Taking a Chance: Nepal Looks to Maoists for Change

Article excerpt

After a decade-long struggle against the ruling monarchy, the Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist (CPN-M) finally won the approval of the Nepalese people in their nation's April 2008 elections. The Maoists' victory brought an overwhelming sense of hope to Nepal, but it also amplified the degree of uncertainty in a country with many problems. Though Prachanda, the chairman of CPN-M, officially took over as Prime Minister in August 2008, he has yet to tackle any major issues. In order to succeed, he and his government will need to focus more on the task of securing basic social and economic freedoms for the Nepalese people. If the government does not take quick and decisive action, the Nepalese people may lose patience and discard the government altogether.

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Dissatisfied with mainstream politics, the Maoists first went underground in 1996, launching a "People's War." A revolt against the monarchy, this campaign hoped to transform the social and economic structure of the country. Ten years later, in 2006, the Maoists solidified their path to power by forming an alliance with mainstream political parties to protest against the dictatorial leadership of King Gyanendra. Massive uprisings ensued, resulting in the king's capitulation and the Maoists' re-entry into mainstream politics.

Since then, the Maoists' quick rise to power has drawn mixed responses. While some regard their win in the elections as surprisingly impressive, others feel they manipulated the elections by threatening rural peasants. However, given the presence of international observers during the elections and the lack of evidence that they were rigged, the rest of the world has generally accepted the Maoists' win as legitimate. This endorsement has been followed by massive expectations that the Maoist-led government will drastically change the face of the country through a rapid socio-economic transformation.

Many serious social and economic challenges currently face Nepal. Recent economic indicators suggest sustained economic growth of about 3 percent, but the real situation is actually much worse. Due to recent record high food and commodity prices, thousands of rural peasants have difficulty earning enough money to eat two meals per day. Families without a reliable source of income are literally struggling to live. Furthermore, the government is on the verge of declaring an energy crisis in the country. Due to shortages, the Nepalese people currently have access to electricity for only fourteen hours each day, an amount which will likely decrease to eight hours in the next few months. Suffering from all of these problems, the Nepalese people are looking to their new government for solutions. …