Steps Toward Peace and a New Constitution
The Maoist rebels and the government signed a landmark peace agreement in Nov. 2006, ending the guerrilla’s 10-year insurgency that claimed some 12,000 lives. In March 2007, the Maoists achieved another milestone when they joined the interim government. Just months later, in Sept. 2007, however, the Maoists quit the interim government, claiming that not enough progress had been made in abolishing the monarchy and forming a republic. They agreed to rejoin the interim government in December, when Parliament voted to abolish the monarchy and become a federal democratic republic.
In April 2008, millions of voters turned out to elect a 601-seat Constituent Assembly that will write a new constitution. The Maoist rebels, who recently signed a peace agreement with the government that ended the guerrilla’s 10-year insurgency, won 120 out of 240 directly elected seats. In May, the assembly voted to dissolve the 239-year-old monarchy, thus completing the transition to a republic. King Gyanendra vacated Narayanhiti Palace in June and began life as a commoner.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala resigned in June, after two years in office. In July, the Maoists said they would not participate in the government when their candidate for president, Ramraja Prasad Singh, was defeated. Other parties in the Constituent Assembly united to elect Ram Baran Yadav as the country's first president. The move seemed to jeopardize the peace process. A Maoist was elected prime minister in August, however. The Constituent Assembly voted 464 to 113 in favor of Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, over Sher Bahadur Deuba, a member of the Nepali Congress Party who served as prime minister three times. In a compromise, the Maoists said they would not hold posts in the party’s armed faction and would return private property it seized from opponents.
In May of 2009, the fragile compromise government fell apart when Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the country's Maoist prime minister, resigned and the Maoists quit the government. Dahal's resignation came after Nepal's President, Ram Baran Yadav, reinstated fired General Rookmangud Katawal. Katawal had been fired for refusing to work with the Maoists; his reinstatement came partially as a result of outside pressure from India. Dahal said he would not rejoin the government unless General Katawal was permanently removed.
On May 23, 2009, Madhav Kumar Nepal became the new prime minister, with the backing of 21 of the 24 political parties in Nepal's National Assembly. Just over a year later, in June 2010, Prime Minister Nepal reached a deal with the Maoists in which he agreed to resign and in exchange the Maoists extended both the term of Parliament and the deadline to complete a draft constitution until May 2011. The agreement averted a political crisis.
In February 2011, Parliament elected a prime minister after 17 attempts. Jhalanath Khanal secured 368 of 601 votes, against 122 for Ram Chandra Poudel and 67 for Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar. Khanal, the chairman of the Communist Party of NePaul (Unified Marxist-Leninist), was sworn in on February 6. The election ended a stalemate that had paralyzed the country for months with political parties competing for control of the government. Khanal asked rival parties to support his administration and work together toward finishing the new constitution.