15 years of Loktantra: What we achieved, where we failed

Nishan Khatiwada

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The promises of prosperity, governance, and development remain largely unfulfilled. Pessimism eclipses few positive changes that occurred over the years. 

Kathmandu: Fifteen years ago, April was a month of struggle and victory. The royal government of the day imposed a curfew for 19 days to suppress the people’s movement. But this did not stop people from all walks of life from coming out of home and hit the streets protesting against the direct rule of the then King Gyanendra, braving batons and bullets. The movement forced King Gyanendra to relinquish power and Parliament was reinstated on April 24, 2006 with Girija Prasad Koirala as the new prime minister. 

April 24 is marked as the Loktantra Diwas since 2006. The day paved the way for the abolition of monarchy and laid the groundwork for the federal democratic republic in the country. A lot has happened in the country’s politics since that eventful day. 

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the then PM Girija Prasad Koirala and the then Maoist chairman Prachanda on November 21, 2006 ended the decade-long civil war in Nepal, paving the way to Constituent Assembly elections in April, 2008. The first Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic on May 28, 2008, abolishing 240 years old monarchy. Though the first CA failed to promulgate the constitution, the elections for the second CA were held in November, 2013. The government led by the then Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala headed the constitution-making process and the country got the federal democratic republican constitution on September 20, 2015. The constitution laid the foundation of federalism creating seven provinces and 753 local levels.

The country suffered from devastating earthquakes and an economic blockade in 2015. Despite the challenges and uncertainties, elections in three levels—local, provincial, and federal—were held in 2017. The country today has 753 local bodies and seven provincial governments and a federal government.

At the federal level a strong government with nearly two-thirds majority was formed under the leadership of KP Sharma Oli. However, after the dissolution of Parliament by PM Oli (reinstated by the Supreme Court on February 23), and the subsequent political infighting, Nepal is likely to face a serious political turmoil.  

Where we failed

Analysts argue that political parties utterly failed in ensuring stability in the last one-and-a-half decades. People’s Movement of 2006 and revival of Loktantra should have brought positive socio-economic changes in the country, but these changes were only limited to political parties’ promises, said Hari Roka, a political analyst. According to him, Nepalis had hoped for democratic rule in the country, but the political parties and leaders failed on this front. 

“Even the Maoists, the political force that emerged after the first CA elections, failed to deliver and fulfill the people’s expectations of participatory and inclusive approach for the socio-economic change in the country,” said Roka.

 “Politics after Loktantra revolved largely around the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, but these two parties could not address various forms of conflicts inherent in society,” he added. According to him, no parties worked effectively for bringing about socio-economic changes.

Geja Sharma Wagle, another political analyst, argues that the government is not moving ahead in the democratic spirit since the rise of KP Sharma Oli after the promulgation of the constitution. The federal system is not functioning in line with the spirit of the constitution, according to him. “All undemocratic moves of the government are root cause of the failure of democracy, and that’s where we as people also failed,” he said.  Wagle is of the view that after 2006 changes, governments, political parties and leaders failed to fulfill people’s expectations.

“Let alone the government, even the head of the state President Bidhya Devi Bhandari started behaving like former kings that added to the people’s frustrations and ultimately people started to feel that Loktantra also does not bring positive changes in their lives,” he said.

Such pessimism is not good for the future of our Loktantra. “The parties could not institutionalize the Loktantric (Democratic) system envisioned by the constitution even though it is hailed as one of world’s most democratic constitutions,” he added.