Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Nepal’s choices: Bad government or bad government

Last Thursday, the Nepalese people had a monumental decision to make over the future of their government. Their decision, which will mark the first elections in the country since the onset of the blood-deluged civil war in 1999, is between two of most dissimilar governments one could imagine: communism and monarchism.

But, though the ideologies of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Nepali Congress Party are poles apart from one another, the Nepalese people only have a choice to make regarding the manner in which their impending government will be awful, not whether they are awful or not.

Unlike the CPN-M, the CP has already proven how awful it can be to its people. Since 1768, the unification of the Kathmandu Valley by the audacious Gorah King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the mountainous strip we know as Nepal has been under monarchial rule. During this time, Nepalis have seen countless bloody war after another including the infamous Kot massacre (circa 1846), the unnecessary involvement in the Indian Sepoy Rebellion (circa 1857) and carelessly compromising the lives of thousands of soldiers during both World Wars (circa 1914 and 1939).
Not only did the CP forcibly engage its country in wars which it did not concern, but all the meanwhile the party was perceptibly channeling all of its money to the monarchy. Its effects are still visible today: Half of Nepalese workers are unemployed, half of Nepalese people live well below the poverty line and, despite the economic efforts of the interim secular government, it still remains one of the poorest 25 nations in the world.

The new government, however, whether it is the old monarchy or the, predicted, new communism, will not do much to change the status quo, save, perhaps, the obvious dethroning of Gyanendra of Nepal, the current king.

Though it doesn’t seem like the new government could do much worse than the old government, the CPN-M may do equally poorly. For one, the communist party, unlike, say, the PCE (Spain’s communist party) or the PCF (France’s communist party), has outspokenly supported the idea of an authoritarian regime.

In the months leading up to the election the CPN-M has proposed a Nepalese constitution that does not prohibit, or provide any checks for, a one-party state whereas many of their competitors, save the CP, have. Moreover, they have condoned the idea of having an executive president without term limits.

Apart from an authoritarian regime, the CPN-M would also bring about an ethnic strife Nepal has never seen before. They believe that Nepal’s provinces should be drawn along ethnic lines, which, in my mind, can only lead to creating and subsequently heightening ethnic tension between its regions.

More likely, the re-delineating of Nepal’s provinces will lead to violence: a kind of violence not previously witnessed by the Nepalese. All of Nepal’s previous violent tensions have been a clash of ‘M’s’: the monarchy and the military.

So, instead of eliminating this clash and the violence that comes along with it, the new communist government will simply transfer, or in the worst case, add, the violence between the military and the government to violence between ethnic groups.

In fact, the CPN-M has been already been adding violence to Nepal even before they have been elected. Among the bodies listed on their resume are no less than two candidates, two worshippers at a mosque and numerous opposition party workers.

Instigators of the Nepalese civil war in 1996 that only ended two years ago when they were offered positions in the government, the Maoist rebels have strictly adhered to their motto “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” uttered by Mao Zedong himself. Though many seem to think so, it’s highly unlikely that these rebels-turned-diplomats will suddenly drop their military ambitions in order to run the Nepalese government democratically.

Almost as important as the stability of the country itself while run by either the monarchists or the communists is the stability of the relationships they keep with their allies to the north and to the south: China and India, respectively.

Though India supported the dethroning of the king and the eradication of Nepal’s feudal system, it certainly did not support the CPN-M’s rise to the political spotlight and will, almost certainly, clash with the new Nepalese government if that rise is capped off with an election win. This certainly becomes a problem because India is Nepal’s biggest trading partner and, at least economically, has an iron grip on the Himalayan country.

Not to be forgotten, China also has a major influence in Nepal. China provides a hefty amount of foreign aid to Nepal, which primarily serves to run both their health care and their educational systems. Of course, the Chinese would be enamored by a Maoist Nepalese government: perhaps even enamored enough to rekindle the imperialist aspirations of the middle of last century.
Regarding the election, though, at least one thing is certain: A bad government.

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