Escaping Political Deadlock: Nepal’s Caretaker Cabinet 2013–2014

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Abstract 

In early 2013, six years after the end of a devastating civil war that claimed 17,000 lives and displaced an estimated 100,000 people, the Himalayan nation of Nepal faced the prospect of renewed violence. A 2006 peace accord between an insurgent Maoist political movement and traditional political parties called for ending Nepal’s 239-year-old monarchy and creating a new democratic system. But disputes over power sharing led to the failure of four successive coalition governments and slowed the effort to negotiate and enact a new constitution. In May 2012, the deadlock resulted in the dissolution of the elected legislature, which had also been serving as a constituent assembly. It was crucial to hold fresh elections. But when political parties were unable to agree on the formation of a coalition government for steering the country toward that goal, leaders of the four main political blocs, including the Maoists, agreed to set up a caretaker government under Khil Raj Regmi, the sitting chief justice of the Supreme Court and head of the country’s judiciary. Regmi and his team of technocratic ministers strengthened cabinet decision-making procedures, agreed on a shared governance agenda, and worked closely with both the election commission of Nepal and political parties to plan elections for a new constituent assembly. Despite concerns about having the same person in charge of both the executive and judicial branches at the same time, the caretaker cabinet succeeded in holding credible elections that put Nepal back on track toward a new constitution.

Leon Schreiber drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Kathmandu, Nepal, in February 2016.

This series focuses on cabinet management in unity governments. It profiles challenges and offers ideas for improving effectiveness. The cases provide food for thought only. Most are mixed successes and present significant unresolved problems.

Keywords 
power sharing
government transition
unity government
caretaker government
coalition cabinet
constitutions
opposition parties
democratic transition
Focus Area(s): 
Power Sharing
Critical Tasks: 
Building inter-agency cooperation
Building trust
Depoliticization
Election schedules
Inter-ministerial coordination
Peace councils
Political liaison
Priority setting
Securing elections
Core Challenge: 
Coordination
Credibility (trust)
Dispute resolution (compliance)
Country of Reform: 
Nepal
Type: 
Case Studies
Author: 
Leon Schreiber