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2017 in Review/Prospects for 2018

BY PRABASI NEPALI
Nepal
There was an orderly transfer of power and Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress (NC) did again become the prime minister for the fourth time, taking over from Pushpa Kamal Dahal of the CPN-Maoist Centre, which remained in the centre-left/extreme left coalition. However, as the federal parliamentary and provincial legislature elections were approaching, the CPN-UML (the main opposition) and the Maoists suddenly announced that they would fight these elections jointly and would also form a united Communist Party later. The ruling Congress were shocked, but were helpless and hapless in formulating the necessary tactics and strategy to counter this move. Maoist Dahal emerged as the wheeler-dealer par excellence and demonstrated that he was not yet the ‘paper tiger’ that many had thought. As expected, the so-called grand ‘Left Alliance’ swept the board, and the NC could only be second strongest party in the new parliament by virtue of its better performance in proportional representation.
As soon as the upper house of parliament, the National Assembly, (where the Left Alliance will also enjoy a comfortable majority) is constituted, the UML’s K.P. Sharma Oli is expected to be appointed the prime minister, and one other from his own party and one from the Maoists will probably be appointed deputy prime ministers. One or two Madhes-based parties could also join this leftist coalition, in which case another deputy-prime minister could also be appointed from their ranks. It remains to be seen whether Comrade Oli will take it upon himself to initiate the amendment of the Constitution to meet the demands of Tarai-Madhesh.
It is said that a people receive the type of government they deserve, and the Nepalese people in the majority have opted for a leftist government which has promised stability and prosperity. In addition, Oli has the reputation of being a quasi-nationalist and crypto-populist – as if these qualities are to be hailed in an increasingly inter-dependent world. Nepal is a country with an overwhelming majority of pious Hindus, and also in the majority with some level of education. It is, therefore, no less astounding that such religious people have elected atheistic and secular Communists to lead them. In addition, they should have been aware that Communism as an economic system has failed everywhere it has come to power. For the record, China and Vietnam today have modified economic systems. Oli and Dahal may plod on regardless and establish ‘a land of milk and honey’. As a first step, they could change the name of the country to the “People’s Democratic Republic of Nepal”.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
This Northeast-Asian country also known as North Korea, although a developing country by most social and economic indicators, has made rapid progress in nuclear weapons and missile technology. So much so that it has not only become an acute threat, in the first instance, not only to its immediate neighbours South Korea and Japan, but also to the United States, which it considers its primary enemy. Since a nuclear war on the Korean peninsular would also be a catastrophe for the entire world, people everywhere are very concerned that the conflict there does not escalate. Unfortunately, the United States under the leadership (or lack thereof) of Donald Trump has been unable to bring North Korea’s leader  Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table. Most pundits are of the opinion that this is the only viable method to de-escalate the crisis. Regrettably, Trump has done everything in his power to antagonize Kim. Russia and China have both supported UN Security Council resolutions on severe sanctions on North Korea. But recent reports indicate that – for unknown reasons (geopolitical?) reasons – they have found ways to undermine these very sanctions by supplying North Korea refined oil via ship-to-ship transfers! The three great powers are thus working at cross purposes.
One Year of Donald the Menace
In retrospect, perhaps the worst thing that happened in the United States and inauspiciously for the world at large was the inauguration of Republican Donald J. Trump as the 45th President at the beginning of the year. He was, of course, elected the previous November – indirectly by the people through the so-called Electoral College in a process that has become completely obsolete and needs urgent reform. If the US President had been elected directly, the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would have won with a wide margin of nearly three million votes!
After a year of analyses from experts, it is now clear that a whole catalogue of factors contributed to the former Senator’s and Secretary of State’s unnecessary defeat. Although she was the better candidate and better qualified in every respect, Ms. Clinton herself had made some crucial mistakes. For one, using private E-Mail for official business was one. This was exploited by Trump to the hilt. She also ignored her husband’s former President Bill Clinton’s advice to again campaign in the crucial states of the Great Lakes area just before the elections. The electoral votes from these states were of the essence in her defeat. It has also become crystal clear now that without Russian interference in the presidential election in favour of Trump, he would today be ‘an also ran’. The Democratic Party was too complacent and took its constituents and demographics for granted, especially in key states. It should have countered Trump’s key base – the ‘basket of deplorables’ (Clinton) – including White nationalists, White Evangelicals, those disgruntled with the ‘Washington Swamp’ (Trump), and especially those ignored and left behind by the economic progress for the upper crust of society. These included many blue collar workers, who previously voted democratic. There was also the untimely interference by FBI Director Comey just a week before the election which had the effect of damaging Clinton’s cause.
The net result was the election of perhaps the worst president in US history. The signs were all there before, but Trump has now revealed himself as incompetent, an ignoramus full of megalomania, and a grave danger to his country and the world. After only one year, he has the lowest rating of any president in modern times. His worst act was withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, endangering the planet. The only hope now is that the Democrats win convincingly in the mid-term Congressional elections in 2018, achieving a majority in the House of Representatives and/or the Senate. The chances look bright after resounding successes in by-elections. The Republicans face head-winds because of unpopular legislation and their inability to counter Trump.
International Humanitarian Crises
The international community has not been able to do anything substantial about already prevailing humanitarian crises or those newly emerging in various parts of the world. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia which considers itself the pre-eminent Sunni nation, is locked in combat with the leader of the Shia sect, Iran. They have been fighting a proxy war in Yemen, with millions dying of Saudi bombings, cholera and malnutrition. Instead of checking Saudi Arabia, Trump has been supportive of Saudi Arabia and been supplying precision weapons, together with other Western countries.
The great powers and developed countries, especially those with veto power in the UN Security Council, have also not been able to stop the genocide (originally termed ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the UN)  of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, whose military forces have forced them to migrate to neighbouring Bangladesh through systematic persecution and a ‘scorched earth’ policy. It is remarkable that the two largest Asian nations, China and India have taken the side of the Myanmar government. Nepal recently welcomed Myanmar’s military chief.
The plight of the Palestinians was made worse by Trump’s unwarranted recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In one fell swoop, he has plucked away their human and political rights, made a two-state solution a distant dream (also to the detriment of Israel) and made a comprehensive Middle East peace accord impossible for the time being.
The Rise of Nationalism & Populism in Europe
Communism may have been banned from Europe, but now the spectre of nationalism and populism is haunting Europe. In France, Emmanuel Macron managed to defeat the ultra-rightwing party in the presidential election. However, two mainstream parties – of the centre-right and centre-left – were decimated. In the Netherlands and Germany, the mainstream parties barely managed to keep the far-right at bay.
In Germany, the far-right party “Alternative fuer Deutschland” has become the third largest in the Bundestag (parliament). The leaders of the three would-be coalition partners (Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union and Social Democrats) – the ‘Grand Coalition’ – have all lost support and prestige. More than half of all Germans want Angela Merkel, the incumbent chancellor – previously the darling of the common people – to step down. Four months after the parliamentary elections, a new government is nowhere in sight.
In Hungary and Poland populism and xenophobia have reared their ugly heads and are threatening not only liberal democracy, but the unity and stability of the European Union itself.
UN  Secretary-General’s New Year’s Message
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for global unity to overcome growing challenges. He added that the world appeared to have “gone in reverse . . . I am not issuing an appeal, I am issuing an alert .  .  . a red alert for our world.” He continued: “I call for unity .  .  .We can settle conflicts, overcome hatred and defend shared values. But we can only do that together.”

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