What will become of Nepal’s multiparty democracy and federalism?

Experts warn that the entire multiparty polity and federalism may suffer collateral damage if political actors do not heed to the warning signs on the wall.

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Experts and intellectuals have called for accountability in actions from the political actors as well as a thoughtful review of the 2015 constitution if the country is to be able to sustain multiparty democratic polity and federalism. In an interaction program organized by Tanka Prasad Memorial Trust in Lalitpur on Monday to commemorate the first mass rally after the restoration of democracy on Chaitra 27, 2046 BS (April 9, 1990), the speakers also warned of the consequences if the political actors fail to heed to the warning signs and act to address them.

They commented that none of vital state organs such as the executive, legislative and judiciary are properly functioning, adding that this could result in an explosion of mass frustration against the current system. “The mass frustration and rage of the people could explode at any moment, from the ground or from above,” said Nilambar Acharya, former Nepali ambassador to India. “Nepal is in such a critical juncture and a difficult time at the moment.” Acharya opined that to ensure sustainability of parliament, there should be a provision whereby unless there is a possibility of the formation of an alternative government, the sitting prime minister cannot dissolve the parliament. He also expressed his frustration over some of the controversial decisions taken by the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government. “How can the government declare a mass of people as martyrs? On what basis?” Acharya asked while adding that the government’s decision to celebrate Falgun 1 as ‘people’s war day’ was a mistake. “How can the government declare a certain day as people’s war day, the proposal which was rejected by two Constituent Assemblies respectively?”

Speaking in the program, Daman Nath Dhungana, who served as the speaker of the House of Representatives in 1990, said that nearly all public institutions have suffered erosion. “Our institutional erosion is an all-time high at the moment. Not a single institution is in a functional state,” he said. Even worse, according to him, there is no commitment in political parties to realize the agendas of change and there is no representation in the spirit of inclusion.

While commenting on the current constitution, Dhungana said that it is a document meant to instigate conflict rather than helping to end it. “The constitution has not helped resolve the conflict, rather it has helped to intensify it,” he said. “This constitution is the product of the tussle between the Maoist and other parties.  The former wanted to include their agendas in it, the latter tried to resist it.” Dhungana called for a new national consensus to ward off the impending threat to federal multiparty democracy.

Will democracy sustain?

Kalyan Shrestha, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, said if the current state of anomalies, bad governance and lack of rule of law continue to persist, democracy will not endure in Nepal.

“We have practiced democracy but democracy has not generated any dividends for the people,” said Shrestha. “So we cannot say that democracy will endure.” Shrestha spoke about how the political parties and their leaders have exploited every good provision of the constitution for their own benefits while depriving people from their fundamental rights. “There has been a conspiracy against the sacred principle of inclusion. Parties have elected their near and dear ones while leaving the genuine people behind,” he said.  “The provisions of the constitution that actually benefit the political parties and their leaders are active and those provisions that actually benefit the people on the ground remain inactive and unimplemented.”

It feels like the politics has won, the political parties have won but the people have lost everything, he commented.

The former chief justice also commented that Nepal’s federalization process is flawed and therefore it won’t succeed.

He said that time has come to objectively review the 2015 constitution. According to him, the constitution of 1990 was much better than the current constitution in many respects. “Current constitution has borrowed many elements from the 1990’s statute,” he said.

“We need to make this constitution transformable, we need to review it to assess what worked and what did not.  We need to review the constitution objectively.”

Dr Mahesh Maskey, former ambassador of Nepal to China, said that democracy might not sustain in Nepal if political actors fail to control corruption and ensure social justice. “If we do not curb corruption, do not ensure social justice and do not move towards economic prosperity, democracy will not sustain,” he said.

Surya Raj Acharya, expert in public policy and infrastructure, said that the root cause of the problem is the constitution. “We made the constitution that cannot be implemented. That is the root cause of the problem. Several of the provisions of our constitution are illogical, inconsistent and irrelevant.”

All experts, however, agreed that the alternative to the current chaotic political situation is more enhanced democracy and more accountable politics.

“If democracy does not endure in Nepal, nothing else will,” said Nilambar Acharya. Recalling how all of the anti-democratic systems in Nepal—from Rana rule, to partyless Panchayat to direct rule of the king to the so-called movement for people’s republic—ultimately failed or accepted democracy at the end, Acharya said what sustains in Nepal is only democracy. “What sustains here in Nepal is only democracy,” he said.

“If democracy does not remain, there shall be no humanity, human rights, tolerance and love.”