Democracy and rights
Abbreviated as NPL by Abbreviationfinder, Nepal has problems with widespread corruption within the political institutions and the state administration. Journalists work under difficult conditions. Legal security is low and the impunity after the civil war 1996-2006 is extensive.
The Constitution guarantees citizens basic freedoms and rights, recognizes a diversity of ethnic, religious and linguistic groups and prescribes a democratic multi-party system and an independent judiciary. Reality looks partly different.
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Freedom House describes Nepal as a partly free country. Free party formation prevails and there are plenty of political parties (see Political system). Governments are cast in general elections or in the vote of confidence in Parliament. However, as a politically active person, there is a risk of harassment and threats from supporters on the opponent’s side or for the police to use unnecessarily much violence in connection with protests.
In Parliament’s upper house (National Assembly), a certain number of seats are reserved for women (see Political system). Otherwise, women are under-represented in politics, as well as in public society in general.
Nepal has serious problems with widespread corruption in society, not least in the judiciary. In 2019, Transparency International placed Nepal in 113 of 180 countries in its index of corruption in the world (see the full list here). This was an improvement with eleven investments since the previous year.
Freedom of expression and media
Before 1990, Nepal’s mass media was completely state-controlled. Criticism against the court and the social system was not tolerated. When multi-party systems were introduced in 1990, freedom of the press was guaranteed in the constitution, but arbitrary arrests of journalists continued. During periods of state of emergency in the 2000s, the media was censored.
In connection with the peace agreement 2006 (see Modern history), it was again stated that freedom of press and expression should prevail, but in reality journalists are still dangerous. Media workers are subjected to harassment, death threats and physical abuse. Behind the attacks lie security forces and armed gangs, often associated with political groups.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Nepal in 112th in 180 countries in its index of freedom of the press in the world in 2020 (see full list here). It was twelve investments worse than three years earlier.
When the first 20-year parliamentary elections were held in Nepal 2017, the process was marked by a number of media freedom violations. Journalists were arrested on arbitrary grounds and some were ill-treated in the police repository. Others were beaten and harassed by politicians and party supporters.
A law passed in 2018 restricts the possibilities of conducting investigative journalism and criticizing public figures. Amnesty International assesses the working conditions of independent media as “extremely difficult”.
Judicial system and legal security
The last court is the Supreme Court which has up to 21 judges. In addition, each province has its own court. A special council, chaired by the federal prime minister, resolves disputes between different provinces as well as disputes between federal and provincial levels. The lowest instance is the district courts.
The judicial system is considered to be permeated by corruption and the legal security is low. The prisons are poor with overcrowding and ill-health conditions. The police force is corrupt and accused of brutality, including in connection with demonstrations and protests. Torture occurs in detention centers and prisons. The death penalty is not punished.
Two commissions have been set up to investigate allegations of human rights crimes and war crimes committed by the Maoists and the government army during the war. Over 60,000 applications have been received over the years. However, the work of the commissions has been hampered by lack of money and political will to convict guilty. Only a few cases have come to trial. Proposals have also been submitted for amnesty for war crimes, but no decision has been made. The Maoist guerrillas resorted to blasting, kidnapping, threats and murders. The army committed disappearances and extrajudicial executions.
The constitutional work begins
The Constituent Assembly decides that a proposal for a new constitution should be ready by May 2010. A special committee in the Assembly begins work on drafting the constitutional proposal.
Nepal formally becomes a republic
The ancient Kingdom of Nepal formally becomes a republic (see also May 2008).
Maoist becomes prime minister of coalition government
Prachanda – former leader of the Maoist guerrillas, now leader of the country’s largest party, the Maoist CPN-M – is elected by the Constituent Assembly as prime minister. Prachanda defeats Bahadur Deuba of the Nepalese Congress (NC) with 80 percent of the vote. He then forms a broad coalition government, but NC refuses to participate and goes into opposition. NC does not want to be led by Prachanda.
Nepal gets its first president
Nepal’s Constituent Assembly elects Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepalese Congress (NC) as the country’s first president. Yadav defeats Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known by the war name Prachanda, in the first round of elections.
Monarchy abolished – Nepal becomes republic
The newly elected Constituent Assembly, which in effect acts as the country’s parliament, decides to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic. Only 4 of the Assembly’s 220 members vote against the proposal.
The former guerrillas become the biggest party
When elections are held for a Constituent Assembly, the old Maoist guerrilla within CPN-M becomes the largest party with 220 seats, followed by the Nepalese Congress (NC) which receives 110 seats, the Marxist Leninist United Marxist-Leninists (UML) with 103 seats and the Madhesi People’s Law Forum (MJF). with 52 mandates (later the parties are allocated a further mandate distributed by the government, see Political system). The turnout is 63 percent.