The politics of Nepal function within a framework of a republic with a multi-party system. Currently, the position of President (head of state) is occupied by Bidhya Devi Bhandari. The position of Prime Minister (head of government) is held by Puspakamal Dahal (Parchanda). Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and his cabinet, while legislative power is vested in the Constituent Assembly.
Until May 28, 2008, Nepal was a constitutional monarchy. On that date, the constitution was altered by the Constituent Assembly to make the country a republic.
Nepal has seen rapid political changes during the last two decades. Up until 1990, Nepal was a monarchy under executive control of the King. Faced with a communist movement against absolute monarchy, King Birendra, in 1990, agreed to a large-scale political reform by creating a parliamentary monarchy with the king as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of the government.
Nepal’s legislature was bicameral, consisting of a House of Representatives called the Pratinidhi Sabha and a National Council called the Rastriya Sabha. The House of Representatives consisted of 205 members directly elected by the people. The National Council had 60 members: ten nominated by the king, 35 elected by the House of Representatives, and the remaining 15 elected by an electoral college made up of chairs of villages and towns. The legislature had a five-year term but was dissolvable by the king before its term could end. All Nepali citizens 18 years and older became eligible to vote.
The executive comprised the King and the Council of Ministers (the cabinet). The leader of the coalition or party securing the maximum seats in an election was appointed as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet was appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Governments in Nepal tended to be highly unstable, falling either through internal collapse or parliamentary dissolution by the monarch, on the recommendation of the prime minister, according to the constitution; no government has survived for more than two years since 1991.
The movement in April 2006 brought about a change in the nation’s governance: an interim constitution was promulgated, with the King giving up power, and an interim House of Representatives was formed with Maoist members after the new government held peace talks with the Maoist rebels. The number of parliamentary seats was also increased to 330. In April 2007, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) joined the interim government of Nepal.
In December 2007, the interim parliament passed a bill making Nepal a federal republic, with a president as head of state. Elections for the constitutional assembly were held on 10 April 2008; the Maoist party led the results but did not achieve a simple majority of seats. The new parliament adopted the 2007 bill at its first meeting by an overwhelming majority, and King Gyanendra was given 15 days to leave the Royal Palace in central Kathmandu. He left on 11 June.
On 26 June 2008, the prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who had served as Acting Head of State since January 2007, announced that he would resign on the election of the country’s first president by the Constituent Assembly. The first round of voting, on 19 July 2008, saw Parmanand Jha win election as Nepali vice-president, but neither of the contenders for president received the required 298 votes and a second round was held two days later. Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepali Congress party defeated Maoist-backed Ram Raja Prasad Singh with 308 of the 590 votes cast. Koirala submitted his resignation to the new president after Yadav’s swearing-in ceremony on 23 July 2008.
On 15 August 2008, Maoist leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) was elected Prime Minister of Nepal, the first since the country’s transition from a monarchy to a republic. On 4 May 2009, Dahal resigned over on-going conflicts with regard to the sacking of the Army chief. Since Dahal’s resignation, the country has been in a serious political deadlock with one of the big issues being the proposed integration of the former Maoist combatants, also known as the People’s Liberation Army, into the national security forces. After Dahal, Jhala Nath Khanal of CPN (UML) was elected the Prime Minister. Khanal was forced to step down as he could not succeed in carrying forward the Peace Process and the constitution writing. On August 2011, Maoist Babu Ram Bhattarai became third Prime Minister after the election of constituent assembly. On 24 May 2012, Nepals’s Deputy PM Krishna Sitaula resigned. On 27 May 2012, the country’s Constituent Assembly failed to meet the deadline for writing a new constitution for the country. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai announced that new elections will be held on 22 November 2012. “We have no other option but to go back to the people and elect a new assembly to write the constitution,” he said in a nationally televised speech. One of the main obstacles has been disagreement over whether the states which will be created will be based on ethnicity.
Nepal is one of the few countries in Asia to abolish the death penalty. Nepal is the only Asian country where the possibility of same-sex marriage has been proposed in the high court and in the legislature although same-sex marriage currently does not exist in Nepal (see also LGBT rights in Nepal and Same-sex marriage in Nepal). The decision was based on a seven-person government committee study, and enacted through Supreme Court’s ruling November 2008. The ruling granted full rights for LGBT individuals, including the right to marry and now can get citizenship as a third gender rather than male or female as authorized by Nepal’s Supreme Court in 2007.