Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Absolute democracy

We often hear this argument: if Girija Prasad Koirala or Madhab Kumar Nepal can do what they like, why can't the king do the same? In a democracy, leaders tend to be dictators and dismiss the people's strength. That is why people cannot differentiate between a democracy and an autocratic monarchy. The fact remains that leaders come and go, the new generation moves on. Political party leaders often forget this. The first thing our leaders did after they came into power was become allies of the old power centres. The aim of such a relationship was to retain each other. And while doing that, the leaders suppressed progressive voices and the zeal of their younger cadres. In short, leaders behaved like royals. This is why there are now questions about the future of the political leadership. One wonders what will happen to the younger turks. Who will manage them and how? The fact that these questions are being raised indicate that they are expressions of a new generation and the answer is not an autocratic monarchy. There is no country that is completely satisfied with its democracy. In South Asia, we know how it works but even in the US there has been serious critique of democratic practices. The latest US presidential elections showed many pitfalls especially of political patronage in the electoral process. Despite all this, no one says America needs dictatorship. The American people have weaknesses but no one says it was a mistake to make them sovereign. This is also true for South Asia. In his write-up on the fall of the ancient Roman empire, historian Edward Gibbon raised an interesting issue: among the different kinds of regimes in the world, the one that deserves to be demeaned the most is monarchy. He asked, "Could there be anyone in this world who would, without reacting, take the fact that an infant son would inherit the entire property of a nation just because he is the king's son? More so, when they see that top leaders and even generals bow their heads to the cradle where the new king sleeps, an example how these powerful people prove their loyalty to the royal generations."

Gibbon is not against monarchy. He said that some monarchies survived in Europe because the monarchs in these places softened their positions. But in the last 200 years even the monarchies that became moderate have vanished. In Nepal, we haven't experienced the reign of a softened king since 1950. We can't draw comparisons about one king being better than the other. That is why we need democracy. It is not that we do not know we made mistakes with multi-party democracy. It is just that we have to learn from our mistakes. The leaders should stop treating the people like their personal property as the kings do. They should not think of their parties as ancestral property, they need to hand over the baton to real representatives of the people who show commitment to the people's welfare. Only a democracy that is not subservient to the monarchy can defeat the Maoists.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)