Social Science Baha

Stability in Transition in Eastern Nepal

James Sharrock

A small part of why the transitional period in the peace process has been relatively calm can be explained by the apparent stability in local level politics in Nepal since the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Unsurprisingly district-level bodies like the All-Party Mechanism, Local Peace Committees and the Indigenous Nationalities Coordination Committee, although widely perceived as entrenching corruption, assisted local level disputes from spiraling out of control by ensuring that an expanded ‘distributional coalition’ gained from patronage and government spending. However, on the ground after the CPA, politics in Eastern Nepal appeared far from calm, especially in terms of accommodating identity-based political actors. I will argue that local politics in Nepal during the transitional period has often seen political parties and other actors demonstrating their power and support – often taking issues to the brink – whilst at the same time deliberately avoiding substantial confrontations in order to preserve stability. State restructuring, a future election and economic crises could clearly disrupt and reshape this seeming stability. This paper will draw on Alex De Waal’s work on the political marketplace and patronage in Sudan and also make wider points about the importance of viewing local politics as it actually is, not by looking at what we think it lacks according to ideal or international frameworks. The paper is based on the author’s field experiences in Eastern Nepal when working with UNMIN (2007-8) and The Carter Center (2011-12).