Uncertain political stability


Nepal’s political development since the 1951 revolution has proven elusive despite much ado about its livelihood. The hostile socio-political context, and the authoritarian and feudal political culture transmitted to the new “democratic” elite and the emergence of diametrically opposed political forces represented by the monarchy and the party leaders on the one hand, and the intra- party and inter-party conflicts, on the other hand, have shattered the democracy agenda.

The over-ambition of the newly restored monarchy and the inept handling of the situation by the new political elite caused the loss of the mission to hold Constituent Assembly elections, the main program of the 1951 Delhi Compromise brokered by the Indian government. . Ironically, the same Prime Minister Rana was imposed because Nepal needed the harmonization of the experiences of the Ranas and the innovations of the new democratic elite. However, such a wishful hope could not materialize with the three forces – the King, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Ranas – trying to cancel each other out. Later, the monarchy unilaterally influenced politics by abandoning the constitutional process in 1960.

Uncharted path

Thus, the monarchy, which had bestowed the constitution on its own, threw Nepal down the uncharted path of political instability, contrary to King Mahendra’s assertion that his rule was “rooted in the soil and suited to the people”. conditions of Nepal”. The parties have been criticized for divisions and conflicts that have blocked development. Nonetheless, the royal coup subsequently proved to be Mahendra’s arch-enemy to parties that challenged his intense desire for power. Like any other authoritarian regime that comes to power with a bang, hunting down and beating the opposition with all its energy and resources, the partyless Panchayat regime soon began the downward trend. The regime could neither establish its popular legitimacy nor provide the ideological foundations necessary for political sustenance. Moreover, the weak performance of the administration, the internal contradictions and the bickering provided enough water for the demands of the opposition for democracy and freedoms.

Ironically, multi-party experiments in the post-Panchayat era fell short of the minimum standards of democratic process, as party functionaries were more lenient to petty interests than to the development of democratic institutions and civil society. political culture. Even the NC, which spearheaded the 1950s and 1990s movements meant to lay the foundations for democracy, lost track when senior party leaders stirred up feuds, sowing the seeds of future political instability. Its first majority government, a product of the 1990 Constitution, fell due to ego issues among its senior leaders, setting the stage for a series of unstable governments led by various party leaders.

All forms of government – ​​majority, minority, coalition of parties regardless of ideology – have been tried, but they have failed to stabilize the constitutional process. Attempting to fish in troubled waters, the ambitious new King Gyanendra has also thrown himself into the fray by exploiting the weaknesses of party leaders and taking regressive measures reminiscent of the 1960 coup. parties, political intolerance and the rise of monarchy, the 10-year-long Maoist insurgency further strengthened the continuity of liberal democracy. Anti-liberal democracy was thus represented by both the king and the Maoists. At the same time, the CPN-UML seemed to skim the cream of multi-party democracy and Leninism. However, the realities on the ground in Nepal did not allow any party to be fully Leninist or Maoist. And as a result, they too have taken a dualist approach to the politics of the country despite the UML leaders’ assertion that they are better Democrats than the “Democratic” NC leaders.

Since Nepalese politics is influenced by many contradictory forces and developments and their links to external concerns, it is difficult to give a prognosis for democratic stability. It is all the more the lack of strong commitments from left-wing parties which often oscillate from one end to the other. Their penchant for democratic centralism and the Xi Jinping Thought they flaunt from time to time do not ensure democratic stability. And the weakened status of the NC since the last general election has made it a dependent ally of certain left-wing groups whose ideological positions and strategic shifts do not make the NC capable of directing the course of democratic development.

Surrounded by hostile forces ranging from Marxist-Leninists to Maoists, small parties formed as alternative forces to traditionalists, including monarchists, the NC must transform itself into a truly people-centered party. The recent party convention has revived hopes for a rejuvenation of the NC, especially with the election of some leaders whose popularity has been tested by casting them in crucial roles. With Sher Bahadur Deuba as the new president, despite the defeat of his candidates, he still holds an overwhelming majority in the party, allowing him to lead it as he did before. However, Deuba cannot ignore the views of two General Secretaries, Gagan Thapa and Biswaprakash Sharma, and Vice President Dhan Raj Gurung, who was elected from outside the Deuba panel. These new leaders, along with a few other members, came with a promise to transform the NC to make its election worthy and programmatically reliable in the eyes of the people.

Restore its image

If democracy is to survive, the NC must restore its image as a democratic party. Much of its policies and activities should be people-oriented and easily achievable. Democracy and democratic parties must be procedural and functional. Procedures involve institutionalization; functionality is linked to dynamism and “performance-legitimacy”. Without performance, no democracy will be stable. Even in the United States, where democracy is seen as stable, debates about threats to democracy have begun. What would happen to American democracy if Donald Trump became President of the United States again? The seven million votes he garnered in the last election were seen as a threat to democracy because those votes can be boosted if the Democratic Party fails to blunt Trump’s advantage to take power. Still, it’s too hasty to draw conclusions about Trump’s possible impact on one of the world’s oldest democracies.

The ideological ambiguity of political parties, the emotional behavior of elites, the lack of institutional culture to lead governments and parties, the rampant corruption that has crept into the body politic, too much externalization of domestic politics and the the growing role of geopolitics are some of the causes. for democratic decadence. Given the existing political reality and the orientations of the major forces and the dilemma of the elites, the chances of stability of democracy are rare. But juxtaposed against this scenario, political parties, whatever their origins and orientations, have united to promote the democratic struggle against authoritarianism; but failed to do democratic exercises for ordinary people, leading to widespread frustration and discouragement. To cure such “diseases” requires “mental medicine”, which is nothing more than a firm commitment to the established process.

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