[Marxism] Nepal: Elite revolt threatens democracy

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at gmail.com
Sun Apr 26 02:00:36 MDT 2009


[also see this perfectly open and
blunt<http://southasiarev.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/nepal-rumors-of-attempted-coups/>
confession
<http://southasiarev.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/nepal-rumors-of-attempted-coups/>of
the coup plan by the army high command in the Times of India

http://www.greenleft.org.au/2009/792/40806
Nepal: Democracy threatened by elite revolt
Ben Peterson, Kathmandu
25 April 2009


*Less than two weeks after the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist
(UCPN-M) won by-elections in six constituencies across Nepal, it is facing
fresh resistance by the old elite.*

 The elite is seeking to stop the UCPN-M-led push for a “New Nepal”. This
has included front-page exposures of a coup plot to overthrow the elected
Maoist-led government.

The centre of the storm is the moves, begun on April 19, by the Maoist-led
coalition government to remove the Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katawal.

This follows a long dispute between the military high command and the
elected civilian government. Katawal has refused to implement government
instructions.

The April by-elections proved that the program of the Maoists for a New
Nepal has popular support.

Occurring in six constituencies that had been left vacant in the past year,
these polls took place in a range of areas across the country, encompassing
different ethnic groups and where the main political parties are powerful.

This meant the elections gave a good reflection of the political mood.
Although only a fraction of people could vote, and the small amount of seats
at stake would not affect the balance of power within the parliament, these
elections were crucial because of the results were seen as significant in
the wider political struggle.

Despite what was widely predicted, rather Maoist support dropping, it
increased. This is despite constant media attacks on the government and its
current inability to implement most of its program.

The Maoists retained two previously held seats and won a third. The other
three seats went to the right-wing Nepalese Congress, the Communist Party of
Nepal-Unified-Marxist-Leninist and the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum.

The popular uprising and a Maoist-led “people’s war” brought down Nepal’s
centuries old monarchy, opening the way for constituent assembly elections
one year ago. Against expectations, the Maoists, whose support is based on
the poor, wont he largest number of seats.

Since then, right-wing forces, backed by foreign powers, have sought to
weaken the Maoist-led government and drive back the momentum for genuine
change.

The UCPN-M has deep roots within poor communities. It is linked to the
average Nepali through its work in local areas, among youth, women,
peasants, and in the trade unions. So far, the campaign by the right-wing
forces that dominate much of the state and media have failed to sever this
link.

The perspectives of the UCPN-M for a New Nepal include creating secular,
democratic republic; a new democratised military based on merging the
formerly royalist Nepal Army with the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA);
and fighting discrimination against ethnic minorities, women and the lower
castes.

A minimum wage has already been created and the Maoist program promises to
guarantee employment. National industry will be prioritised to promote
development. Workers will have the right to take part in management.

The Maoists also promote land reform based on the principle of “land to
those who work it”.

The public education system will be expanded and made free at lower levels.
Private education institutions charging high fees will be regulated and
phased out. Ethnic minorities will have the right to education in their own
language,

A literacy campaign has been launched by volunteers, to combat an illiteracy
rate around 50%.

Recognising that health is a human right, the Maoists plan to significantly
develop the healthcare system from its current decrepit state — especially
in poor rural areas.

Suresh Kumar Ale Maga, a UNCP-M member of parliament, told Green Left Weekly
that, for the Maoists, a New Nepal meant “a Nepal on the way to socialism”.

Following its victory in the by-elections on this program, the UCPN-M has
pressed ahead with plans to restructure the state. The existing structures,
inherited from the monarchy, have proved resistant to change.

This has sparked fierce resistance from the opposition, the foreign
embassies and the army. This has put the ongoing peace process, as part of
which the PLA agreed to end its armed struggle, in jeopardy.

Facing attacks from various sides, the Maoists have responded with ongoing,
daily street demonstrations across the country.

The core issue is the need for control by the elected government over the
state, with its entrenched bureaucracy.

There have been many controversies involving the army. In February, the army
recruited several thousand soldiers against the orders of the government,
the supreme court and the interim constitution — and in direct violation of
the peace process.

The army again challenged the government when it reinstated eight generals
on March 16 who where retired by the defence ministry.

Finally, the army staged a boycott of the recently held National Games when
the PLA was allowed to compete.

The open disloyalty of the military towards the elected civilian government
represents an obvious threat to democracy. For the ongoing security of
Nepal, it is essential that the military be restructured and brought back
under the control of the government.

The Nepali Army has changed only in name from the old Royal Nepali Army,
which backed an anti-democratic coup to reinstate absolute royal rule in
2005.

The retirement of chief of army staff is an initial step in a process aiming
to create the new democratic armed forces.

The key issue is the struggle to create new, democratic state structures.

The basis of the opposition to such moves is the question of power. People
in positions of state power in Nepal, be it in the bureaucracy, judiciary or
military, feel threatened by the process of change.

The political opposition unites those within the fabric of the old society
seeking to prevent the creation of the new. Resistance to change in the
military is part of the struggle of the rich and powerful. The elite views
the military as its armed gang to insure against radical change.

However, recent Nepalese history has that the real power in society is not
to be found at the top. Rather, it rests in the people.

There have been demonstrations every day by Maoist supporters calling for
Katawal's retirement. Combined with the by-election results, it puts beyond
doubt the fact that popular sentiment is behind the government and supports
change.

[Ben Peterson is a member of the socialist youth organisation
Resistance<http://www.resistance.org.au/>currently living in Nepal. He
maintains a
blog <http://maobadiwatch.blogspot.com/> on Nepal.]

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue
#792<http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2009/792>29 April 2009.

-- 
"The free market is perfectly natural... do you think I am some kind of
dummy?" — Jarvis Cocker

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" — Oscar Wilde



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