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DavidV

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I've been having a thought about this, but I wonder if I'm the only one who sees parallels between the republican period in Nepal since 2008 and the republican period of Spain in 1931-39. I think there are some striking parallels, which may also help explain why the Spanish Republic could never last with or without a Civil War, and why the Nepali Republic will not last either. Both of which are on shaky foundations to begin with, both of which presiding over countries facing destruction if the wrong side gets their way.

I think to sum it up, the following similarities can be established:

- a deposed royal family.
- a savage and murderous radical Left, as republicans demonstrate they had no use for democracy.
- the radicals attempt to destroy the very foundations of society.
- violence and intimidation severely undermining any pretence of "democracy".
- a political settlement with very questionable foundations.
- many caught in the middle and fearful of the outcome, thus possibly leading them back to the monarchy.
- demands for regional self-government and separatism that threaten to break apart the country.
- foreign interests at stake.

There are stark differences too. After all, a constitution was actually completed and two further elections were held in Spain before the outbreak of war. Furthermore, politics in Nepal are anything but conventional and make strange bedfellows, even though principles are the same. However, the failure of the republic in Nepal was preordained, guaranteed before its establishment.

The political scene of the Second Spanish Republic was complex if only because of the extremely divergent parties and factions, and of the shifting alliances and possibilities. The simple fact is that the republic caused sufficient revulsion in its early years that in the 1933 election, moderates and conservatives were able to win a combined majority. The Right was split between its Alfonsine and Carlist currents, ranging from liberal to reactionary, typified by Victor Pradera and Jose Calvo Sotelo. The Falange hardly won any seats in the Cortes during this period. On the left were socialists, Communists and bourgeois Republicans. However, in the centre were moderate Basque and Catalan regionalists, who were more conservative and Catholic in orientation. And there were moderate republicans who, unlike their more radical counterparts, were liberal democrats - and even they began to gravitate closer to the monarchists as early as 1933. It so figured that Alejandro Lerroux, a longtime republican politician, formed a government with the right-wing leader Jose Maria Gil Robles. While the coalition could not last, the election results in 1933 demonstrated that the Spanish electorate had rejected the extremism. In the 1933-36 Cortes, the Right was the largest bloc.

The coalition eventually fell apart amidst unfortunate scandal. Again in the 1936 election, the right-wing bloc comprised mostly Alfonsines and Carlists. The left-wing bloc now known as the Popular Front united all shades of leftists. Caught in the middle were the regionalists and less extreme republicans like Lerroux and Melquiades Alvarez. The problem is that the Right and Centre blocs, as I've pointed out in previous posts, did not united at this polls (although there may have been some cooperation), despite sharing the same fears of the Popular Front. The splitting of the votes, coupled with the electoral system, enabled the Popular Front to win a parliamentary majority despite winning less than half of the popular vote. Again in 1933 and 1936, the popular vote showed that Spanish voters had in fact rejected the radical Left that comprised the majority of republicans. In simpler terms, the majority voted for anti-Communist parties. Would it have facilitated restoration without a Civil War had the Popular Front lost the election in 1936? The consequences were predictable, with the slaughter of priests and the murders of Calvo Sotelo, Pradera and Alvarez.

In short, this confounds two lies being spun about the Second Spanish Republic and the Civil War era: the Left had no use for democracy whatsoever, and the Right was not dominated by fascists. On one hand, the violence and evil of the Republic would indicate that Civil War was inevitable. Whatever "democracy" was promised by the Republic never quite functioned properly since the hideous violence severely mitigated against it, yet when you look at actual voting trends, it would indicate that the Left in Spain (Marxists and Jacobins) didn't actually win the support of the majority of the electorate in those two elections. The most obvious comparison here would be Chile, where Salvador Allende never won a majority of the vote and was only chosen by a compliant Congress, and quickly lost support. Ultimately it was left to Franco, who did the job, but even here are many "what ifs" - like what if a constitutional settlement and restoration had been effected right after the Civil War, instead of waiting until Franco's death? Was it even possible?

The regional question has plenty of history and contradictions behind it. Certainly, the separatist cause in the Basque Country and Catalonia tends to be radically leftist. However, the other stream of regional sentiment is more conservative and Christian Democratic, typified by the EAJ/PNV and CiU (whose predecessors were important parties in the Restoration and Second Republic eras). Part of this is the Carlist legacy. After all, Carlism had and still has Basque and Catalan lands as its strongholds, in no small part a reaction to the centralisation that took place in 1707. This ultimately was a point of disagreement between the Carlists and their allies, never quite resolved.

So how does this all compare to Nepal? The Constituent Assembly election in 2008 was certainly tainted by the mere presence of the Maoists, which undoubtedly influenced the outcome. The decisions to abolish the monarchy among other things was never done by any democratic method - it was a backroom agreement before the election, rendering the Assembly's decisions ceremonial. Furthermore, while Gyanendra's popularity was never great even before he became King, his stock amongst the masses has risen dramatically since the abolition, knowing he comes off far more honourable amidst the failure of the Republic.

Like Spain, the threat of violence in Nepal is never very far. The split in the Maoist ranks, resulting in a hardline faction forming a new party that threatens to be an election spoiler, has only made this danger more obvious. Even the rhetoric of some politicians often contains hints of such - one politician threatened to hang two well-known opponents of federalism. The monarchy in Nepal is the ultimate symbol of nationalism - its tenets being the indivisibility and sovereignty of the Nepali nation. Both of these things are now in great danger due to the federalist project and foreign, more specifically Indian, meddling - which opens the prospect for another Sikkim. Federalism may only greatly increase the possibility, as national division leaves Nepal ripe for exploitation.

Nepal has trumped Spain by virtue of the fact the republic has not even been fully established due to politicians' failure to create a constitution, amidst their squabbling, corruption, incompetence and the slavishly pro-India tendencies of many. Yet quite a few of these seem to be "in the middle" where the monarchy is concerned, as they are shameless opportunists who have benefited from constitutional monarchy, tried to benefit from its abolition, and will try to benefit from its restoration when it happens. As in Spain, religion is a factor too. The attempts to eradicate Nepal's Hindu identity, like eradicating Spain's Catholic identity, is essentially a core component of the Left secularist agenda but this time it comes with a Nepali twist - ripe for conversions by imported religions.

The fragmentation of the political scene in Nepal shares some similarities with 1933-36 Spain. At one end of the spectrum are the Maoists and their allies, who are pushing for a federal republic. At the other end of the spectrum are royalists and their allies, led by Kamal Thapa and his RPP-N party, the main party of monarchism and nationalism in Nepal. Thapa has allies both Right and Left, which seems rather different from the Spanish situation, who at least share his nationalist and patriotic agenda and will be most likely partners in a venture for restoration and securing Nepal's sovereignty and security. It is convincing the parties in the middle that the monarchy is the only hope for their and Nepal's survival that is the main meal here. And it may not be so difficult to achieve. On the other hand, another parallel with Spain is identified in the role of Nepal's military. A military takeover in the current climate may not be unpopular with a despairing populace.

Nepal faces options like becoming a failed state, subjugation by India, Maoist takeover, fragmentation or a Civil War. All of these can be prevented only by a return of Gyanendra to his rightful throne. Let's not kid ourselves here - the US and China would welcome it as it falls into line with their respective interests.

It would seem the similarities between 1930s Spain and present-day Nepal outweigh the differences.
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