Nepali Times
Worst system, except for the rest


Every time things are in disarray, there is a hankering for strongman rule. This happens not just in Nepal. Next door, in the world's most populous democracy members of the upper crust often get tired of India's functioning anarchy, the lack of accountability of elected leaders, and blurt out that they could do with a Lee Kwan Yew or a Mahathir.

They forget that they tried authoritarian rule under Indira Gandhi's emergency in 1975-1977 and it failed miserably. For India, an electoral pluralistic democracy with all its kinks is still the worst form of government except for all the others. The same is true for Nepal.

However messy things get during this transition phase we just have to remember that we had a century of Rana rule, three decades of a partyless absolute monarchy and five years of a royal-military dictatorship. The democratic decade after 1990 wasn't much better, but it was better.

Party-based local elections ensured accountability for the first time and had started to deliver development by the mid-1990s. Communities were empowered even with limited political devolution. At the centre feckless politicians were short-sighted and exhibited elastic morals, but they would have been forced to give way to younger, dynamic leaders more responsive to the electorate.

But, as we all know, that was not to happen because the Maoists started their war. To battle extreme left rebels, the Nepali state swung to the extreme right. Both the ultra-left and ultra-right were by definition anti-democratic and needed violence to get to power and stay there. Democracy, with all its faults, is still a system that can cleanse itself over time because its elected representatives are supposed to be answerable to the people who voted them to power.

This is why it was so tragic to see the one party in Nepal that we thought stood for democracy and non-violence stoop so low by calling an unnecessary and self-destructive banda last week. Unlike the Maoists, this was one party that did not have the use of political violence as one of its guiding principles, and could point to a long tradition of not compromising on its core democratic values.

That one decision by the Central Committee cost the party very dearly: it squandered all the social capital it had amassed since 2006. A weak leadership bowed down to pressure from street gangsters on whom it depended for muscle and funding. Earlier, the UML also couldn't get around to sacking the head of its youth wing, Mahesh Basnet, earlier this year because he was such an important money bag. Both the UML and NC nurtured militant youth wings to counter the Maoist YCL. But both ended up becoming mirror images of the Maoists and proceeded to criminalize politics with money and violence.

The Himalmedia nationwide public opinion poll in May (Nepali Times #553) showed the NC to be the party people most trusted to lead this country forward. It pipped the Maoists and both were way ahead of the UML, but one-third of the 4,000 respondents were undecided. That cohort is up for grabs for whichever party can show that it is clean, efficient and can deliver. That group will not vote for the party that can burn more tyres on the streets, or vandalise more shops.

The leaders of the Nepali Congress just showed that the tail is wagging the dog in their party. The goons are calling the shots. The party will have to pay a price for this for a long time to come. But for the sake of democracy and development in this country, we hope the NC has learnt its lesson.

Democracy is a long and winding road, but it will get us there. Any kind of authoritarian system, whether it is headed by a Rajapaksa-style executive president or the military, will take us off the edge. Nepalis haven't lost faith in democracy yet, and Nepal's friends abroad shouldn't either. If it is long-term stability they want, a democratic and inclusive constitution that throws up accountable leaders, is the only way to go.

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Up in smoke

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When defenders of democracy are responsible for the rot, we are doomed

1. Nirmal
It's the gospel truth that as an ex-student leader of the NC's sister organization and an ex-voter, I'm deeply shocked and ridiculed by the current attitudes of  the NC, not only because that the UCPN(Maoists) --a party of vampires who loved fresh blood -- is governing the country, thanks to the joint-course carried out by the NC but also because of my observation which allows me to see how the NC went disconnecting from its founding principle -the defence of the most debils- and the inseparable democratic value -a resounding belief on nonviolence politics and rejection of those who do the contrary-. If BP Koirala were to raise his head, he would say, "Nirmal I'd have thought the same as you have been thinking these days: I feel like vomitting when I see the NC -at its current face-,  by-product of canonical, axiomatic, platitudinous and immutble understanding of politics by the officials of the NC based on the ostracism of those who don't take politics as so." 

2. Soni
Absolutely no difference with your sentiments here but you may be preaching to the converted. The current debate is not about democracy versus what else, but its about what is the current rule really? 

It certainly is not democracy.

You could call it an Oligarchy, that would be about the best description. Its a muddles set-up where Oligarchs reach a deal by negotiating each point, wherever they have any leverage.

The current set-up usurped democracy, not strengthened it. And this point is important. 

It is notable that labels are easily applied to arrive at easy and simplistic conclusions. Since Maoist's are murderers, it is believed that the state must also be pointed at as an aggressor, just to create a balance to retain the membership of the Intellectuals Anonymous.

It is a shame that an everyday person can't endlessly make arguments with the intellectual elites of this country, who through their laziness, dishonesty and corruption decide not to speak the truth. There is nothing that shame would force a shameless elite to do.

3. K. K. Sharma

Beliefs are something one holds as truths. Beliefs can be based on facts or they may not be based on facts. But pray tell us, how long is your so-called " "transition" going to last....5 years,10 years, 50 years, 100 years , 1000 years etc. 

As they say; " in the long run, we are all dead.".

4. Rabi

It is a mistake to equate democracy with having elections only.

Democracy means empowerment of the common citizens of the country, where no citizen has to live in fear of his rights being trampled by anyone, be it  the state, politicians or criminals. Although having elections is a key part of democracy, just having elections is not enough to maintain a democratic society. Iraq,Afganistan,Iran,Pakistan etc all have had elections but have not been able to build a democratic society, and are unlikely do so in the foreseeable future.Pakistan has had elections since its inception in 1947, and still remains perilously close to turning into an anarchic failed state.

In contrast, the East Asian countries like South Korea became democratic states only after their citizens had attained a certain level of economic and social development. Democracy was ushered in  after the rule of law was firmly established, and no political entity had the power to trample on the rights of its citizens .Now many of those countries have very strong and vibrant democracies, and the democratic values have been strongly instilled in the citizenry and the political parties there.

For democracy to be sustained it is very essential that the key players representing at least the major portions of the population believe in democratic values. They have to be ready not only to formulate laws that protects the rights of all the citizens of the country, but  they themselves have to be willing to abide by the laws like the average citizen. For that they have to be willing to strengthen the law enforcement agencies and the legal system to make sure that the state can adequately enforce those democratic laws.

In the absence of a strong state and when there is no enforcement mechanism to enforce the laws, however democratic they may seem, the result is not democracy. Might becomes right and the society is in danger of become more anarchic and barbaric,where no ones right is protected; the big fish eats the little fish-matsya nyaya.

When the highest serving legal authority of the government,the attorney general, wants to annul court judgments against criminals and murderers,who is there  left to protect and enforce the democratic laws for the common citizens ? Is this really the democracy that people aspire and fight for?

5. Vija Srestha
Political parties of Nepal are just a shield for those who are behind all of the bigger projects going on in Asia and Nepal as a country is as big as is power of Mr.Paras,Prachandra over Lumbini project and Mr.Bhattarai with his project with India.Corruption is the word and the answer .Prachandra is the most corrupt leader in Nepali history and Mr.Bhattarai is given the post of PM to divert the attention from all that is going on in big plans of Mr.Paras,Prachandra as a power on which Paras,America,China can depend.

6. kamal kishor
NC was never democratic than other parties during Panchayat nor after its  collapse. It was a party based on democratic principles and welfare policies but lead by dictatorial personalities such as BP, GMS, KP and GPK. All of them were by situation or personalities dictatorial. BP was great among them because he had to lead a party at war with Panchayat and built its organization accordingly. The failure of BP was in not changing the party's organziational structure to democratic principles such as abolishing absolute power of the President and converting it into a truly democratic system (Sher had to lead the fight with GPK and now with SK). Now, organizationally, UML and RPP, is more democratic than NC in the decision making process.

The pathetic situation then and now is same: NC was more centralized than UM; now even Maoists fare better. You can't be a torch bearer of democracy if your institution/organization does not follow it. In the past, NC did not follow it because it did not have and now does not follow it. Before, personalities such as BP personified democracy but now dictated by interest groups and thugs.

7. Birendra Thapa
Screw democracy ! Who gives a crap ! Look at the political leadership, they are nothing but gansters. If you declare a Nepal Bandh, then destroy property and lives of innocent people and the Deuba and Sushil will lay claim that it was a peaceful protest, and then people celebrate. What is more disgusting. Is this the democracy you are talking about.  Look at Putin, he may soon disappear from the Russian political scene because the Russian people are sick and they vomit  when Putin's name is mentioned. When will the Nepali people become sick of ganster Prachanda, or low life Dueba or Madhav Nepal or Jhala Nath. These despicable gang of murderers and looters need to be wiped out like the leaders that were swept away by Arab Spring. Nepalis really need to take a page from the Eygptians or Syrians or Libyans, Tunisians. The current gang of thugs have to go, there is no other option. So forget democracy, lets have justice, lets have jobs, lets have water, lets have electricity, lets have security, lets have peace. If a dictator can provide that, I am ready for that Junga Bahadur once again to rise in Nepal. Ayo Ghorkhali ! The time to stand up for our rights and fight is NOW.   

8. yam gurung

The very fact is our beautiful Nepal is not govern by the will of the puppet leaders of Nepal!

9. Sigmund Stengel
The trick of having a successful democracy is to elect good leaders.  Stay on the path, Nepal, we're rooting for you.  

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)