Lost in daily reports concerning terrorism and the Middle East are interesting developments taking place in the small country of Nepal. In a rather unusual twist of events, a Maoist prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahai, has been sworn in an prime minister and the first act of the new legislature was abolishing the 239 year old monarchy. During the past decade the country has been torn between a Maoist led rebellion and a monarch who wanted to control all power. King Gyanendra from 2005 on tried to rule with an iron fist only to encounter a popular uprising by ordinary citizens who forced him to accept a democratic legislature in 2006. Women, who had limited rights under the monarchy now constitute one third of members of the legislature.
The Maoists still retain their army and it is questionable if they will integrate that armed force into the regular army. A helpful sign is that all parties, including the Maoists, have asked the United Nations to continue assisting the transition to democracy. Will a Maoist government continue adhering to democratic principles is an interesting question.
The dramatic triumph of the communist party in last week’s elections raises interesting questions as to whether this marks the emergence of a communism devoted to creating a democratic Nepal in which people of all socio-economic backgrounds can move forward, or will this be another Maoist example of brutality in the name of the state. There is no doubt the people of Nepal were disgusted with its corrupt and inefficient monarchy and wanted the dawn of a new age in which all sectors of society would benefit, but in selecting the Maoist leadership have they entered on a new era of oppression?
The Maoists can digest a form of capitalism much as Chinese Communists have adopted one, but if their neighbor to the north is any example, the Nepal Maoists may find indigestible the components of a democratic society. Most probably the professional Nepal army will soon be transformed into a people’s liberation force dedicated to the proposition the Maoist run government can not surrender power in any such thing as a democratic election.
To sum up: its Mao, not Gorbachev.