Freedom in the World
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In a blow to Nepal’s recovery from a long-running civil conflict, the Maoist party withdrew from the government in May after the president rejected the Maoist prime minister’s attempt to fire the army chief. The Maoists physically blockaded the legislature for the remainder of the year and organized mass protests across the country. Despite the political unrest, Nepal maintained the significant improvements in law and order that followed the 2006 peace agreement. However, attacks on journalists remained commonplace, and ethnic violence continued in the south.
Faced with a hostile press, a vocal opposition, and deep suspicion from the upper echelons of the increasingly politicized military, the Maoists achieved little during their time in government. Antagonism between the Maoists and the army came to a head in May 2009, when Prachanda, frustrated by the military’s resistance to integration with former Maoist fighters, ordered the firing of army chief Rookmangud Katawal. The order was legally dubious, since the president technically had control over such decisions, and it inspired widespread protest among coalition partners. The firing was ultimately rejected by Yadav. Prachanda resigned, and a new government led by the CPN-UML was formed. The Maoists maintained a physical blockade of the CA after leaving government, and Maoist protests were common throughout the country for the remainder of 2009. The siege was suspended for three days in late November to allow key budgetary legislation to pass.
Nepal is not an electoral democracy. The CA elections held in April 2008 were found to be “generally organized in a professional and transparent manner” by a European Union observation team. However, the observers noted that the elections did not fully meet international standards due to restrictions on freedoms of assembly, movement, and expression. Violence was fairly common during the campaign period, though election day was generally peaceful.
Corruption is perceived to be endemic in politics and government, and enforcement of anticorruption regulations remains weak. While the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority is active, high-level officials are rarely prosecuted. Many members of the CA have been accused or convicted of corruption in the past. Graft is particularly prevalent in the judiciary, with frequent payoffs to judges for favorable rulings. A 2009 government report suggested that corruption is also endemic in the police force, pointing to widespread acceptance of bribes and extensive police involvement in organized crime. Nepal was ranked 143 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index.