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What’s next for Nepal?

For the second time since removing the monarchy, votes were cast on 19 November 2013 in hopes of electing the 601 representatives who will write Nepal’s constitution. Martin Butterworth, BMS World Mission worker living with his family in Kathmandu, does not expect that much will change in the government or too much upheaval between voting day and the announcement of the results.

Nepal's traffic-less streets during the days leading up to the election.

In 2007, Nepal’s monarchy was dissolved after 10 years of war with Maoist rebels. In 2008, the first democratic 
elections were held and the Maoists were voted into power in the hope that they would bring the country to a place of equality and prosperity. Five years later, there is still no constitution and the Nepalese have become disillusioned with those they chose. As a result of this, it is unlikely that any of the parties will win by any substantial majority. “Lots of parties will probably have a few seats and there will be lots of negotiations to try and form a majority,” says Martin. “It’ll be very confusing, even after Friday it’ll be confusing with all the politicians talking to each other, which will be an improvement.”

Before voting day, the Maoist party implemented a mandatory strike, or bandh, beginning on 11 November, to oppose the vote. Businesses were closed, transportation was down, and in some places life went on.  “Our workplaces are open, but behind locked doors and no visitors. This morning I wasn't allowed in to school even though the security guard is someone who lives on our street and I know well – rules are rules,” says Martin at the beginning of the strike. “Travel has to be done on foot or with careful use of cycles. All the big shops are closed and there are limited fresh vegetables because the daily deliveries by truck and bus into the city are not happening.” Thankfully bigger hospitals and medical centres stayed opened but ambulances were not running.

With transport so limited, many businesses could not open and students stayed at home. Some buses or private cars were vandalised or destroyed to emphasise the strictness of the imposed strike. Thankfully, Kathmandu has seen less of this upheaval. “Katrina returned from a conference at 10:30pm 11 November and had no trouble getting a taxi back.”

Election Day in Kathmandu was relatively calm despite the week of violence and explosions that came before it. Although an alliance of 33 parties did try preventing people from voting with protests at the polls, the government deployed soldiers around the country to maintain the peace.

While there was less fresh produce available, one positive outcome of the strike Martin noticed was the cleaner air. He also noted that it was unlikely that the advocacy work Katrina has done to increase the number of GP positions will be affected by the election. “That’s quite a popular thing, people want those doctors there.”

Now Nepal waits as votes are counted and life restarts. Businesses have re-opened and the comforts of traffic jams have returned. By Friday, the preliminary results will be revealed and hopefully change will come. 

This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission

Vickey Casey, 26/11/2013
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