Pro-monarchy demonstrations have not been particularly unusual in Nepal since the country adopted a Federal Democratic-Republican system in 2008. Nepal’s journey to a democratic Republic is characterised by a long and bloody struggle that can be traced back 70 years but was truly instigated when the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) openly declared war on Nepal’s government in 1996. June 1, 2001, is widely regarded as, perhaps, the most important day in the nation’s story when a surreal act of regicide all but confirmed the eventual toppling of the monarchy.
However, the mass agitations observed last week across several cities have been reported to be among the largest in the nation’s history with several youth organisations also involving themselves. The KP Oli Sharma-led government though has sought to downplay the protests, labelling them ‘sponsored.’
Yet, some analysts have contended that the ruling government is being obtuse in its reading of the increasing disillusionment among Nepal’s constituents. Since 2018, the government has come under intense criticism specifically for the conduct of the pro-Republican parties that make up the ruling political alliance.
Prime Minister Sharma’s rule has been largely characterised by a perennial intra-party feud that has threatened the stability of the government. The factional politics at play between Sharma and the party’s ‘executive chairman’ Pushpa Kamal Dahal has, in the view of many political observers, eroded trust in the government.
In 2018, the two decided to put aside their differences to form an alliance government with Dahal merging his party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), with Sharma’s NCP. But the two have since been embroiled in a heated leadership battle that has come at the expense of Nepal’s citizens. Public resentment of the Sharma-led government now appears to have reached its peak, stemming from allegations of a lack of accountability and an increasing tendency to gratify and tolerate exuberant spending on the part of corrupt officials.
According to a report released in late November by Transparency International (TI), 84 per cent of those surveyed said government corruption was a serious problem in Nepal. 58 per cent believed that corruption had gotten worse over the last year. This has allowed the perception that a reversal to a constitutional monarchy may be in the best interests of Nepal’s citizens to gain increasing credence.
Successive governments since 2008 have largely failed to deliver on their promises of strong governance and improved public service delivery made to the common Nepali. The TI report also revealed that 12 per cent of those surveyed had confirmed that they had to pay a bribe for a public service in the last 12 months, with 28 per cent believing that corruption was rife among law enforcement as well.
On the other hand, a return to Nepal’s old ways has also been cautioned against by many. Analysts have noted that the increasing disillusionment with the current dispensation of the government is being viewed as a ripe opportunity for opposition royalist parties to inflame religious tensions and corrode the secularist nature of the country. The toothlessness of the Nepali Congress, the largest opposition party in Nepal has only further enabled this. With the addition of the COVID-19 pandemic, that has led to severe income and job stress, to the mix, the cocktail of resentment and anger has only grown more potent.