Nepal

OCHA Nepal Situation Overview Issue No. 53, 01 Sep - 07 Oct 2009

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Situation Report
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Highlights:

- Food insecurity in 13 Far and Mid Western districts further deteriorates

- Coalition of 22 parties marked its 100 days in government on 13 September

- Constituent Assembly (CA) made sixth revision to the constitution-drafting timeline

- Newly-appointed Chief of Army Staff General Chhatra Man Singh Gurung

CONTEXT

Political Developments

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal's efforts to maintain the coalition government of 22 parties resulted in a sixth expansion of the Cabinet on 3 September. With the inclusion of nine new ministers, including two full Ministers, six State Ministers and an Assistant Minister, the Cabinet now has 42 members.

The stripping of Vice President Paramananda Jha's state privileges following his failure to comply with a Supreme Court directive to re-take the oath of office in Nepali prompted some Madheshi parliamentarians to announce the withdrawal of their support to the coalition, calling the move "anti-Madhesh". However, on 7 September, the three Madheshi members of the coalition (MPRF-D, SP and Tarai Madhesh Democratic Party) decided to continue supporting the Government while sharply criticizing its move.

Addressing rallies in Biratnagar on 6 September and Surkhet on 7 September, UCPN-M chairman Prachanda said the struggle for "civilian supremacy" would continue, bringing the country to a standstill if necessary, to push for discussion of the President's move in the Constituent Assembly (CA), which also acts as a Legislature-Parliament (L-P).

Acting Chief of Army Stafff (CoAS) General Chhatra Man Singh Gurung took up the position of CoAS on 9 September following the retirement of General Rookmangud Katawal. Upon assuming the post, General Gurung said that the Nepal Army would cooperate with the government in concluding the peace process and drafting the new constitution while maintaining its "non-political character". He further said the Army would be developed as a cooperative, efficient and dependable force that would adhere to the Interim Constitution, Military Act and Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and that it respected "civilian supremacy" and multiparty democracy.

The Constituent Assembly (CA) made a sixth revision to the constitution-drafting timeline on 9 September. The CA Chairman Subas Nembang warned senior political leaders that unless the latest timeline was adhered to, the May 2010 deadline would not be met. The schedule was revised after debates on only six of the eleven concept papers were completed by 8 September. (Four thematic papers and one from the Constitutional Committee are yet to be submitted)

Relations between the Nepali Congress (NC) and Prime Minister Nepal, as well as the NC's internal dynamics, remain strained due to NC President Girija Prasad Koirala's continuing insistence that his daughter, Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala, be appointed Deputy Prime Minister. Citing Koirala's dissatisfaction over PM Nepal's "unilateral" style of functioning (with reference to the expansion of Cabinet and the appointment of four Ambassadors), NC cabinet members did not attend two significant functions - the swearing-in ceremony of the new Ministers and the Government's press conference to mark its 100 days on 13 September.

UCPN-M leaders pressed for a parliamentary debate regarding President Ram Baran Yadav's 3 May reinstatement of CoAS Katawal at a meeting on 15 September. NC and UML leaders rejected any steps which, in their view, would reduce the president's responsibilities and said the Maoists should table a proposal that could be acceptable to all parties. The NC, supported by the UML, had proposed that the UCPN-M either: i) table an impeachment motion against the president, if it believed his action had been unconstitutional; ii) table a vote of noconfidence against the prime minister; or iii) table an alternative proposal which could be considered without the president having to attend the L-P.

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