Nepal was governed from the 1960s through a
system of indirectly elected councils. The king's power
was great. Demands for democracy grew and in 1991
elections were held for a parliament, but the political
situation was shaky. An armed Maoist uprising took place
in 1996-2006. When the king made use of dictatorial
means, most of the political establishment turned
against him. In 2008, the monarchy was abolished and
elections were held for a constituent assembly that
would write a new constitution. Political contradictions
meant that it took until 2015 for Nepal to get a new
When the Ranad dynasty fell in 1951 (see Ancient
History), Nepal was a very underdeveloped country. Only
two percent of adults were literate and the average life
expectancy was 35 years. There was hardly any industry.
Most farmers were tenants with uncertain contracts and
old-fashioned working methods.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Nepal. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
After the Ranad dynasty, a number of short-lived
governments succeeded. King Tribhuvan was succeeded in
1955 by his son Mahendra. He gave the country a new
constitution with a people-elected lower house and the
first free elections were held in 1959. The victory went
to the center-left party of the Nepalese Congress (NC).
Reform attempts quickly led the new government on
collision course with the elite of society and in 1960
the king imprisoned NC's leadership. The following year
Parliament dissolved and political parties were banned.
Instead, a new constitution introduced a party-free
system of indirectly elected councils, panchayat, on
four levels from village assemblies to parliaments. The
councils were fairly powerless and the system gave the
king almost unlimited power.
After Mahendra's death in 1972, the hope of reform
was ignited, but his son Birendra made only cosmetic
changes to the system. During the 1980s, Nepalese
politics was characterized by contradictions about the
In the early 1990s, NC and a number of left groups
formed a loose alliance that required, among other
things, multi-party systems. The situation was sharpened
when at least 50 protesters were shot dead by security
forces and finally the king was forced to surrender. In
April, the party ban was lifted and a transitional
government was formed where the opposition parties
received most of the items. A new, democratic
constitution came into force in November.
In the spring of 1991, the first free elections were
held for just over 30 years. NC got over half of the
mandate and Nepal's Communist Party-United Marxist
Leninists (CPN-UML, or just UML) became the second
largest. A new government with NC leader Girija Prasad
Koirala took office as prime minister. After protests
against corruption, rising prices for basic commodities
and water shortages, however, such severe wear and tear
arose within NC that the government had to resign in
1994 and announce new elections. It provided a scarce
victory for UML, which formed a minority government.
This government only managed to retain power for a year.
Subsequently, several short-lived governments were
formed in succession with varying compositions, all
characterized by corruption scandals and internal
fragmentation. The constant change of government almost
crippled the state administration and slowed economic
In February 1996, Nepal's Communist Party Maoists (CPN-M)
launched an armed uprising in the disadvantaged
districts of the west. Through attacks against solitary
police stations and wealthy landowners, the Maoists
wanted to crush the feudal system and eventually replace
the monarchy with a communist people's republic. The
uprising was sparked by the general dissatisfaction with
the political system and spread rapidly.
In June 2001, Nepal was shaken by a massacre that
wiped out almost the entire royal family and fueled a
series of conspiracy theories. According to the official
version, the 29-year-old Crown Prince Dipendra had
quarreled with the family about the choice of bride. He
shot under the influence of alcohol and killed his
parents - King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya - and seven
other members of the royal family. Dipendra himself was
shot dead and died after three days in a coma. The
throne was then taken over by his uncle Gyanendra, who
was absent when the massacre occurred.
The crisis triggered yet another reshuffle in the
government, where GP Koirala, who was the third head of
government, was replaced by his rival Sher Bahadur Deuba,
who became prime minister for the second time. Peace
negotiations then began with the Maoists, but they broke
a temporary cease-fire at the end of 2001 and went on a
new major offensive. The war escalated significantly.
In October 2002, King Gyanendra surprisingly
dismissed the government and dissolved Parliament. In
practice, Nepal had taken a step back to the absolute
The takeover of power put the country in deep crisis.
The royal government that was appointed did not prove
better able to overcome the Maoist uprising. In the near
future, fighting across the country, rising death tolls
and international criticism of human rights violations
exacerbated the crisis. The result was a political
radicalization with growing criticism of the monarchy.
In May 2004, the king reinstated Deuba as prime
minister and he formed a coalition government with five
parties. But the return to something resembling
democracy was short-lived. On February 1, 2005, with the
support of the military, King Gyanendra himself assumed
government responsibility. The government members were
placed under house arrest and an emergency permit was
The dictatorship received harsh criticism from the
outside world and led to a rapprochement between the
Maoist guerrillas and seven increasingly royalist
parties. They soon began a loose cooperation and agreed
on principles for establishing democracy in the country.
The fighting between the guerrillas and the army
escalated in early 2006 and the violence soon reached as
far as Kathmandu's suburbs. By boycotting municipal
elections and extensive demonstrations despite curfew,
it became increasingly clear that the king lost the
people's support. When dozens of people were killed in
the protests, the pressure became too strong on the
king. In April, he announced that Parliament would
The Civil War is over
GP Koirala formed a small unity government. The king
was deprived of virtually all his powers, the guerrillas
proclaimed a ceasefire and peace negotiations began. In
November 2006, a peace agreement was concluded and thus
more than ten years of civil war ended.
The guerrilla movement was then estimated to control
about a third of the country. The conflict is estimated
to have claimed more than 17,000 lives.
For the time being, the king remained, but without
power. According to the settlement, the Maoist rebels
would gather in camps under the supervision of the UN.
The army would also be monitored to some extent.
In early 2007, the Maoists gained seats in the newly
formed interim parliament, and from April in a new
interim government. However, the timetable for the
planned election to a Constituent Assembly, with the
task of writing a new constitution, was delayed by
political contradictions. But in December 2007, the
parties agreed somewhat unexpectedly that the monarchy
would be abolished. In addition, the election date was
set for April 2008.
During the first months of 2008, Nepal was shaken by
a series of widespread strikes and acts of violence in
the south of Terai. Behind the unrest was a relatively
new political movement, the Madhesi People's Legal Forum
(MJF). They demanded self-determination for southern
Nepal (see Political system).
Constituent Assembly elected
After all, the April elections could be held
according to democratic rules of the game. In many ways,
it became a milestone after years of civil war,
political turmoil and tug of war on the state of
affairs. The constituent assembly elected would also
serve as a transitional parliament.
The largest electoral support was given to the former
rebels in CPN-M, who were later converted to UCPN-M (see
Political system). The Maoists secured 40 percent of the
seats, more than twice as many as the NC and the more
moderate Communist Marxist Leninists (UML) together. The
fourth largest party was the Madhesian MJF. Among the 21
other parties that took place in the congregation were
many regional small parties, which gave a geographical
and ethnic breadth of representation previously lacking
At its first meeting, the Transitional Parliament
formally decided to introduce a republic. The king, who
was already deprived of all his power, was given two
weeks to leave the palace.
In July 2008, the Assembly appointed NC's candidate
Ram Baran Yadav as Nepal's first president. A month
later, Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as
Prachanda, was elected prime minister. He formed a
multi-party coalition, but NC refused to join a
The Prachanda government soon faced difficulties.
Many of the other parties found it difficult to accept
the Maoists as a legitimate political force and
boycotted parliamentary work. Negotiations for a new
constitution were complicated by the fact that many
different wills fought for increased representation for
separate peoples groups and regions. A tricky issue to
solve was also the future of former guerrillas.
According to the peace deal, at least some of them would
be integrated into the army, but how it would go was
The loaded issue contributed to the government
cracking down in May 2009. Prachanda ended up colliding
with Yadav in power, since the president rescinded the
prime minister's decision to dismiss the country's army
chief. The result was that Prachanda resigned and the
Maoists left the government.
A new coalition government with 22 parties was
formed, now with NC and UML at the forefront. UML leader
Maghav Kumar Nepal was elected as new Prime Minister.
The shaky political situation hardly became more
stable with such a broad coalition and by far the
largest party, the Maoists' UCPN-M, in opposition. The
work of writing a new constitution was delayed. The
Maoists demanded the formation of a new government and
organized strikes and mass protests.
The country was almost paralyzed when the
transitional parliament, at the last moment before the
May 2010 deadline, agreed to extend its own mandate. One
condition that the Maoists set was for Prime Minister
Nepal to resign, which he did. A temporary transitional
government, led by Nepal, had to do the daily government
The attempt to appoint a new prime minister revealed
the major contradictions in politics. Parliament voted
16 times between July and November, with no candidate
getting enough support. In the end, the Supreme Court
intervened and banned the MPs from abstaining.
In early February 2011, UML's candidate Jhala Nath
Khanal was appointed new Prime Minister, and he formed
government with the support of UCPN-M. NC chose to stand
outside in protest against the two communist parties
But already in August, Khanal resigned, citing his
failure to create political unity and to advance the
peace process. Parliament appointed Baburam Bhattarai of
UCPN-M as Khanal's replacement. Thus, the former Maoist
rebels regained government power, supported by a number
of small parties.
Progress in the peace process
In the fall, the former Maoist guerrillas began
handing over weapons that had been locked up in storage
since the peace agreement was signed. The disarmament
was an important step on the path to political
Then came a settlement that was seen as a major
breakthrough in the peace process: the largest parties
managed to agree that one-third of the approximately
19,000 former guerrillas would be integrated into the
regular army, while the rest would receive financial
compensation. In addition, it was agreed to set up a
Truth and Reconciliation Commission and that land seized
by the guerrillas would be returned.
In early 2012, hundreds of former Maoist rebels began
leaving the camps where they have been since 2006. A few
months later, the army entered and took control of the
camps, which was seen as another important step in the
When the deadline for tabling a new constitution for
the fifth time expired in May 2012, the transitional
parliament wanted to renew its mandate again. But now
the Supreme Court put a stop. Thus, the congregation
dissolved and Bhattarai announced new elections until
November the same year.
Election loss for the Maoists
Bhattarai continued to lead a transitional government
which was not recognized by NC and UML. No election was
held in November, and when new election dates were
announced, the opposition raged.
But in early 2013, the major parties succeeded in
reaching an agreement that broke the political deadlock.
Bhattarai resigned and a non-political technocrat
government took over to lead the country up to the
election, to be held by December.
During the election movement, an alliance of 33 small
parties organized strikes and demonstrations in protest
of being excluded from the political settlement of the
election. The alliance was led by a radical breakaway
fan out of UCPN-M, which took the Maoist party's old
Some of the protest actions became violent, but the
November elections ran relatively calm, although some
The election result was a setback for UCPN-M.
Instead, NC and UML progressed strongly and became the
largest and second largest party respectively. According
to international election observers, the election was
free and fair.
NC and UML form government
However, both UCPN-M and the breaker fraction CPN-M
claimed that election fraud had occurred and demanded an
independent investigation. However, when the other major
parties agreed, UCPN-M occupied its seats in Parliament.
In February 2014, NC leader Sushil Koirala was
elected new Prime Minister. He became the country's
seventh head of government since 2008. NC formed a
government with UML, which received, among other things,
the posts of the Minister of the Interior and Foreign
Affairs. Later, some small parties were also included in
Riots and demonstrations again hit Kathmandu in early
2015 after the government coalition failed to present a
new constitutional proposal to Parliament before a new
deadline expired in January.
Devastating earthquake, new constitution
The political tensions were at least temporarily set
aside when, in early April 2015, Nepal suffered a major
earthquake with an epicenter in the country's central
parts. Nearly 8,900 people were killed, at least twice
as many were injured and almost three million became
homeless. Invaluable cultural treasures, mainly the
Kathmandu valley, were damaged or totally destroyed.
According to the UN, the fourth Nepalese was in some way
affected by the natural disaster.
When it became clear that millions of people were in
urgent need of relief, the government asked the outside
world for help. At an international donor conference in
June, India, China, the United States, the World Bank
and many others pledged a total of more than four
billion in emergency aid. But the rugged mountain
terrain, an oversized airport and a bureaucratic
administration made the relief work very slow. The newly
established National Agency for Reconstruction was ready
to start working only in December 2015.
The government's need to concentrate its work on the
reconstruction after the earthquake meant that the work
of writing a new constitution was turned into a fast
track. Despite violent protests in mainly southern and
western Nepal, with just over 40 dead, in September 2015
Parliament adopted a new constitution. Nepal became a
secular federation with seven provinces (see also
The following month, Parliament elected UML leader KP
Sharma Oli as new prime minister and Bidhya Devi
Bhandari from UML was elected Nepal's first female head
Road blocks in the south
In southern Nepal, near the border with India, the
reactions to the new constitution became strong. Many
residents of the Tarai, mainly from the Madhesi and
Tharu groups, feared that the new federal division into
provinces would disadvantage them. In protest against
this, a road blockade was initiated in September 2015
into India, which is Nepal's most important import
country. Soon there was a serious shortage of both fuel
and medicines and medical equipment. Only when certain
amendments were made to the constitution (see Calendar)
were the blockades canceled in February 2016. By then,
more than 50 people had been killed in the often violent
At the same time as the political unrest, the
Nepalese struggled to create a new everyday life and
rebuild society after the earthquake in April 2015. One
year after the disaster, millions of homeless people
were still in the Kathmandu valley. Around four million
people lived in temporary housing. The number of deaths
in the earthquake was now estimated at 8,959 and just
over 22,300 were injured. Nearly 780,000 buildings had
been totally destroyed and almost 300,000 required
extensive repairs. 131 historical monuments were turned
into gravel, while 560 monuments had to be restored,
which is estimated to take several years. 1,227 health
clinics in the countryside had been destroyed, 40 of
which had been rebuilt. Of the nearly 8,000 schools laid
in ruins, a handful had been built. The vast majority of
students were taught bamboo or sheet metal.
The government had promised every affected household
a $ 2,000 allowance to rebuild their house, but a year
after the disaster, only 641 families had received a
first payout of $ 500.
New political parties are formed
In June 2016, ten Maoist groupings merged into a new
party, Nepal's Communist Party - Maoist Center (CPN-MC),
led by Prachanda. Thus, the Maoist camp in UCPN-M and
CPN-MC was split. Nine other groups, including Madhesi
and Tharu groups in the south, formed the party the
Federal Alliance that month.
In June 2017, NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba was
elected a new Prime Minister for the fourth time in
accordance with an agreement between the two government
parties to allow the Prime Minister's office to switch