Nepal: Key people and parties

Parties and Institutions

Constituent Assembly (CA)

Formed following elections in 2008, the CA represented the interim legislature in Nepal tasked with writing the new constitution. 601 members took their seats, with the UCPN(M) the largest party, followed by the National Congress and the CPN-UML. Failure to pass the constitution on time led to four extensions to the assembly’s tenure. On 27 May 2012 the CA was dissolved, after the final deadline passed with no extension agreed.

Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) UCPN(M), Unified CPN(M) or CPN(M):

The rebel group that fought the government in the 10-year armed conflict. Beginning their uprising in February 1996 – the same year that the pro-democracy movement forced the monarchy to begin restoring some aspects of democratic rule – the UCPN(M) continued their insurgency until 2006, when it joined the Seven Party Alliance for the restoration of democracy. In 2007 the CPN(M) joined the interim government, thus entering the political mainstream. After the general elections of 2008, the CPN(M) became the largest single party in the Constituent Assembly, and formed a coalition government the same year. However in 2009 party leader Prachanda resigned as Prime Minister, following a row with the President over the dismissal of the chief of the army. In 2011 the party returned to power, with the appointment of party vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai as Prime Minister.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML)

The third largest party in the Constituent Assembly after the 2008 elections, the CPN-UML was created in 1991 through the unification of the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist). The party is regarded as moderate left-wing, and supplied the country’s Prime Minister for almost two years between 2009 and 2011.

Nepali Congress Party (NC)

Involved in all stages of Nepal’s path to democracy – they formed the nation’s first government following the end of the autocratic Rana dynasty in 1951. They the nation’s first general election in 1959, then saw their government dissolved and many of its leading figures imprisoned when the king re-took control the following year. The NC refused to participate in the panchayat (partyless local assembly) system that followed, and pushed for full democratisation instead. After mass rallies in 1990 supporting the return of democracy, the panchayat system was abolished and the NC won the following year’s election,. In 1994 the party stepped down following defeat in a no confidence motion, but returned to leadthe government on several more occasions until the king declared direct rule in 2005. Elections in 2008 saw the NC become the second largest party in the newly-formed Constituent Assembly.

Palace and Royal Nepal Army

Despite allowing democratic elections in 1959, the newly elected government was soon dismissed and replaced with the partyless panchayat system, effectively returning all powers to King. The system continued until a growing popular pro-democracy movement, and a prolonged civil war with Maoist insurgents forced the reinstatement of a legitimate parliament, and the eventual abolition of the monarchy in 2008. Until 2007, the palace maintained full control over the Nepalese army.

People’s Liberation Army (PLA)

The PLA was formed during the ‘People’s War’ as the armed wing of the (UCPN-M). Following the end of the conflict PLA members were housed in secure cantonments, whilst negotiations regarding reintegration took place between the major political parties. In November 2011 the last part of a deal to reintegrate ex-combatants was agreed. In February 2012 around 7,000 ex-fighters were released from their camps and returned back into society. In April soldiers moved into the camps as the army took over control. Around 6,000 ex-combatants were expected to be integrated into the army, and another 3,000 expected to choose voluntary retirement.

Seven Party Alliance (SPA)

Coalition of seven political parties which grouped together to bring about the end of autocratic rule in Nepal. These were: Nepali Congress, Nepali Congress (Democratic), Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, Nepal Goodwill Party, United Left Front, and Peoples Front. Combined the parties had received over 90% of the vote in the 1991 election. In 2006 the SPA joined with the UCPN(M) to spearhead the Loktantra Andolan (democracy movement), which resulted in popular pro-democracy uprisings across Nepal. The outcome was the abolition of the monarchy and the formation of a Nepali republic

Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM)

A splinter group of CPN(M), based in the Terai and fighting for independence for the Madhesh region since 2004. It is still active after breaking a truce with the government in 2007.

Young Communist League (YCL)

Youth wing of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M). The YCL was formed during the ‘People’s War’, and it has since provoked much controversy. Although its leaders state that its members are unarmed, with no military training, this claim has been widely challenged. Furthermore, whilst members are encouraged to participate in socially responsible activities, such as maintaining and improving the environment, they have also been associated with law enforcement activities, such as traffic management and night patrols. This may be seen as presenting a challenge to the authority of the state. However more recently the YCL has been urged to compromise on the party´s revolutionary ideals for the sake of peace and constitution. UCPN-M leader Prachanda was quoted as stating, on 1 April 2012: "Time has come to make sacrifice. We will have to sacrifice our stance for peace and constitution".


Puspa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda)

Charismatic leader of the UCPN(M) since 1994, including the period of the ‘People’s War’. He served as the first Prime Minister in the newly democratic Nepal, following the 2008 elections in which his UCPN-M party won a surprise victory. He had previously spent over 20 years underground, as a militant communist leader opposed to Nepal’s monarchy. A conflict with President Yadav over the sacking of the army’s chief of staff, resulted in Prachanda’s resignation in 2009.

Baburam Bhattarai

A pivotal figure in Nepali politics, Dr. Bhattarai became the 36th Prime Minister of Nepal in August 2011, and was still in place at the dissolution of the CA on 27 May 2012. He is a senior Standing Committee Member and vice chairperson of the UCPN-M, and is highly regarded for his academic rigour, and personal standards of integrity. In February 1996 Bhattarai presented the government with a list of 40 demands on behalf of the Maoists, threatening civil war if they were not met. Shortly after, the ‘People’s War’ began. Bhattarai then went underground, but slowly emerged as the public face of the Maoists during the conflict. He became one of their lead negotiators in the run-up to the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Relations with Maoist leader Prachanda have sometimes been rocky, featuring various disagreements and reconciliations during the two men’s time at the head of the UCPN-M.

Ram Baran Yadav

Became the first president of Nepal in July 2008, nearly two months after the monarchy was abolished. As a leading figure in the Nepali Congress, he was at the forefront of the pro-democracy movementAn ethnic Madheshi from Nepal's southern lowlands, Yadav is strongly opposed to any idea of an independent Madhesh state. The presidency is a largely ceremonial position, although after the collapse of the CA in 2012, the President came into conflict with the UCPN-M over the status of the Prime Minister.

Madhav Kumar Nepal

MK Nepal is a long-standing member of the CPN-UML, serving as General Secretary of the party for 15 years. He was e Prime Minister between 2009 and 2011, taking up office after the resignation of UCPN-M leader Prachanda. Previously General Secretary of CPN(UML), and Deputy Prime Minister during the early 1990s. Resigned in June 2010.

Jhala Nath Khanal

Chairman of the CPN-UML since 2009, and Prime Minister of Nepal from February to August 2011. In January 2011 he was famously slapped by a member of his own party, in protest at the lack of political progress in the country.