Tuesday, February 02, 2010

An Electoral History of Nepal

Compiled by NepaliEconomy.com

First Election: 1959
The first democratic election for national Parliament in Nepal's history took place on February 18, 1959. Nepali Congress (NC) won 74 of 109 seats, Gorkha Parishad won 19 and Communist Parties 9. 1.79 million or 44 percent of electorate voted in this first election.

BP Koirala became the Prime Minister (PM) on May 27, 1959. While the PM was the head of the government, the supreme power resided with the King. The 1959 Constitution which the King promulgated himself one week before the election gave him the right, under Articles 55 and 56, to cancel/suspend the Constitution in cases of emergency. King Mahendra used that authority to banish BP Koirala's government on December 15, 1960.

On December 16, 1962 a new Panchayat Constitution written under Chairmanship of Rishikesh Shah was promulgated. The 1962 Constitution did not explicitly forbade political parties but the amended Constitution of 1967 did. Prior to 1967, banning of political parties was made possible by the Royal Ordinances of December 15, 1960 and later Control of Organization and Association Act. During this period Parliamentarians (MPs) were chosen indirectly. There were 125 members, elected from different segments of the society - Monarchy (16), Zonal Assemblies (90), Class Organizations (15) and Graduate Constituency (4). This electoral arrangement remained intact until 1981.

Although Rastriya Panchayat was nominally the Supreme legislative body of the country, it acted more like an advisory council to the King. The King had the pejorative to chose the PMs and ministers and to veto any laws. Implicitly that meant the Royals were above the law. The 1967 Constitution gave PMs a maximum of 5 year long tenure but in practice they were appointed and discharged at whim least they created an alternative center of power to the monarchy. During the first 20 years of the Panchayat system, there was rapid turnover of PMs - Tulsi Giri (Dec'60-Dec'63), Surya Bahadur Thapa (Dec'63-Feb'64), Tulsi Giri (Feb'64-Jan'65), Surya Bahadur Thapa (Jan'65-Apr'69), Kirti Nidhi Bista (Apr'69-Apr'70), Mahendra Bikram Shah (Apr'70-Apr'71), Kirti Nidhi Bista (Apr'71-Jul'73), Nagendra Prasad Risal (Jul'73-Dec'75), Tulsi Giri (Dec'75-Sep'77) and Kirti Nidhi Bista (Sep'77-May'79).

Second Election: 1980
In April-May 1979 (2036 BS), there were series of students protest against the Panchayat system. Instead of giving in to the protestors, the King announced on May 23, 1979 that he would hold a referendum to allow people to chose between Panchayat system and multi-party system.

Surya Bahadur Thapa was appointed the PM on May 30, 1979.

In a May 2, 1980 referendum, Panchayat system won with 54.7 percent of votes. Voter turnout was 4.2 million or 66 percent of eligible voters. In December 1980 the 1962 Constitution was amended for the third time, and it allowed (a) direct election of MPs (b) MPs to select a single candidate for the PM; hiterto, selection of the PM was the pejorative of the King.

Third Election: 1981
On May 9, 1981 election was held to elect 112 members of Rastriya Panchayat - 28 were nominated by the King. Since major political parties boycotted the election, the voter turnout was only about 52 percent.

Surya Bahadur Thapa retained his post as the PM following the election. The direct election of MPs and the selection of the PM by MPs took away the built-in patronage system and created factionalism and rivalry within the Pachas. This led to the downfall of PM Thapa in July 1983 following a no-confidence motion prompted by serious food crisis and charges of corruption.

Lokendra Bahadur Chand was appointed the PM on July 12, 1983 but was immediately hit with a no confidence motion, which he survived.

Fourth Election: 1986
On May 12, 1986 election was held again for 112 members of Rastriya Panchayat. Officially, the voter turnout was about 60 percent, and this despite Satyagraha or civil disobedience campaign by NC to disrupt the election. Results showed a huge turnover in MPs. Almost 40 percent of the incumbents lost their seats, and half of that, or around 20 percent of seats were won by reformists or opposition posing as independents.

Marich Man Singh Shrestha became the PM on June 15, 1986. On March 23, 1989 Nepal's trade and transit treaty with India expired, and India closed all the transit points but two. The country went through a severe economic crisis. This put enormous pressure on the Panchayat system.

The Panchayat era came to an end in 1990. On January 15, 1990 seven Communist parties united under the United Left Front (ULF) and formed an alliance with NC to bring an end to the Panchayat system. After two months of protests, strikes and mass demonstrations, the King succumbed. On April 15, he dissolved the transitional government under PM Lokendra Bahadur Chand who had replaced the hardliner PM Marich Man Singh Shrestha on April 6.

Krishna Prasad Bhattarai (KP Bhattarai), a NC leader, was appointed the PM and the head of interim government on April 19, 1990. That government constituted a 9-person Committee to draft a Constitution, and the Constitution was promulgated by King Birendra on November 9, 1990.

Fifth Election: 1991
On May 12, 1991 election for 205 member lower house of the Parliament was held. NC won the absolute majority with 110 seats followed by UML with 69 seats. The voter turnout was about 65 percent.

Girija Prasad Koirala (GP Koirala) became the Prime Minister on May 26, 1991. PM Koirala could not complete his full-term because of mutiny within his party. In July 1994, following the defeat of KP Bhattarai in a by-election, 35 MPs from his own party abstained in (or rather did not show up for) a parliamentary vote to approve the government's annual programs and policies. The government resigned and called for a mid-term election. This decision was challenged in the Supreme Court (SC) but SC sided with the Koirala government.

Sixth Election: 1994
On November 15, 1994 a mid-term election took place. UML became the largest party with 88 seats followed by NC with 83 seats.

UML leader Man Mohan Adhikari formed a minority government on November 30, 1994 but it did not last a year. The government tried to preclude its fall by calling a mid-term election but the SC rejected the petition - this decision was contradictory to its previous one in 1994. NC tabled and won a no-confidence motion against the government in September 1995 and the UML government fell.

Sher Bahadur Deuba (SB Deuba) became the PM on September 12 1995. He was the leader of NC's parliament party (PP) and his was a coalition government of NC, Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and Nepal Sadvavana Party (NSP). On February 4, 1996 the Maoists made 40-Point demand to the PM asking him to respond by February 17. But on February 13, the Maoists launched the "People's War" with attacks on police stations in Rukum, Rolpa, Gorkha and Sindhuli districts. Deuba government fell in March 1997 when several RPP MPs supported UML's no confidence motion against the government.

Lokendra Bahadur Chand became the PM on March 12, 1997 with the support of UML and NSP. This government lasted only 7 months. It fell when most of RPP MPs joined hands with NC against its own government.

Surya Bahadur Thapa became the PM on October 7, 1997 with the support of NC and NSP. The political turmoil took a toll on the parties and RPP split into RPP (C) and RRP (T) in January 1998 and UML into UML and ML in March 1998. NC became the largest party in the Parliament. Surya Bahadur Thapa resigned under pressure from re-surging NC.

GP Koirala became the PM on April 15, 1998 leading a minority government backed by UML. He announced plans to hold election in May 1999. However in August that year he was able to bring in ML to form a majority government but by December there was a fallout with ML. He resigned from the government but returned as the PM on December 25, 1998 with the support UML and NSP with promise of holding election in May 1999.

Seventh Election: 1999
General elections were held in two stages on May 3 and May 17, 1999. NC returned as a majority party with 113 seats. UML won 68 seats and the breakaway ML none.

KP Bhattarai became the PM for the second time (1990) on May 31, 1999. The intra-party scwabble between GP Koirala faction and KB Bhattarai-SB Deuba faction continued. On March 14, 2000 69 GP Koirala-affiliated NC MPs tabled no confidence motion against the PM with their PP for failing to uphold law and order. KP Bhattarai was forced to resign.

GP Koirala became the PM on March 20, 2000 after defeating SB Deuba on NC PP vote (69 vs. 43 with 1 invalid vote), the first ever for NC.

On June 1, 2001 there was a Royal Massacre. In a bizarre incident, Crown Prince Dipendra allegedly slaughtered his entire family - King, Queen, brother and sister - along with 5 other aunts and uncles before killing himself. Gynendra, who was out-of-town during the massacre ascended the throne on June 4, 2001.

PM Koirala resigned on July 19, 2001 because of (a) Lauda scandal (b) his disagreement with the Army and the King over the deployment of Royal Nepal Army (RNA) against the Maoists (c) peace talks with the Maoists became impossible with Koirala at the helm. SB Deuba became the leader of NC PP beating Sushil Koirala (72 vs 40)

SB Deuba became the PM on July 26, 2001. He initiated peace talks with the Maoists in August and September but it failed in November because the government refused to entertain their demand that monarchy be replaced by a Constituent Assembly (CA). Maoists walked out and ended their 4-month long ceasefire.

On November 23, 2001 the Maoists attacked RNA for the first time killing 14 soldiers at Gorahi base in Dang District. On November 25, they attacked several parts of the country including Salleri, the district headquarter of Solokhumbu. Until then the Maoists rebellion had only targeted ill-equipped police. With the entry of RNA into the conflict, stakes as well as causaulties rose significantly. In the first 6 years of the conflict, about 2,100-3,000 had been killed, but in the next 4 years another 10,000 would lose their lives.

On November 26, 2001 Deuba government declared a State of Emergency for 3 months, which was extended by another 3 months in February 2002. When the renewal time came up again in May, Deuba government realized it did not have the support to extend it for another six months. To preclude a constitutional crisis PM Deuba dissolved the Parliament on May 22, 2002 and called for a new election. On May 27, 2002 the King announced mid-term election for November 13, 2002. This announcement caused a serious rift between GP Koirala and SB Deuba, and on June 18, 2002 the party split vertically into GP-led NC and SB-led NC (Democratic). Interestingly, on February 15, 2002 UML and ML re-merged into UML.

On October 4, 2002, the King invoked Article 127 of the Constitution to dismiss the PM and the Parliament. The purported reason was that the government was not able to hold the mid-election scheduled for November 13, 2002.

Lokendra Bahadur Chand became the PM for the fourth time (1983, 1990, 1997) on October 11, 2002. He did not last long because of the agitation by major political parties - NC, NC (D) and UML.

Surya Bahadur Thapa became the PM for the fifth time (1963, 1965, 1979, 1997) on June 3 2003. Political parties continued their agitation and that led to his downfall.

SB Deuba became the PM for the third time (1995, 2001) on June 2, 2004. He was re-instated with the support of UML, NSP and RPP (RPP-T and RPP-C had merged following 1999 election). This divided the political parties into those in the government and those outside. NC, which remained outside continued to protest against the government calling for the re-instatement of the Parliament.

On February 1, 2005 King Gynendra dismissed SB Deuba government for the second time and declared a State of Emergency. The King himself became the head of the government with the title Chairman of Council of Ministers. On February 14 two acolytes Tulsi Giri and Kirtinidhi Bista were appointed Vice-Chairmen.

On May 8, 2005 major parties including NC and UML formed Seven Party Aliance (SPA) and announced "common agreement and commitment" that called for the restoration of Parliament and holding of an election thereafter. SPA spearheaded agitation against the King's rule.

On November 22, 2005 SPA and the Maoists signed 12-Point Agreement in New Delhi. This brought together the two most powerful political forces in the country. Protest against the King's rule continued and surged ahead of February 8, 2006 local election. The SPA announced second Peoples' movement with 4-day nationwide general strike starting April 5. On April 9, SPA announced indefinite strike. On April 21, the King bent to the political pressure and asked SPA to form a government which it rejected. On August 24, after 19 days of protest, the King succumbed and re-instated the Parliament.

GP Koirala was elected the PM for the fourth time (1991, 1998, 2000) on April 25, 2006 by the re-instated Parliament. On May 18, the Parliament voted to strip most of the powers of the King.

On November 7, 2006 SPA and the Maoists signed 6-Point Agreement that formally ended the 10-Year Maoist insurgency. On November 21, they signed Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

On January 15, 2007, as per the Agreement, the Parliament that was elected in 1999, dismissed by King Gynendra in 2005 and reinstated in 2006 was dissolved and replaced by a 330-member Interim Parliament. It included members of SPA and the Maoists but not RPP because they did not participate in People's movement. An Interim Constitution was promulgated and it set the date for CA election for June 20, 2007.

The Interim Constitution did not fully take into account grievances of Tarai people. On January 16, 2007 Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum (MJF) called for general strike in Tarai calling for the amendment to the Constitution. Unrests in Tarai flared up. Madeshi politicians affiliated with major parties (NC, UML and Maoists) started to coalesce around Mahesh-centric parties.

On March 9, 2007 the first amendment to the Interim Constitution gave in to Madheshis' demands that (a) Nepal would have a federal structure (b) reference to explicit numbers of CA seats were removed. Prior to the amendment, 205 were elected through first-past-the-post (FPTP) basis, 204 through proporational representation, and 16 were nominated by the Interim government.

On April 1, 2007 a new cabinet with 5 Maoists were sworn into office.

On June 13, 2007 the second amendment to the Interim Constitution postponed CA election to November and provided provision for the immediate removal of the King with two-thirds majority if he conspired to disrupt it.

On Septmber 18, 2007 the Maoists in the government resigned when their demands to make Nepal a Republic and to elect CA members through proportional representation were not met.

On September 25, 2007 NC and NC (D) re-merged into NC in preparation for CA election.

On December 28, 2007, the third amendment to the Interim Constitution made certain provisions (a) the deadline for CA election was moved from 15 December 2007 to 12 April 2008 (b) CA’s FPTP seats were increased to 240, proportional representation seats were increased to 335 and PM's nomination were increased to 26 (c) Nepal would be declared a "Republic" in the first sitting of CA with a simple majority.

On December 30, 2007 the Maoists re-joined the government with 5 Ministers and 2 State Ministers.

On February 9, 2008 MJF, SP and Tarai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party (TMLP) formed the United Democratic Madhesi Front.

Eighth Election: 2008
On April 10, 2008 election for 240 FPTP members of CA was held. About 60 percent of eligible voters participated. Maoists won 120 seats, NC 37, UML 33 and Madhesh Jana Adhikar Forum (MJF) 30. Combined with proportional representation seats, Maoists had 229, NC 115, UML 108 and MJF 54 in the 601-seat CA.

On May 28, 2008 the first session of CA made fourth amendment to the Interim Constitution whereby the 240 year-old monarchy was abolished. It also created ‘constitutional president’ and ‘executive prime minister’.

On June 11, 2008 King Gynendra left Narayanhiti Palace to spend his life as a commoner.

On July 13, 2008 the fifth amendment to the Interim Constitution allowed the formation and dismissal of government, President, Vice-President and Chairman and Deputy Chairman of CA through simple majority.

Ram Baran Yadav (RB Yadav) become the First President of Nepal on July 21, 2008 with the support of NC and UML in the second round of voting defeating Maoists supported Ram Raja Prasad Singh (308 vs 282).

On July 23, 2008 GP Koirala submitted his resignation to the newly sworn President RB Yadav.

Prachanda was voted as the PM defeating SB Deuba on August 15, 2008 (464 vs 113). He was sworn in 3 days later. He formed a coalition government with UML and MJF. He resigned on May 4, 2009 over his disagreement with the President over the dismissal of Army Chief Rukmangad Katuwal.

Madav Kumar Nepal was elected the PM on May 23, 2009 unopposed and sworn in on May 25 as the head of 22-party coalition government. This caused the split in the third largest party MJF into MJF and MJF (Loktantrik). MJF (L) led by Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar joined the government while MJF led by Upendra Yadav stayed in the opposition.

The new Constitution must be written before May 28, 2010 - two years after the first sitting of the CA - but at the current pace, it is a tall order. Mr. Surya Dhungel, a constitutional expert, has an OpEd piece on what could happen if the deadline is missed.

To be continued.


40-Point Demand Letter from Baburam Bhattari to PM Deuba (1996)
12-Point Agreement Between the Maoists and SPA (2005)
6-Point Agreement Between the Maoists and SPA (2006)
Comprehensive Peace Agreement Between the Maoists and SPA (2006)

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