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28 00 N, 84 00 E
parliamentary democracy
147,181 sq km


Government and politics

Until 1990, Nepal was an absolute monarchy running under the executive control of the king. Faced with a people's movement against the absolute monarchy, King Birendra, in 1990, agreed to large-scale political reforms by creating a parliamentary monarchy with the king as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of the government.

Nepal's legislature was bicameral consisting of a House of Representatives and a National Council. The House of Representatives consist of 205 members directly elected by the people. The National Council had 60 members, 10 nominated by the king, 35 elected by the House of Representatives and the remaining 15 elected by an electoral college made up of chairs of villages and towns. The legislature had a five-year term, but was dissolvable by the king before its term could end. All Nepalese citizens 18 years and older became eligible to vote.

The executive comprised the King and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet). The leader of the coalition or party securing the maximum seats in an election was appointed as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet was appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Governments in Nepal have tended to be highly unstable; no government has survived for more than two years since 1991, either through internal collapse or parliamentary dissolution by the monarch.

The judiciary is made of the Sarbochha Adalat—the Supreme Court, appellate courts and various district courts. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was appointed by the monarch on recommendation of the Constitutional Council; the other judges were appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Judicial Council.

The Nepalese political landscape consists of more than two dozen political parties. Based on the parliamentary seats occupied by various parties since 1991, Nepali Congress Party (NCP), Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML), National Democratic Party (NDP), Nepal Sadbhawana Party (NGP), People’s Front Nepal (PFN) and Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (NWPP) are significant ones. United People's Front of Nepal (UPFN), which had won third largest number of seats in 1991 parliamentary election, began to splinter in 1993. Its one faction later merged with Nepal Communist Party (Masal) to form PFN. However, the other faction established Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in 1995, which staged an armed rebellion in 1996 and gradually emerged as a major political force - holding a balance of power in Nepal. All these political realignments have made the political scene of Nepal one of the most confusing in the world. Breakup of the parties had become a norm rather than an exception in Nepal. Parties never agreed on most issues of National significance. However, the situation began to change after King Gyanendra took an absolute power in 2005.

In November 22, 2005, the seven parliamentary parties of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) agreed on a historic and unprecedented 12-point memorandum of understanding (MOU) in November 22, 2005 for peace and democracy. Nepalese from various walks of life and the international community regarded the MOU as an appropriate political response to the crisis that was developing in Nepal. In the backdrop of the historical sufferings of the Nepalese people and the enormous human cost of the last ten years of violent conflict, the MOU, which proposes a peaceful transition through an elected constituent assembly, created an acceptable formula for a united movement for democracy. As per the 12-point MOU, the Seven Party Alliance called for a protest movement and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) supported it. This led to a countrywide uprising that started in April 2006. All political forces including civil society and professional organizations actively galvanized the people. This resulted into massive and spontaneous demonstrations and rallies held across Nepal against the King Gyanendra's autocratic rule.

The people's participation was so broad, momentous and pervasive that the king feared of being overrun. On April 21, 2006, King Gyanendra declared that the "power would be returned to the people". This had little effect on the people, who continued to occupy the streets of Kathmandu and other towns, openly defying the daytime curfew. Finally King Gyanendra announced the reinstatement the House of Representatives, so conceding one of the major demands of the SPA, at midnight of April 24, 2006. With this the coalition of political forces decided to call off the protests.21 people died and thousands were injured during the 19 days of protests.

On May 19, 2006, the parliament assumed total legislative power and gave executive power to the Government of Nepal (previously known as His Majesty's Government). Names of many institutions (including the army) were stripped of the "royal" adjective and the Raj Parishad (a council of the King's advisors) was abolished, with his duties assigned to the Parliament itself. The activities of the King became subject to parliamentary scrutiny and the King's properties were subjected to taxation. Moreover, Nepal was declared a secular state abrogating the previous status of a Hindu Kingdom, albeit the fear shown by midline Hindu communities over their concern over the abolishment of long founded tradition of Vedic systems. On July 19, 2006, the prime minister, G. P. Koirala, esnt a letter to the United Nations announcing the intentions of the Nepalese Government to hold elections to a constituent assembly by April 2007.

Ethnic groups

Chhettri 15.5%, Brahman-Hill 12.5%, Magar 7%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.5%, Newar 5.4%, Muslim 4.2%, Kami 3.9%, Yadav 3.9%, other 32.7%, unspecified 2.8%

The History

Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least 9,000 years. It appears that people who were probably of Tibeto-Burman ethnicity lived in Nepal 2,500 years ago.

Indo-Aryan tribes entered the valley around 1500 BCE. Around 1000 BCE, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose. One of the princes of the Shakya confederation was Siddharta Gautama (563–483 BCE), who renounced his royalty to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the Buddha ("the one who has awakened").

By 250 BCE, the region came under the influence of the Mauryan empire of northern India, and later became a puppet state under the Gupta Dynasty in the 4th century CE. From the late 5th century CE, rulers called the Licchavis governed the area. The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late 8th century and was followed by a Newari era, from 879, although the extent of their control over the entire country is uncertain. By late 11th century, southern Nepal came under the influence of the Chalukaya Empire of southern India. Under the Chalukayas, Nepal's religious establishment changed as the kings patronised Hinduism instead of the prevailing Buddhism.

Nepalese royalty in the 1920sBy the early 12th century, leaders were emerging whose names ended with the Sanskrit suffix malla ("wrestler"). Initially their reign was marked by upheaval, but the kings consolidated their power over the next 200 years. By late 14th century much of the country began to come under a unified rule. This unity was short-lived: in 1482 the kingdom was carved into three -- Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaon -- which had petty rivalry for centuries.

In 1765 the Gorkha ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah set out to unify the kingdoms, after first seeking arms and aid from India and buying the neutrality of bordering Indian kingdoms. After several bloody battles and sieges, he managed to unify Nepal three years later. This marked the birth of the modern nation of Nepal. A dispute and subsequent war with Tibet over control of mountain passes forced Nepal to retreat and pay heavy repatriations. Rivalry with the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the brief but bloody Anglo-Nepalese War (1815–16), in which Nepal defended its present day borders but lost its territories west of the Kali River, including present day Uttaranchal state and several Punjab Hill States of present day Himachal Pradesh. The Treaty of Sugauli also ceded parts of the Terai and Sikkim to the Company in exchange for Nepalese autonomy.

Factionalism among the royal family led to instability after the war. In 1846, a discovered plot to overthrow Jang Bahadur, a fast-rising military leader by the reigning queen, led to the Kot Massacre. Armed clashes between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen led to the execution of several hundred princes and chieftains around the country. Bahadur won and founded the Rana lineage. The king was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary. The Ranas were staunchly pro-British, and assisted the British during the Sepoy Rebellion in 1857, and later in both World Wars. In 1923 the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal's independence was recognised by the UK.

In the late 1940s, emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Meanwhile, China annexed Tibet in 1950, making India keen on stability in Nepal, to avoid an expansive military. Thus India sponsored Tribhuvan as Nepal's new king in 1951, and a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party. After years of power wrangling between the king and the government, the democratic experiment was dissolved in 1959, and a "partyless" panchayat system was made to govern Nepal. In 1989, the "Jan Andolan" (People's) Movement forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and establish a multiparty parliament in May 1991. Nepali Congress Party wins first democratic elections. Girija Prasad Koirala becomes prime minister.

On June 1, 2001, the Heir Apparent Dipendra reportedly went on a killing spree in the royal palace, in response to his parents' rejection of his choice of wife. His parents were killed and he died 3 days later. Following the carnage, the throne was inherited by Birendra's brother Gyanendra. In the face of unstable governments and a Maoist siege on the Kathmandu Valley in August 2004, popular support for the monarchy waned.

On February 1, 2005 Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers in the name of combating Maoist movement. In September 2005, the Maoists declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire but which was not reciprocated by the royal government which adamantly vowed to defeat the rebels by force. A few weeks later, the government stated that parliamentary elections would be held by 2007 even after the flopped municipal elections.

By then with the support from the Maoists the seven parliamentary parties (SPA) had arranged a mass uprising against the tyrannical rule of King Gyanendra. However the royal government used various false reasons to quell the uprising. By then frustrated by lack of security, jobs and good governance, thousands of people ushered onto the streets demanding the king to renounce power outright but the royal government turned even more ferocious and continued its atrocities including daytime curfews amid Maoist blockade. Food shortages hit people so that they prepared to march into the city centre and encircle royal palace. The security forces turned brutal and the king seemed to think nothing had happened so far.

Thousands were injured and 21 people died in the uprising, which was meant to be peaceful but turned violent by the government and its vigilantes. Foreign pressure continued to increase on King Gyanendra to surrender power so that on April 21, 2006 Gyanendra announced that he was giving up absolute power and that "Power was being returned to the People". He called on the seven party coalitions to name a possible Prime Minister and that elections would be held as soon as possible. Many Nepalese protesters however, still carried out rallies in numerous cities and vowed to continue the stir until they would achieve complete abolishment of the monarchy.

Finally after 19 days of protests, on April 24 midnight, the king called for the country's parliament to reassemble on April 28. Parliament has since reassembled and already stripped the king of his power over the military, abolished his title as the descendent of a Hindu God, and required royalty to pay taxes. Furthermore, several royal officials have been indicted, and the Nepalese government is no longer referred to as "His Majesty's Government" which has been changed to "Government of Nepal". An election of the constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution has been declared unanimously to be held in the near future, with the possible abolition of the monarchy as part of constitutional change.And peace negotiations with the Maoist rebels has been going on after the reciprocation of ceasefires.



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