Seminar Report on Initiative for Democracy
Building Education about Voters and Civic Rights
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
Dhading (26-27 Sep), Syangja (28-29 Sep) and
Tanahu (30 Sep-01Oct) 2007
By Chandra D Bhatta
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) - a German
Political Foundation has organised training-cum- seminar on
'Democracy Building: Education about Voters and Civic Rights'
in Dhading, Syngja and Tanahu districts. The voter's education
programme was supported by the German Foreign Ministry. The
main objective of the programme is to educate Nepali citizens
on civic and voters rights to enable them to participate in
the political process, particularly, on the upcoming Constituent
Assembly election significantly.
In all three districts the programme was attended,
among others, by political leaders of all political parties
(including Maoist), academicians, teachers, NGO personnel, and
members of civil society, student leaders, youths, representative
of trade unions and other stakeholders of society.
In Dhading the programme was attended by 125
participants, in Syngja 100 plus and in Tanahu 140 participants
showed up. In Dhading, Judge of Dhading District Court, Chief
District Officer (CDO), Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP),
Election Officer, District Education Officer and other high
ranking government officials attended the programme. In Syngja
the programme was attended by Chief District Officer, Judge
of the Parbat District Court, DSP, Local Development Officer,
among others, were participants. Likewise, in Tanahu the programme
was attended by the District Judge of Tanahu, Chief District
Officer, Election Officer, DSP and other high ranking government
officials present in the district.
Head of FES in Nepal - Mr. Dev Raj Dahal discussed
about the current state of political affairs in the country.
He recalled on the fact that mismatch between (people's) expectations
and dispensation of political justice is slowly dashing away
high hopes held on April showdown of 2006. The central thrust
of Mr Dev Raj Dahal's presentation was that Nepali state should
endeavour to strike a balance between different factors such
as freedom, rights, duties, demand(s) and as well as challenges
brought about by the new found political changes in the country.
Failing to do so, he argued, will exasperate people's faith
on political leaders and subsequently on (cyclic) political
movements. Our attempt should focus to build civil state rather
than a state based on class and clan, said Mr Dahal.
Equally important is to strike a balance between
written and unwritten constitution of the state. Mr Kashi Raj
Dahal - the constitutional expert has said that unless political
parties come out with clear political agendas on different issues
such as state restructuring, the future model of governance
- the proposed election to CA will not yield much result. He
maintained that none of the political parties so far have clear
scientific agenda on various issues which perhaps will become
major cause of further conflict in the country or that Nepal
might lose much hyped achievement of People's Movement (the
agenda of utopian New Nepal). Similarly Chandra D. Bhatta introduced
hands-out on democracy. The central theme of hands-out was to
promote democracy based on rule of law and introduce civic education
at different layers of society which will help to construct
civic citizenship based on civic nationalism. The overarching
aim of this session first, was to promote democratic political
culture in the country and second to balance existing political
bias in the country. Likewise in Synjga, Ms. Nar Kumari Gurung
presented a paper on women's participation in the political
process in the country. She demanded for the increased women's
participation in the upcoming CA election. She said that contribution
of women in political movement is immense but even after the
successful completion of people's movement their participation
in the decision making process has not been given due recognition.
She fared that even the extant provision will not help to uplift
women's status in the policy making level and hence some sort
of special protection is required to bring them into the national
The level of political consciousness as well
as feeling of nationalism was found high in the peripheral areas.
This can be demonstrated from the fact that, for example, in
Dhading, the District Education Officer (DEO) raised question
about the pervasive level of corruption in the country. Mrs
Durga (DEO) said that if an individual gets involved in corruption
he or she will only spoil the household but if a leader gets
involved in corruption he or she will spoil the entire nation
and the system and the country and its people will have to pay
for it. She further said that Nepali leaders are knowingly engaged
in corrupt activities and this has come down heavily in the
recent years. Participants also wanted to know about state restructuring.
They enquired what would be the best ways to restructure Nepali
state, that is, geographical, religious, nationalities or any
other options. Questions were also raised on the fact that Nepali
state has been dependent, for ages, even for intellectual know-how,
economic well-being and alike. And Nepali state should create
a situation wherein we can get rid of this situation.
Questions were also raised in Synjga on the
inclusion of People's Liberation Army into Nepal Army. However,
it is argued that since the cadres of PLA were the product of
society (who carry certain political ideologies) not the product
of security forces as such. Hence they (PLA) have to be integrated
or assimilated into society rather than NA. It is because PLA
carries certain type of political ideology which cannot fit
into NA which is politically neutral and upholds, theoretically,
nationalistic view (ideology).
Participant(s) in Synjga have also raised
points about the lack of intergenerational justice in Nepali
politics. Questions were also raised on contradictions within
the political parties on various issues such as state restructuring,
CA elections, nature of the governance, fate of monarchy. Contradictions
within the political parties on these issues are pushing Nepal
state onto the verge of collapse. Questions were also raised
on 'nationalism'. Participant(s) argued that every effort should
be made to protect our nationalism. Our leaders travel to Delhi
for even minor things - this might endanger Nepali nationalism.
There have been no changes in the character of political parties.
Eight political parties by contrast are working like the government
of SHREE EIGHT.
Questions were also raised on the declaration
of Republic through parliament. What will happen to our voting
right if parliament declares Nepal as a republic without even
going to the public? This will, for sure, usurped up our sovereign
right and is in no way democratic.
Participants also expressed great deal of concern that Nepali
leaders are not working in line with citizens expectations.
The contradiction between public expectation and expectation
of leaders is pushing this country further into political chaos.
There was also query on the fact that what type of movement
will bring about change in the social structure of the country,
which has not taken place so far. The main function of politics
is to create opportunity and address societal problems but this
has not taken place in Nepal. That said successive political
movements down the road haven't been able to work in this direction
despite the fact that political movements (for their success)
have always capitalized on social owes. This dichotomy needs
to be resolved.
Another dilemma with Nepali politics is that
our political consciousness is centered on political parties
but lacks political consciousness in a real sense of the term
as a result politics has failed to fulfill its traditional political
religion. To keep an interest on politics is the duty of citizens
but too much of politisization of society on partisan line can
be vary dangerous. Questions were also raised on clientalist
political practices by the political parties including Maoists.
Up till now Maoist is a party whose demands have been getting
fulfilled one after another but this party, too, is not serious
about democracy in the country.
A very important question was raised on Synjga
on the current position of youth in the country. It was argued
that youths are alienating from the state and system day-by-day,
they are either migrating to abroad in search of job or disillusioned
with the politics. If the situation continues - perhaps, the
future will have to depend either on retires or on women for
the politics. Hence this is high to time to integrate youth
into national politics and polices but this has not taken place
Likewise, participants were also curious to
know on various forms of transformation that are taking place
in Nepali politics such as rationality behind the rise of leftist
political forces, farewell of rightist political forces from
the scene (this questions were also raised in previous seminars).
In all three places participants expressed great deal of concern
on the current state of anarchy in the country which EPA government
has failed to address in one way or the other. That participants
were curious to know about the political anarchy which came
into being following the inability of Nepali state to strike
a balance between demands posed by the various non-state actors
and anarchy in the governance which came into light due to inability
of state to make decisions in the various filed such as appointment
of ambassadors, appointment of secretaries in the ministries,
appointment of the university officials and other issues. The
crux of the problem lies with the fact that political parties
are dividing positions among themselves on partisan lines. This
is the vertical division of bureaucrats, technocrats following
the division of mass society.
Likewise, participants as usual in other places,
wanted to know about the various political terminologies that
have been thrown-out in the market by the professional politicians
and political pundits. The major concern was on inclusive democracy
versus participatory democracy, prajatantra versus loktantra,
state restructuring, federalism, modalities of the CA election
and its aftermath. One of the participants in Tanahu enquired
whether we will get international legitimacy or not if we restructure
Nepali state in ethnic lines. In the same vein, one of the participants,
agreed that political organizations cannot be restructured,
they can, by contrast, be democratized but he enquired how can
we democratize geographical structure of the nation. One of
the participant enquired can the Madhesi Forum be registered
as political organizations.
What can be drawn from the proceeding of the
seminars is that FES seems to have fulfilled its objective of
advocating civic education and democracy which are very much
needed in Nepali society. The programme was well received and
succeeded to fulfill its goals in all three districts. The debate
in all places generated very valid questions which need immediate
collective attention. A critical mass is forming in every domain
and this mass wants to have equal share in every aspect of governance.
The worry expressed at the rural areas on the national politics
and their de-serious faith on democracy is noteworthy. Equally,
important is their ability to differentiate chaff from the wheat
(between bad leaders, bad policies, good leaders and good polices).
The biggest challenge in Nepali politics is that Nepali political
parties have become leader oriented rather than citizen oriented.
This bias has to be changed.