Residents of Nepal will participate in a historic democratic election Thursday, April 10. Voters will choose a Constituent Assembly, which will be charged with writing a new constitution and reintroducing democracy to this tiny Himalayan nation.
This week’s elections promise to be tumultuous. The past few months have been marked by violence between the various political parties and bomb blasts by rebel groups. Gospel for Asia leaders in Nepal are asking for prayer, saying that the situation in the country is tense and that there seems to be little hope for a peaceful election.
“Nepal has the opportunity to become a new model for legitimate democratic transformation,” said GFA’s Nepal correspondent. “The behavior of the monarch and the Maoists and the involvement of the international community will largely determine the success of Nepal’s push for a democratically elected Constituent Assembly and its drafting of a new constitution. We don’t really know what is waiting for the ‘New Nepal’ after the election.”
This week’s elections bring an official end to the monarchy, which has ruled the country since 1959. Politicians promise the new constitution will guarantee religious freedom. They also promise that Nepal’s new government will be secular. The country has officially been a constitutional monarchy with Hinduism as the official religion.
This week’s events are in sharp contrast to the events of the last two decades. Nepal’s beloved King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and several members of their household were murdered in 2001. On the heels of this tragedy, King Birendra’s brother, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, ascended to the throne.
Shortly after Gyanendra’s reign began, the Maoist party—heavily influenced by nearby China—waged a civil war against the constitutional monarchy. The United Nations estimates more than 12,000 people died and another 10,000 were displaced by the war. It came to a tentative end in 2006 with a peace agreement that allowed the Maoists to join a government created when the king relinquished his power.
In late 2007, the Maoists walked out, demanding that the monarchy be abolished. Legislators agreed to the demands—the monarchy is scheduled to end this year—and the Maoists returned to their legislative posts.
GFA leaders ask for prayer for peaceful elections. They also ask for continued prayer for Nepal as these new legislators create a new constitution and government system for the country. Pray also that GFA missionaries will be free to continue working in Nepal and that the churches will continue to shine the light of God’s love.