, Ftuwu*       Malanrjawa N.P. ._„.. LnMonrvr
O q MKcrriKaaar HP.
O """"     '       Blsorapor HP.
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
United Nations, Nepal
Map Created
January 16, 2006
100  Kilometers
Map reproduced courtesy ofthe United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Nepal
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 20
NEPAL   Reports of Security-Related Events: Jan. 2 - 27, 2006
Map represents major security incidents since
the withdrawal of the foui-month Communist
Party of Nepal / Maoist (CPN/M) unilateral
Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks by
the CPN/M have largely targeted government
offices and municipal buildings in urban
areas; the majority of these attacks have been
during evening / night hours. The density of
events - indicated by shading on the map -
represents the total number of reports
received, and not necessarily the total number
of actual incidents.
Data Source: International and Domestic
Media, and Field Reports from UN Agencies,
Donors and l/NGO's
/\f International
/\y Development Region
*   Reports of IED/ Explosions
O  Reports of Clashes/Killings
Number of Reports of Security-Related Events
No Information Received
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
United Nations, Nepal
Last Updated
January 29,2006
100 Kilometers
Map reproduced courtesy ofthe United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Nepal
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 21
The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an
independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation,
with over 110 staff members on five continents, working
through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy
to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.
Crisis Group's approach is grounded in field research.
Teams of political analysts are located within or close by
countries at risk of outbreak, escalation or recurrence of
violent conflict. Based on information and assessments
from the field, it produces analytical reports containing
practical recommendations targeted at key international
decision-takers. Crisis Group also publishes CrisisWatch,
a twelve-page monthly bulletin, providing a succinct
regular update on the state of play in all the most significant
situations of conflict or potential conflict around the world.
Crisis Group's reports and briefing papers are distributed
widely by email and printed copy to officials in
foreign ministries and international organisations and
made available simultaneously on the website, Crisis Group works closely with
governments and those who influence them, including
the media, to highlight its crisis analyses and to generate
support for its policy prescriptions.
The Crisis Group Board - which includes prominent
figures from the fields of politics, diplomacy, business
and the media - is directly involved in helping to bring
the reports and recommendations to the attention of senior
policy-makers around the world. Crisis Group is chaired
by Lord Patten of Barnes, former European Commissioner
for External Relations. President and Chief Executive
since January 2000 is former Australian Foreign Minister
Gareth Evans.
Crisis Group's international headquarters are in Brussels,
with advocacy offices in Washington DC (where it is
based as a legal entity), New York, London and Moscow.
The organisation currently operates fifteen field offices
(in Amman, Belgrade, Bishkek, Bogota, Cairo, Dakar,
Dushanbe, Islamabad, Jakarta, Kabul, Nairobi, Pretoria,
Pristina, Seoul and Tbilisi), with analysts working in over
50 crisis-affected countries and territories across four
continents. In Africa, this includes Angola, Burundi, Cote
d'lvoire, Democratic Republic ofthe Congo, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Rwanda, the Sahel region,
Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe;
in Asia, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Kashmir, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar/Burma, Nepal, North Korea,
Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; in
Europe, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova,
Montenegro and Serbia; in the Middle East, the whole
region from North Africa to Iran; and in Latin America,
Colombia, the Andean region and Haiti.
Crisis Group raises funds from governments, charitable
foundations, companies and individual donors. The
following governmental departments and agencies
currently provide funding: Agence Intergouvernementale
de la francophonie, Australian Agency for International
Development, Austrian Federal Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Belgian Mnistry of Foreign Affairs, Canadian
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade,
Canadian International Development Agency, Canadian
International Development Research Centre, Czech
Mnistry of Foreign Affairs, Dutch Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, French
Mnistry of Foreign Affairs, German Foreign Office, Irish
Department of Foreign Affairs, Japanese International
Cooperation Agency, Principality of Liechtenstein Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, New Zealand Agency for International
Development, Republic of China (Taiwan) Mnistry of
Foreign Affairs, Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish
Mnistry for Foreign Affairs, Swiss Federal Department of
Foreign Affairs, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United
Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United
Kingdom Department for International Development,
U.S. Agency for International Development.
Foundation and private sector donors include Atlantic
Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York,
Compton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Fundacao Orients,
Fundacion DARA International, Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Hunt
Alternatives Fund, Korea Foundation, John D. & Catherine
T. MacArthur Foundation, Moriah Fund, Charles Stewart
Mott Foundation, Open Society Institute, Pierre and
Pamela Omidyar Fund, David and Lucile Packard
Foundation, Ploughshares Fund, Sigrid Rausing Trust,
Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy
Advisors, Sarlo Foundation of the Jewish Community
Endowment Fund and Viva Trust.
January 2006
Further information about Crisis Group can be obtained from our website:
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 22
Cracks in the Marble: Turkmenistan's Failing Dictatorship,
Asia Report N°44, 17 January 2003
Uzbekistan's Reform Program: Illusion or Reality?, Asia
Report N°46, 18 February 2003 (also available in Russian)
Tajikistan: A Roadmap for Development, Asia Report N°51,
24 April 2003
CentralAsia: Last Chance for Change, Asia Briefing N°25, 29
Apnl 2003
Radical Islam in Central Asia: Responding to Hizb ut-Tahrir,
Asia Report N°58, 30 June 2003
Central Asia: Islam and the State, Asia Report N°59, 10 July
Youth in Central Asia: Losing the New Generation, Asia
Report N°66, 31 October 2003
Is Radical Islam Inevitable in Central Asia? Priorities for
Engagement, Asia Report N°72, 22 December 2003
The Failure of Reform in Uzbekistan: Ways Forward for the
International Community, Asia Report N°76, 11 March 2004
Tajikistan's Politics: Confrontation or Consolidation?, Asia
Briefing N°33, 19 May 2004
Political Transition in Kyrgyzstan: Problems and Prospects,
Asia Report N°81, 11 August 2004
Repression and Regression in Turkmenistan: A New
International Strategy, Asia Report N°85, 4 November 2004
(also available in Russian)
The Curse of Cotton: Central Asia's Destructive Monoculture,
Asia Report N°93, 28 February 2005 (also available in Russian)
Kyrgyzstan: After the Revolution, Asia Report N°97, 4 May
2005 (also available in Russian)
Uzbekistan: The Andijon Uprising, Asia Briefing N°38, 25
May 2005 (also available in Russian)
Kyrgyzstan: A Faltering State, Asia Report N°109, 16 December
Taiwan Strait I: What's Left of "One China"?, Asia Report
N°53, 6 June 2003
Taiwan Strait II: The Risk of War, Asia Report N°54, 6 June
Taiwan Strait III: The Chance of Peace, Asia Report N°55, 6
June 2003
North Korea: A Phased Negotiation Strategy, Asia Report N°61,
1 August 2003
Taiwan Strait IV: How an Ultimate Political Settlement Might
Look, Asia Report N°75, 26 February 2004
North Korea: Where Next for the Nuclear Talks?, Asia Report
N°87, 15 November 2004 (also available in Korean and in
Korea Backgrounder: How the South Views its Brother from
Another Planet, Asia Report N°89, 14 December 2004 (also
available in Korean and in Russian)
North Korea: Can the Iron Fist Accept the Invisible Hand?,
Asia Report N°96, 25 April 2005 (also available in Korean and
in Russian)
Japan and North Korea: Bones of Contention, Asia Report
N°100, 27 June 2005 (also available in Korean)
China and Taiwan: Uneasy Detente, Asia Briefing N°42, 21
September 2005
North East Asia's Undercurrents of Conflict, Asia Report
N°108, 15 December 2005 (also available in Korean)
Afghanistan: Judicial Reform and Transitional Justice, Asia
Report N°45, 28 January 2003
Afghanistan: Women and Reconstruction, Asia Report N°48.
14 March 2003 (also available in Dari)
Pakistan: The Mullahs and the Military, Asia Report N°49,
20 March 2003
Nepal Backgrounder: Ceasefire - Soft Landing or Strategic
Pause?, Asia Report N°50, 10 April 2003
Afghanistan's Flawed Constitutional Process, Asia Report
N°56, 12 June 2003 (also available in Dari)
Nepal: Obstacles to Peace, Asia Report N°57, 17 June 2003
Afghanistan: The Problem of Pashtun Alienation, Asia Report
N°62, 5 August 2003
Peacebuilding in Afghanistan, Asia Report N°64, 29 September
Disarmament and Reintegration in Afghanistan, Asia Report
N°65, 30 September 2003
Nepal- Back to the Gun, Asia Briefing N°28, 22 October 2003
Kashmir: The View from Islamabad, Asia Report N°68, 4
December 2003
Kashmir: The View from New Delhi, Asia Report N°69, 4
December 2003
Kashmir: Learning from the Past, Asia Report N°70, 4
December 2003
Afghanistan: The Constitutional Loya Jirga, Afghanistan
Briefing N°29, 12 December 2003
Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan's Failure to Tackle Extremism,
Asia Report N°73, 16 January 2004
Nepal: Dangerous Plans for Village Militias, Asia Briefing
N°30, 17 February 2004 (also available in Nepali)
Devolution in Pakistan: Reform or Regression?, Asia Report
N°77, 22 March 2004
Elections and Security in Afghanistan, Asia Briefing N°31, 30
March 2004
India/Pakistan Relations and Kashmir: Steps toward Peace,
Asia Report N°79, 24 June 2004
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 23
Pakistan: Reforming the Education Sector, Asia Report N°84,
7 October 2004
Building Judicial Independence in Pakistan, Asia Report
N°86, 10 November 2004
Afghanistan: From Presidential to Parliamentary Elections,
Asia Report N°88, 23 November 2004
Nepal's Royal Coup: Making a Bad Situation Worse, Asia
Report N°91, 9 February 2005
Afghanistan: Getting Disarmament Back on Track, Asia
Briefing N°35, 23 February 2005
Nepal: Responding to the Royal Coup, Asia Briefing N°35,
24 February 2005
Nepal: Dealing with a Human Rights Crisis, Asia Report N°94,
24 March 2005
The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan, Asia Report N°95, 18
April 2005
Political Parties in Afghanistan, Asia Briefing N°39, 2 June
Towards a Lasting Peace in Nepal: The Constitutional Issues,
Asia Report N°99, 15 June 2005
Afghanistan Elections: Endgame or New Beginning?, Asia
Report N° 101, 21 July 2005
Nepal: Beyond Royal Rule, Asia Briefing N°41, 15 September
Authoritarianism and Political Party Reform in Pakistan,
Asia Report N°102, 28 September 2005
Nepal's Maoists: Their Aims, Structure and Strategy, Asia
Report N°104, 27 October 2005
Pakistan's Local Polls: Shoring Up Military Rule, Asia Briefing
N°43, 22 November 2005
Nepal's New Alliance: The Mainstream Parlies and the Maoists,
Asia Report 106,28 November 2005
Rebuilding the Afghan State: The European Union's Role,
Asia Report N°107, 30 November 2005
Aceh: A Fragile Peace, Asia Report N°47, 27 February 2003
(also available in Indonesian)
Dividing Papua: How Not to Do It, Asia Briefing N°24, 9
April 2003
Myanmar Backgrounder: Ethnic Minority Politics, Asia Report
N°52, 7 May 2003
Aceh: Why the Military Option Still Won't Work, Indonesia
Briefing N°26, 9 May 2003 (also available in Indonesian)
Indonesia: Managing Decentralisation and Conflict in
South Sulawesi, Asia Report N°60, 18 July 2003
Aceh: How Not to Win Hearts and Minds, Indonesia Briefing
N°27, 23 July 2003
Jemaah Islamiyah in South East Asia: Damaged but Still
Dangerous, Asia Report N°63, 26 August 2003
The Perils of Private Security in Indonesia: Guards and
Militias on Bali and Lombok, Asia Report N°67, 7 November
Indonesia Backgrounder: A Guide to the 2004 Elections, Asia
Report N°71, 18 December 2003
Indonesia Backgrounder: Jihad in Central Sulawesi, Asia
Report N°74, 3 February 2004
Myanmar: Sanctions, Engagement or Another Way Forward?,
Asia Report N°78, 26 April 2004
Indonesia: Violence Erupts Again in Ambon, Asia Briefing
N°32, 17 May 2004
Southern Philippines Backgrounder: Terrorism and the Peace
Process, Asia Report N°80,13 July 2004 (also available in Bahasa)
Myanmar: Aid to the Border Areas, Asia Report N°82, 9
September 2004
Indonesia Backgrounder: Why Salafism and Terrorism Mostly
Don't Mix, Asia Report N°83, 13 September 2004
Burma/Myanmar: Update on HIV/AIDS policy, Asia Briefing
N°34, 16 December 2004
Indonesia: Rethinking Internal Security Strategy, Asia Report
N°90, 20 December 2004
Recycling Militants in Indonesia: Darul Islam and the
Australian Embassy Bombing, Asia Report N°92, 22 February
Decentralisation and Conflict in Indonesia: The Mamasa
Case, Asia Briefing N°37, 3 May 2005
Southern Thailand: Insurgency, Not Jihad, Asia Report N°98,
18 May 2005
Aceh: A New Chance for Peace, Asia Briefing N°40, 15 August
Weakening Indonesia's Mujahidin Networks: Lessons from
Maluku andPoso, Asia Report N° 103, 13 October 2005 (also
available in Indonesian)
Thailand's Emergency Decree: No Solution, Asia Report
N°105, 18 November 2005
Aceh: So far, So Good, Asia Update Briefing N°44, 13
December 2005
Philippines Terrorism: The Role of Militant Islamic Converts,
Asia Report N°l 10, 19 December 2005
For Crisis Group reports and briefing papers on:
Latin America and Caribbean
Middle East and North Africa
Thematic Issues
please visit our website
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 24
Lord Patten of Barnes
Former European Commissioner for External Relations, UK
President & CEO
Gareth Evans
Former Foreign Minister of Australia
Executive Committee
Morton Abramowitz
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and Ambassador to Turkey
Emma Bonino
Member of European Parliament; former European Commissioner
Cheryl Carolus
Former South African High Commissioner to the UK; former Secretary
General ofthe ANC
Maria Livanos Cattaui*
Former Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce
Yoichi Funabashi
Chief Diplomatic Correspondent & Columnist, The Asahi Shimbun,
William Shawcross
Journalist and author, UK
Stephen Solarz*
Former U.S. Congressman
George Soros
Chairman, Open Society Institute
William O. Taylor
Chairman Emeritus, The Boston Globe, U.S.
Adnan Abu-Odeh
Former Political Adviser to King Abdullah II and to King Hussein;
former Jordan Permanent Representative to UN
Kenneth Adelman
Former U.S. Ambassador and Director of the Arms Control and
Disarmament Agency
Ersin Arioglu
Member of Parliament, Turkey; Chairman Emeritus, Yapi Merkezi
Diego Arria
Former Ambassador of Venezuela to the UN
Zbigniew Brzezinski
Former U.S. National Security Advisor to the President
Kim Campbell
Secretary General, Club of Madrid; formerPrime Minister ofCanada
Victor Chu
Chairman, First Eastern Investment Group, Hong Kong
Wesley Clark
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
Pat Cox
Former President of European Parliament
Ruth Dreifuss
Former President, Switzerland
Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Denmark
Mark Eyskens
Former Prime Minister of Belgium
Leslie H. Gelb
President Emeritus of Council on Foreign Relations, U.S.
Bronislaw Geremek
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland
Frank Giustra
Chairman, Endeavour Financial, Canada
I.K Gujral
Former Prime Minister of India
Carla Hills
Former U.S. Secretary of Housing; former U.S. Trade Representative
Lena Hjelm-Wallen
Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Sweden
James C.F. Huang
Deputy Secretary General to the President, Taiwan
Swanee Hunt
Chair of Inclusive Security: Women Waging Peace; former U.S.
Ambassador to Austria
Asma Jahangir
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary
Executions; former Chair Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Shiv Vikram Khemka
Founder and Executive Director (Russia) of SUN Group, India
James V. Kimsey
Founder and Chairman Emeritus of America Online, Inc. (AOL)
Bethuel Kiplagat
Former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya
Wim Kok
Former Prime Minister, Netherlands
Trifun Kostovski
Member of Parliament, Macedonia; founder ofKometal Trade Gmbh
Elliott F. Kulick
Chairman, Pegasus International, U.S.
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Novelist and journalist, U.S.
Todung Mulya Lubis
Human rights lawyer and author, Indonesia
 Nepal: Electing Chaos
Crisis Group Asia Report N° 111, 31 January 2006
Page 25
Ayo Obe
Chair of Steering Committee of World Movement for Democracy,
Christine Ockrent
Journalist and author, France
Friedbert Pfluger
Parliamentary State Secretary,  Federal Ministry of Defence;
member ofthe German Bundestag
Victor M. Pinchuk
Member of Parliament, Ukraine; founder oflnterpipe Scientific and
Industrial Production Group
Surin Pitsuwan
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thailand
Itamar Rabinovich
President of Tel Aviv University; former Israeli Ambassador to the
U.S. and Chief Negotiator with Syria
Fidel V. Ramos
Former President ofthe Philippines
Lord Robertson of Port Ellen
Former Secretary General of NATO; former Defence Secretary, UK
Mohamed Sahnoun
Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Africa
Ghassan Salame
Former Minister Lebanon, Professor of International Relations, Paris
Salim A. Salim
Former Prime Minister of Tanzania; former Secretary General of
the Organisation of African Unity
Douglas Schoen
Founding Partner of Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, U.S.
Par Stenback
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Finland
Thorvald Stoltenberg
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway
Grigory Yavlinsky
Chairman ofYabloko Party and its Duma faction, Russia
Uta Zapf
Chairperson   of   the    German   Bundestag   Subcommittee    on
Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation
Ernesto Zedillo
Former President of Mexico; Director, Yale Center for the Study
of Globalization
Crisis Group's International Advisory Board comprises major individual and corporate donors who contribute their advice and
experience to Crisis Group on a regular basis.
Rita E. Hauser (Chair)
Marc Abramowitz
Anglo American PLC
APCO Worldwide Inc.
Patrick E. Benzie
BHP Billiton
Harry Bookey and Pamela
John Chapman Chester
Peter Corcoran
Credit Suisse Group/Credit
Suisse First Boston
John Ehara
Equinox Partners
Dr. Konrad Fischer
Iara Lee & George Gund III
JP Morgan Global Foreign
Exchange and Commodities
George Kellner
George Loening
Douglas Makepeace
Anna Luisa Ponti
Baron Ullens
Michael L. Riordan
Sarlo Foundation ofthe Jewish
Community Endowment Fund
Tilleke & Gibbins
Stanley Weiss
Westfield Group
Don Xia
Yasuyo Yamazaki
Sunny Yoon
Crisis Group's Senior Advisers are former Board Members (not presently holding executive office) who maintain an association
with Crisis Group, and whose advice and support are called on from time to time.
Oscar Arias
Zainab Bangura
Christoph Bertram
Jorge Castaneda
Eugene Chien
Gianfranco Dell'Alba
Alain Destexhe
Marika Fahlen
Stanley Fischer
Malcolm Fraser
Max Jakobson
Mong Joon Chung
Allan J. MacEachen
Barbara McDougall
Matt McHugh
George J. Mitchell
Cyril Ramaphosa
Michel Rocard
Volker Ruehe
Simone Veil
Michael Sohlman
Leo Tindemans
Ed van Thijn
Shirley Williams
As at January 2006


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items