Nepal’s political history has been a chaotic and at times violent one, but with the appointment of their 41st Prime Minister, many are hoping that peace and stability will finally arrive. On Thursday the 15th of February, KP Sharma Oli was sworn in as the second Prime Minister under Nepal’s new constitution. With the Communist Party dominating the elections two months prior, Oli will take the leading role for the second time in his political career.
Oli briefly held the position between 2015 and 2016 but resigned moments before a no motion vote to decide whether to remove him from office. There were numerous factors to why Oli only lasted nine months as Prime Minister. During that time, Nepal was still reconstructing its constitution and Oli failed to resolve disputes surrounding the document, thus delaying its implementation. Nepal also suffered a devastating earthquake in 2015 which killed 9,000 people, injured a further 22,000 and destroyed 600,000 building in the capital city Kathmandu and other nearby towns. Oli failed to provide adequate funding for reconstruction and redevelopment which left many cities and towns in rubble and thousands of people homeless.
Another error Oli made during his first stint as Prime Minister was that he focused too heavily on Nepal’s alliance with China, consequently ignoring Nepal’s relations with India. Since Nepal is located between the two Asian powerhouses, previous leaders have tried to maintain positive relations with both countries. However, given Oli’s left-wing politics, he felt it was best if Nepal aligned itself more with China. Consequently, this caused the alliance between India and Nepal to deteriorate, which would go on to last for the next three years.
Despite his woeful performance as Prime Minister first time around, many are optimistic Oli can stabilize the Himalayan nation. The Left Alliance, which is comprised of Maoist Centre Communist Party (CPN) and Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) has a dominant majority in both the upper and lower house. Many think that the Left Alliance’s dominant presence will result in legislation passing more efficiently. Oli has also promised to restore relations with India. Oli has spent his first few days in office reaching out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help rekindle relations between the two nations. Although the CPN-UML political ideologies are more closely aligned with China, Oli realizes that to completely cut ties with India would be detrimental to Nepal’s development as a nation.
Given the plethora of problems confronting Nepal, Oli’s second term as Prime Minister is expected to be just as difficult as his first. Since Nepal’s political structures have changed so frequently over the last decade, Oli’s first task will be to assist in the development of Nepal’s new seven provinces. Currently, all seven provinces do not have the money and resources to prosper on their own. Furthermore, 753 local governments are dealing with budgetary problems. Oli’s Federal government will have to provide financial assistance to these local governments as well as the seven newly established provinces. He may have to rely on international support, hence his willingness to work with both China and India.
The new Prime Minister will also have to address other issues such as recovering Nepal’s infrastructure from the 2015 earthquake, finding new energy sources to combat the regular blackouts that occur nationwide and improving agricultural productivity to help stimulate jobs. Oli recognized these issues during his campaign and has established detailed plans to overcome these issues, which he hopes to implement as soon as possible. Only time will tell whether these plans will succeed.
It is clear that the Oli has many challenges ahead. However, showing signs he is learning from his previous mistakes, having a majority government and a nation of people who are confident that he can stabilize Nepal there is a realistic chance that Oli may succeed in bringing peace to a nation that has been deprived of it for so long.