Recent events in Nepal suggest that communism may be acting as an obstacle to the country’s democratic progress. According to the Himalayan Times, “Prime Minister and ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) co-chair KP Sharma Oli has urged all active communist parties to participate in a party merger process in a bid to make a single communist party in the country,” (Samiti). As an isolated event this would seem rather mundane considering the fact that it is normal for major parties to absorb smaller parties, such as in the United States. What makes this declaration concerning is that it comes at a time when a smaller communist party, the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN), is under scrutiny from national defense organizations.
In the wake of several attacks in Nepal, the country’s national defense organizations are pushing the government to make a statement so that may respond properly. The Himalayan Times reports that the “Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and National Investigation Department said the government should come clean on whether the Chand-led group was a political force or something else so that they could take appropriate action to avoid such incidents,” (Sapkota). Likewise, the Nepali Congress has also placed pressure for answer on how to deal with the CPN. Although the ruling party has not made an official statement yet, “NCP Co-chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal told mediapersons in Biratnagar…that in case the Chand-led group didn’t mend its extremist ways, the government would control it,” (Sapkota). This same report notes that, over the past year, 400 members of the CPN have been arrested with charges consisting of extortion, bomb blasts, intimidation and robbery, as well as having the police confiscate assault rifles such as M-16s from them. In response to the action taken by police and other national defense members, leaders of the CPN have made it clear that they will not back down. The Himalayan Times reports that the CPN’s leader, Netra Bikram Chand, has stated that “his party had in place the ‘concept and structure’ for the formation of a strong ‘People’s Liberation Army’,” (Sapkota). Furthermore, the Himalayan Times reports that Mohan Karki, a member of the CPN’s politburo, has stated that the party is willing to have peaceful dialogue with the government but will respond with force if the government seeks to put the party down, adding that the CPN has ties with international organizations (Sapkota). Evidently, the presence of communism threatens to upheave the state of democracy in Nepal.
It is important to note that communism has been a key factor in Nepali democracy for more than two decades. Even so, communists in Nepal have been a source of chaos for just as long. Unhappy with the presence of the monarchy in Nepal, the Maoist party set out to completely remove the power of the royal family. Starting in 1996, Maoists in Nepal amassed enough forces to begin a revolt against the monarchy, targeting factories and police stations (Nepal). This revolt turned into civil war in 2001 when the government finally retaliated by deploying the newly established Armed Police Force (Nepal). The Nepalese Civil War lasted until November 21, 2006 when the Maoists finally came to a peace agreement with the government. Although the Maoists were able participate in Nepal’s republic following the war, they clearly still remain a threat to the stability of the country.
The clear disregard for democratic process and peaceful policy making by the communists stands as a threat to Nepal’s republic. Consulting the theory matrix assembled by Ellen Lust and David Waldner, there is at least more than one theory family that can be applied to evaluating the threat of the communists. Obviously, the violence caused by the CPN can be connected directly with the tactical judgement hypothesis, which states democracies “survive when leaders take appropriate action against threats posed by antidemocratic extremist parties,” (Lust 16). What this hypothesis offers is the claim that the ruling NCP, specifically the Prime Minister, needs to condemn the actions of the CPN in order to protect the country from further erosion. Truly, the Prime Minister must be held accountable for punishing the chaotic behavior of the NCP, otherwise the political unrest will continue to undermine Nepal’s democracy. What is especially troubling is that the Prime Minister has called for a union of the communist parties before he has even decried the NCP. This suggests not only that the Prime Minister has an alarming tolerance for political violence, but that he may even be willing to engage in it himself. In a country struggling to improve the quality of freedom for its people, the decisions made by the Prime Minister prove to be rather unsettling. Although communism has certainly played a key role in transitioning the country from a monarchy to a democracy, it may prove to be the republic’s downfall as well.
“Civil War in Nepal”. Nepal. https://www.nepal.com/culture/history-of-nepal/civil-war/
Lust, Ellen and David Waldner. Unwelcome Change: Understanding, Evaluating, and Extending Theories of Democratic Backsliding. USAID, 2015.
Samiti, Rastriya Samachar. “Chair Oli bats for uniting communist parties”. The Himalayan Times. March 5, 2019.
Sapkota, Rewati. “Govt asked to come clean on CPN’s status”. The Himalayan Times. March 5, 2019.
Photo: PTI. “Nepal govt in crisis as Maoists withdraw support”. Financial Express. July 2016.