Landlocked country in the Himalayan mountain range in Central Asia, bounded N by Tibet (an autonomous region of China), E, S, and W by India.
Under the 1990 constitution, Nepal is a pluralist, parliamentary democracy headed by a constitutional monarch. It has a two-chamber legislature, comprising a 205-member, directly elected house of representatives and a 60-member national council, which consists of 10 appointees of the king, 35 members elected by the lower house, and 15 selected from the country's five development zones. Executive power is vested jointly in the king and a council of ministers which is headed by a prime minister drawn from the house of representatives' majority party grouping. The constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of expression, press, peaceful assembly, association, and movement.
From one of a group of small principalities, the Gurkha people emerged to unite Nepal under King Prithivi Narayan Shah 1768. In 1816, after the year-long Anglo-Nepali “Gurkha War”, a British resident (government representative) was stationed in Katmandu and the kingdom became a British-dependent buffer state. The country was recognized as fully independent by Britain 1923 although it remained bound by treaty obligations until 1947, the year of India’s independence. Between 1846 and 1951 Nepal was ruled by a hereditary prime minister of the Rana family. The Ranas were overthrown in a revolution led by the Nepali congress, and the monarchy, in the person of King Tribhuvan, was restored to power.
In 1959 King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah, who had succeeded his father 1955, promulgated the nation’s first constitution and held elections. The Nepali Congress Party leader B P Koirala became prime minister and proceeded to clash with the king over policy. King Mahendra thus dissolved parliament Dec 1960 and issued a ban on political parties Jan 1961. In Dec 1962 he introduced a new, monarch-dominated constitution with an indirectly elected national assembly and tiered system of panchayats (councils).
pressure for reform
King Mahendra died 1972. His son Birendra (1945– ), faced with mounting agitation for political reform led by B P Koirala, held a referendum on the constitution. As a result, it was amended, and the first elections to the national assembly were held May 1981. The new, more independently minded assembly in July 1983 unseated Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, despite his royal support, and installed in office Lokendra Bahadur Chand. The next assembly elections, in May 1986, returned a majority of members opposed to the partyless panchayat system and resulted in the replacement of Prime Minister Chand.
In April 1990, following mass prodemocracy demonstrations during which police shot 150 protesters, King Birendra lifted the ban on opposition parties and abolished the panchayat system. In Sept he approved a new constitution that transferred political power from the monarchy to an elected government. In readiness for the 1991 elections, two factions of the Communist Party sank their differences to become the United Nepal Communist Party (UNCP). Marking the culmination of a 15-month democratization process, in May 1991 the Nepali Congress Party secured a narrow majority of seats in the first multiparty elections since 1959, and Girija Prasad Koirala, brother of former prime minister B P Koirala, became prime minister.
In 1992 communist-led demonstrations in Katmandu and Pátan campaigned for the government's resignation. Prime Minister Koirala resigned July 1994 following his government's defeat in parliament, but remained as interim premier pending elections in Nov. The UNCP emerged as the biggest party and its leader, Man Mohan Adhikari, became the country's first prime minister, leading a minority government.
In foreign affairs, Nepal pursued a neutral policy as a member of the nonaligned movement, seeking to create a “zone of peace” in S Asia between India and China. Increased commercial links with China were resented by India who, March 1989–June 1990, imposed a partial blockade on Nepal’s borders as part of a dispute over the renegotiation of expired transit and trade duties.
A small Asian country high in the Himalayas between India and Tibet.
Kingdom of Nepal · Nepal