Federal and provincial elections: Test for the independent candidates  

Several challenges will confront the independent candidates if they will win in the upcoming federal and provincial elections. Yet also they will have the greatest opportunity to re-shape the political space in Nepal.

The November 20 polls require the electorate to vote on four ballot papers–two separate for the House of Representatives (HoR) and two separate for the Provincial Assembly (PA). File photo

Simone Galimberti

  • Read Time 4 min.

As Nepal is in festive season while the preparations for the upcoming general elections are underway, it is time for some reflections about the future of politics in the country.

A new movement of independent candidates is being shaped up, a phenomenon that builds on the recent results of the local elections where, for the first time, several independents got voted in power. The fact that independents are running and also getting organized and structured is definitely a positive development for Nepal.

It is not only the fresh air and the fresh mindsets that these candidates are bringing in the arena. Many of them do represent successful stories and they can offer a new approach and with it, new ideas to defy the status quo afflicting national politics.

They are also going to challenge the traditional parties to renovate and reform though we will have to wait and see the end of the elections to understand how much “damage” the independents will have created.

Moreover, it is going to be interesting in terms of how campaigning will be carried out.

Let’s expect it will be totally re-tooled, with many of these candidates trying to bring in the latest techniques to modernize the way campaigning is carried out.

For sure, the more votes they will get, the more pressure will fall on the leaders of major national parties to turn the page and perhaps, even, take the first steps towards retirement.

All in all, we are, perhaps, at a key juncture of national politics and, albeit cautiously, we might forecast the end of the old politics and the start of a new phase that, potentially, could be a real game-changer for the nation.

For all these reasons, the citizens of this country should be moderately optimistic about their future though the transition towards a new type of politics might be slow and frustrating because it is probable that the old guard will put up a lot of resistance before taking the exit door.

So, it’s going to be a long process but there is no doubt that the foundation stones of a new era are being set.

Yet it is essential to find ways to sustain the willingness of many private citizens to gamble their careers in order to join politics.

Certainly their inventiveness and creativity and the fact that they are collaborating and helping each other is very important but I am thinking about the long term scenario.

The independents could formulate a series of bold proposals based on ways to harness people’s interest to get involved in the public debate.

For sure the structure of the movement supporting it will stay in place but it will need a lot of support from other members of the civil society to remain relevant.

What does it mean remaining “relevant”? On the one hand, it will depend on being able to offer ideas and new perspectives, bringing in policy innovations. The nation needs a new form of governance based on competence, effectiveness but also a new way of thinking democracy. It is imperative to create not just an interest in the public good but also new ways for people to engage and participate.

The independents could formulate a series of bold proposals based on ways to harness people’s interest to get involved in the public debate.

On the other hand, the challenge for them, linked to the former, will be to continue to remain attractive to young people and turn hope, curiosity and interest into a real passion that will sustain the movement in the long run. In a way, being relevant means not just getting endorsements from the new generation through the ballot box but also to ensure new faces will come forward in a way that a pipeline of young “cadets” interested to join the political arena will be enabled.

Investing in capacity building, focusing on novel ways of policy making and policy formulation and deliberation that can be interesting for the youths is going to be fundamental. Imagine what a new “independent” think tank or permanent “independent” policy lab could generate in terms of ideas that meet the challenges of the day.

Actually, investing in policy formulation should not just be a priority of the independents’ movement but a priority for the whole society, from traditional political parties to schools and universities. The nation should feel an urgency to develop a new generation of policy makers.

An imaginative but compelling way to promote an interest in the public good could be the concept of “Duty to Participate”, an idea that implies that every single citizen has the rights but also responsibilities to take a stand and be active.

If the independents are able not just to conquer seats in the legislatures but also manage to come up with an ingenious package of ideas capable of truly generating civic participation, then the country will really emerge stronger and equipped for ensuring a prosperous and thriving future. That will definitely be a real breakthrough in the politics of the country. It will be the start of a new era.

However, there are many open questions lying ahead for the independents.

One challenge for the independents is that they might end up coalescing into an organization that could resemble a traditional party. In that case, would they be able to maintain a “middle ground” and forge a non-ideological politics based on a common manifesto that upholds bipartisan, no-nonsense positions?

Being able to attract enough votes and win seats in the upcoming legislature might be, paradoxically, even the easiest part for the independents given the vast detachment and disillusion existing among the general population towards the traditional parties.

They will have to reframe the political debate and come forward with new propositions that will be able to turn around the country, by involving its people. It will be more daunting but, ultimately, it is what the nation needs.

Simone Galimberti writes about youths, politics, social issues and international relations. Views are personal.