Report of Inner- Party Democracy as a Means
of Conflict Resolution
Organised by Nepal Study Center (NSC)
27-28 July, Nagarkot
Day I: 11 Shrawan(27 July 2011)
The two-day seminar on "Inner-Party Democracy
as a Means of Conflict Resolution" was held in Nagarkot
on 27th and 28th of July 2011, the participants of which chiefly
consisted of youth leaders from various political parties such
as Nepali Congress, CPN UML, UCPN (Maoist) and ideologues. The
seminar began with a brief inaugural session in which the participants
were welcomed on behalf of the organizer Center for Nepal Studies
(CNS) and the supporter FES, and the participants introduced
In the same session, Head of FES, Nepal Mr.
Devraj Dahal delivered keynote speech which can be summed as
follows: On question of inner party democratization, cosmetics
reforms such as multi-post system will not bring substantial
difference; therefore, what is necessary is to acquire democratic
habits and culture. Nepalese political practices can be broadly
put into the following categories: i) life politics which is
the concern of poor and marginalized; ii) issue politics in
which critical masses are engaged with certain social and national
issues; iii) identity politics in which ethnic groups are engaged
in distributional struggle for the negotiation of a new social
contract, power, resources and recognition of their mini identities;
iv) power politics engaged in by professional politicians; v)
politics of attack by armed groups and militant wings of various
parties; vi) politics of negation for power monopoly by dominant
groups ; vii) politics of agitation launched by subsidiary identities
for redistribution of power and resources; and viii) democratic
Intra and inter-party conflict resolution
in Nepal requires cooperation in three areas: ideological adjustment;
interest-based compromise; and transformation of mini identity
into meta-identity of citizenship. The enhancement of capacity
of party for conflict resolution should entails institutionalization
of conflict resolution wing; restoration of sense of social,
gender and inter-generational justice; interaction with genuine
civil society; regular civic education of party members; and
broadening the social base of party democracy.
In this two-day seminar, two papers were presented,
commented and intensively discussed by leaders of various parties.
Paper I: Inner-Party Democracy in the Forthcoming
This session was chaired by Ramesh Lekhak
of Nepali Congress, and Lawyer Tikaram Bhattarai presented paper
on which Minister for Environment Sunil Manandhar, CPN-UML leader
Raghuji Panta, UCPN (Maoist) leader Ram Karki, NC leader Sovakar
Parajuli, UCPN (Maoist) leader Hemanta Prakash Oli commented
and participants from the floor aired their critical thoughts.
Paper Presented by Tikaram Bhattarai:
There are some elements and provisions of inner-party democracy
which are essential and crucial for a truly democratic party.
These include democratic method of election of leaders, responsibility
of elected to the electors, transparent system of recruitment,
participation of party members in ideology formulation, transparency
of decision making process, disciplining the party leaders and
members, recall of elected leaders or representatives etc. The
same principle of constitutionalism which incorporates decentralization,
limited government, due process of law, rule of law etc. applies
to political parties as much as it applies to conduction and
management of state affairs. Therefore, party sovereignty must
rest on members as it rests on citizens in state case; party's
power must be decentralized and separated as it is the case
in democratic state; fundamental rights of members must be inviolable
as they are guaranteed in democratic state and society. Both
the state constitution and party constitution should shield
against majoritarianist excess and protect minority.
COMMENTS: Minister Sunil Manandhar:
Undoubtedly, democratization of political parties is imperative.
But, in some sense, recommendation for democratization seems
exported idea. However, it must be accepted that we have a strong
culture of dialogue and deliberation which have been instrumental
to solving many disputes and problems including the contemporary
ones. Mutual perspective taking can moderate the stance and
create common ground for conflict resolution. Informed dialogue
is a must. Commentator Raghuji Panta: I do agree with
the presenter's spirit. I, however, think that the provisions
in party constitution alone do not guarantee democracy. The
factions within a party must be legalized and capture the spirit
of constitution. What is important in Nepal is constitutional
behavior of leaders, cadres and voters. This requires training
on civic culture of tolerance, balance and cooperation within
and across party lines. Commentator Ram Karki: The presenter's
idea lacks of ideology, on the one hand, and says ideological
conflict as a problem, on the other. This seems contradictory.
The paper seems confused on the idea of class representation
in politics. Democracy is not a give-and-take affair but a fight
for political space. Inner-party democracy is neither new issue
nor a new phenomenon; it was intensively practiced in the Bolshevik
Party. Transparency in decision-making is crucial. What matters
most is the critical consciousness of citizens and civic competence
to participate in public affairs. Sovakar Parajuli: The
communist parties claim to be democratic in theory but are far
from this principle in practice. Pluralism is important in modern
democracy. Transparency must be practiced by all democratic
political parties; everything except some few sensitive subjects
must be completely transparent. Otherwise, citizens cannot have
access on decisions affecting them. Hemanta Prakash Oli:
It is not just the inner-party democracy but also the inner-party
centralism that must be given importance; democracy alone creates
anarchy, centralism synthesizes ideas and action. Decentralization
is impossible without democracy. We do have a good tradition
and practice of debate but lack well-crafted synthesis.
FLOOR: Shree Prasad Shah: Process is
important in democracy because it is process that engages the
people in every democratic cycle. The bad side of people's consciousness
is that it may be a threat to democracy such as in Nepal. Keshav
Devkota: This paper is heavily influenced by author's ideological
conviction. Democracy and centralism should go hand in hand.
Muma Ram Khanal (left leader): Transparency is the most
crucial aspect. Gopal Thakur (CA Member): Content and
process are equally important; we can not imagine democracy
without democrats. Inner-party democracy has weakened as political
parties have ignored identity politics. Identity is more important
than ideology. Inclusion must be guaranteed in constitution
of parties. Om Prasad Aryal: Revolution establishes certain
value. We have achieved not only the value of liberal democracy
but also of social democracy. Rabindra Adhikari: Process
is basic to democracy. Within a political party, the winners
have rights and losers have duties. Parties are suffer from
ideological vacuum. Rajendra Maharjan: What matters most
is formulation of ideology. Bishwa Prakash Sharma (youth
Leader): Content and process are equally important. Party
members become biased because of their affiliation to faction.
Nanda Lal Banjade: Process and content are equally important.
Process ensures ownership and content provides quality. Political
parties should remove provision of age limit for membership
and promotion. Transparency is a must. The permanent factions
are detrimental to party. However, informal groups are necessary
from management point of view. Ethnic reservation is wrong.
Sabitra Bhushal: Women's participation should be guaranteed.
Ganesh Man Pun: We need to look forward to fusion of
science and culture. Ideological freedom must be guaranteed.
Chhitiz Bhandari: The constitutions of political parties
are democratic, but practices are autocratic. Nepotism and favoritism
are threat to inner-party democracy. If parties are strong,
democracy is strengthened. Jagannath Khatiwoda: We have
been emphasizing the good side of inner-party democracy, but
have failed to discuss its challenges and limitations. We suffer
from feudalization of leadership. Thakur Gaire: The problem
lies in inconsistency between principle and practice. Baijanath
Chaudhari: We must ensure participation and ownership of
all ethnic groups. Kamala Parajuli: It seems that 'form'
has received more importance than 'content.' Gopal Siwakoti
Chintan: What kind of democracy we are looking for? There
is no single thing such as constitutionalism. There is no single
democratic practice; democracy is varied. Transparency, election
and decision making process are pillars of democracy.
RESPONSES: Devraj Dahal: We
must strive for citizen identity rather than for ethnic or any
other segregated one. Humanity is the highest identity. Raghuji
Panta: Everything depends on capability of leadership. Sovakar
Parajuli: Truth is relative. Tika Ram Bhattarai:
Constitutionalism has concrete definition and elements. We should
not label everything bourgeoisie.
SUM-UP by Chair Ramesh Lekhak: Process
and content are equally important. The fundamental principles
of democratic centralism are uniformity in action, subordination
of lower to higher committee, which are important in themselves.
The democratic process must ensure broader participation. The
method of representation is crucial. Diversity and plurality
must be guaranteed and protected. Inner-party democracy must
be included in constitution. The democratic method facilitates
cooperation among parties as well.
Day II: 12th Shrawan (28th of July)
Session Chaired by: Muma Ram Khanal
Paper Presented by Bijaya Poudyal: Normally, three types
of organizational method are at work: command-based, presidential
and parliamentarian. In democratic centralism, sovereignty of
party rests on party members; lower committees are subordinate
to higher committees, individual to committee and minority to
majority; party members should be organized; democracy must
be practiced while deciding and centralism while acting. Democratic
centralism is widely criticized for being 'bureaucratic', for
suppressing individual freedom and initiative, and for creating
instability within the party as committee elect its chief or
leader. No entity without center can be conceived.
COMMENTS: Ram Karki: This paper
has an academic, not an activist approach. Organizational line
is as important as political and ideological line. Party convention
is life of party, therefore, must be done on regular basis.
Negation or undermining of democracy gives rise to and consolidates
bureaucracy in the party. Bishwa Prakash Sharma: All
members are equal. The organization which endorses and practices
'instruction' or 'direction' paves way for dictatorship. Yogesh
Bhattarai: Equality of all members in theory and practice
must be guaranteed. Even non-communists, in practice, follow
democratic centralism. The misuse of democratic centralism leads
to bureaucratization. The Leninist principle of democratic centralism
emphasizes 'subordination' which is absolutely irrelevant to
democratic society. The elected should be responsible to the
electors, which, in fact, is the central aspect of democracy.
All party members should be involved in productive process.
FLOOR: Rabindra Adhikari: If party
has 'democratic' in its name, it is claimed to be democratic
however it functions. Majority has always democracy in party.
Whether a party is democratic or not depends on how minority
is behaved with. Sidelining of minority is the greatest weakness
of democratic centralism. Pradeep Paudel: If the lower
committee is free to elect its leader or representative, such
practice is democracy rather than democratic centralism. Communist
emphasizes supremacy of individual. Bhim Neupane: Problems
are identified but no concrete proposal is laid down. Thakur
Gaire: How can parties believing in peaceful transformation
and armed struggle follow the same principle-democratic centralism?
Tika Ram Bhattarai: The principle of subordination leads
to bureaucracy. Rajendra Maharjan: Leninist principle
is bureaucratic in itself. Ram Kumari Jhakri: Political
culture is important. We need small committee in order to make
discussion lively. 'Identity politics' provides opportunity
to a few not to everyone. Rajendra Maharjan: The idea
of nomination and responsibility of the elected to the electors
are contradictory. RESPONSES: Ram Karki: Crisis of ideology
constitutes the principal problem. Bijaya Paudyal: The
method of organization is common to both kind of party-believing
in peaceful transformation and believing in armed struggle.
SUM-UP by Chair Muma Ram Khanal: Party is a synthesis
of ideology and organization. End should determine means. Means
should be appropriate. We need to unravel and categorize the
contradictions with a party.