Nepal: Between Dictatorship and Anarchy

Issue Date October 2005
Volume 16
Issue 4
Page Numbers 129-143
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By any measure, Nepal’s experience with democratization has been a tragic failure. Despite a 1990 popular revolution and the king’s subsequent embrace of what looked like a serious attempt to introduce multiparty competition to the world’s only officially Hindu divine-right monarchy, recent Nepalese history has been fraught with instability and strife. A decade-old Maoist insurgency has left more than 11,000 people dead and effectively denied the government’s writ across huge swaths of the kingdom’s 140,000 square kilometers. Throughout the 1990s, one frail government after another fumbled while the country’s economic and political problems grew worse. The royal household suffered a tragic blow in 2001 when the crown prince gunned down ten relatives including the king before killing himself. Then in February 2005 the current holder of the throne, Gyanendra, carried out a “self-coup.” His dismissal of the legislature and seizure of power mean that Nepal now finds itself, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, mired that much more deeply in a strange and bloody battle between the opposed and yet similarly antidemocratic ideologies of communism and royal absolutism.