Political parties' role in deepening democracy
One day seminar jointly
organised by Martyrs' Memorial Foundation (MMF) & Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
(FES) Nepal Office.
12 April 2015 (Jitpur,
Prepared by MMF
Martyrs' Memorial Foundation (MMF) organized
a seminar on "Political Parties' role in Deepening Democracy
in Nepal" in Jitpur, Kapilvastu on April 12, 2015 with the
support of FES. 200 plus politicians, civil society leaders, experts,
trade unionist, local people participated in the seminar. Bikash
Dahal program officer of MMF has coordinated the seminar.
Democracy is the lifestyle
of people. Without democracy we could not achieve result. Nepal
stands at the crossroads of bigger political changes at present.
It is struggling to write constitution through the Constituent
Assembly (CA), an overdue task of the politics since the past
65 years. Once the nation gets the statute from the CA, it will
pass another milestone in deepening and consolidating democracy.
Although, Nepal has come a long way since the restoration of
democracy several decades ago, we are still facing many hindrances
like coups, conflicts and inter-party confrontations from time
Political parties are
the vehicle of socio-economic transformations. The ideas of
freedom, equality and fraternity gained wider currency with
the evolution of parties in modern society. These concepts are
the integral components of democracy. The parties bridge between
the government and state. They renew their democratic credentials
through periodic elections so as provide greater legitimacy
to their acts, behaviours, rule and system. Democracy is constantly
refined by the parties' rational yet relentless democratic exercises,
people's active participation in them and the development of
Political parties, civil
society, media and other professional and constitutional bodies
need to rise to the occasion to overcome the challenges of democracy
during the transition. They require honouring and promoting
the basic democratic values, norms and principles. To respect
popular mandate, rule of law, create and strengthen democratic
institutions and promote civic culture is necessary to enhance
and rekindle the democratic spirit.
The chief guest of the
program Mr. Taranath Ranabhat, former Speaker, House
of Representatives, began by telling that the political parties
and people have failed to give due attention to the consolidation
of democracy right after the 1990 political change. Democratic
values and norms are on constant decline. Owing to the blowing
up of the ethnic agenda out of all proportion, the national
unity is in tatters. Let's first unite the nation. All should
press the leaders to tread a national path. The people's mandate
is being insulted as the CA, an elected body, is held hostage
Mr. Dhundi Raj Shastri,
Chairperson and socialist thinker said that socialism is the
dream of martyrs and it can be materialized only through a uniformed
ideological movement in the country. Development works should
start from the villages so that lower section of the society
will benefit from democracy that is being captured by a handful
capitalists and bourgeoisie. Richer are getting richer and the
poor poorer. Socialism ensures economic balance, political rights
and promotes social values. The citizens should have easy access
to the health and education facilities provided by the government.
Mr. Chandra D Bhatta,
Representative of FES, Nepal Office said that deepening democracy
in society requires constant political education about enlightenment
so that citizens know the ways to freedom, social justice, solidarity
and peace and remove agencies of socialization that subordinates
them. Deepening democracy entails the power separation not only
between the state, market and civil society and legislative,
executive and judicial powers but also across the social, economic
and political powers. Deepening democracy requires continuous
circulation of youths in political power through election. Deepening
democracy demands not only the winner-takes-all game but also
a respect to opposition, inclusion of minorities and unrepresented
and political drop-out groups. It adheres to the ethos of compromise
of legitimate interests and peacefully resolves interests, ideology
and identity-based conflicts to the optimal satisfaction of
Mr. Khila Nath Dahal,
General Secretary, MMF said that the martyrs had laid down their
lives for freedom, justice and equality. It is high time the
people pressed the political parties for focusing on the economic
agenda in the new constitution. Over 3.5 million Nepalese youth
are abroad and slaving away for the livelihood. He said that
general people could not get expensive health facility easily.
Poor people could not pay school fee for their child. He said
that social justice and social security is essential to develop
the country. He speech focused on decent work and said that
Education, Health, Food security, Housing and Employment are
the fundamental right of the people.
In inaugural session
Mr. Dolak Ram Ghimire welcomed all, Ms. Guna Laxmi
Gyawali, Mr. Narayan Prasad Banganga, Mr. Shankar
Chaudhary, Mr. Bishnu Raj Acharya and Ms Sabina
Poudel focused their views on democracy and social justice.
Ms. Bimala Gaire was the master of ceremony for the program.
The paper writer for
the first session was Mr. Tara Nath Ranabhat who presented on
'Democracy in crisis: A roadmap to its consolidation' in the
first session. Mr. Ranabhat's paper is summarized below.
Since democracy is a
system that represents people's respect, dignity, freedom and
sovereignty, it is itself an end. There is no another effective
political system better than democracy to transform the people's
individual and collective capability, courage and huge force
emanating from their wise consciousness into the capital of
collective progress and prosperity, peace and unity. This is
a reason why every Nepali strongly yearns for democracy for
Nepal was unified seven
years before the US was declared independence in 1776 and 10
years before the French Revolution happened. Napoleon introduced
the uniformed civil code for Europe in 1804 but Jayasthiti Malla
and Ram Shah had issued similar legal code 400 and 300 years
ago respectively. The tradition of appointing the individuals,
liked by the people, as the key government officers by soliciting
people's opinions visiting door to door was already in practice
some 240 years ago. The early years of Lichchhavi, Malla and
Shah Rules offered the pictures of prosperity that Nepal earned
due to its effective rule of law. It has everything.
Despite all this cherished
history of independence and democracy, our democracy rings hollow.
We are rich in history, culture, nature, resources, topography
and climate but the country has been unable to lay the basic
foundation of rule of law more than 65 years after it adopted
the modern governance system. When the nation does not run as
per constitution and law, the talks of democracy, civil rights
and good governance merely turn into a futile imagination. The
system in which an individual is above the law is dictatorial
one. The system in which no one remains above law is democratic.
Sadly, at the moment, the laws are serving those who exercise
power or are in power. This condition amply denotes we have
no democracy or loktantra or republic at all. The political
parties are not working to rekindle people's faith and confidence.
They seek devotion and loyalty from the people but are failing
to prove their commitment and loyalty to the people.
Until democracy becomes
the part of humanity's faith and culture, its success cannot
be guaranteed. For this, the state, government and the political
parties have to develop a regular and scientific system to solicit
the opinions of people on their decisions and reform and rectify
them accordingly. Good exercises of democracy can be embraced
from anywhere but we should develop democracy according to our
own context and culture. Success and failure of democracy largely
hinges on the vision, image, leadership ability, character and
conduct of the leaders.
Comments from the
Understanding of socio-economic
and political system suitable of our country is necessary. We
should also examine our responsibility for moral lapses in leaders.
The country is visibly under threat from the move of slashing
it into many ethnic states. With this there is the need for
framing the policy in which the aspirations of all can be adjusted
and accommodated. This sort of seminars and discussion should
be held in the presence of politicians of all hues and stripes.
Senior journalist Yuvaraj Gautam paper
entitled 'the question of the responsibility of parties in democracy,'
highlights the role of political parties to strengthen nationalism,
democracy and culture. The paper dwells on the world history
with special focus on eastern philosophy, culture and politics.
The gist of Gautam's paper
Without a minute study of history, the
study of politics remains incomplete. During the Paleolithic
and neo-paleolithic periods, the human used stone weapons to
protect themselves. Later, the people became conscious that
they needed organizations and institutes to protect their thoughts.
The oriental scholars do not believe that the western society
has taught all arts of politics. In his famous book, 'People
and Parliament', former speaker of Indian Loksabha Dr Balram
Jakhad writes that the term 'sansad' (parliament) has been mentioned
in the Rig Veda. In one Vedic verse, it is said that the people's
approval is necessary to ensure stability and order in the society.
With over 3,500-year old written history,
Nepal has been always an independent and sovereign nation. It
is one of the oldest nations on the earth. If the politicians
cannot study the issues relating to the national interests,
it will invite undesirable consequences to the nation. If they
fail to concentrate on the questions of national interests by
anlaysing the main policies of nation, they cannot pay heed
of nationality, democracy and the burning problems of the people.
It is irony that the Nepalese leaders are not sensitive about
the national interests. The political parties used to blame
the palace for their weakness, stubbornness and failures from
1990 to 2006. With the nation ushering in republican set-up,
they are no longer in a position to pin blame on the monarchy
for their incompetence. Some blame the foreign power centres
for the irresponsible behaviours of the parties and their leaders.
The parties are responsible for courting
the foreign meddling one or another way. The political parties
will not lose people's trust if they have become serious about
the Mahakali Treaty, BIPPA agreement, the legal provisions granting
the citizenship certificates to the hundreds of thousands of
foreigners, the problems caused by the uncontrolled and unmanaged
borders and the daily problems of the people.
After missing the self-imposed deadline
of delivering the statute on January 22, 2015, the parties are
all set to make another promise to give the state within four
years. If they consider that there is no alternative to them,
this will be a big stupidity. This is because if the parties
become failure in democracy, there is possibility for the authoritarianism
to rears its ugly head.
Comments from the floor
Mr. Bimal Raj Chhetri dedicated a song
in the name of all the martyrs of Nepal.
Former lawmaker Hom Raj Dahal presented
his working paper entitled 'the role of political parties in
ensuring social justice' chaired by Dhundi Raj Shastri. Mr.
Dahal's paper's sheds light on the conceptual framework and
the international theories and practices of social justice.
The views of Marx, Durkheim and Weber on social justice have
been well summed up. It informs about the new ideas of social
security that evolved in new millennium, the condition of social
justice in the UK, US and Israel, the UN provisions and the
role of the Nepalese political parties in realizing it.
The concept of social justice came into
existence with the evolution of welfare state. Following the
World War II, an opinion that the government has to work for
the social justice and services to the people came strongly.
Particularly, the state is supposed to provide health, education,
employment, residential and other personal services to the citizens.
It is the responsibility of a welfare state to deliver goods
and services to the people. The western society has put effective
welfare system in place for particularly two reasons. Firstly,
the social security policies aimed at minimizing the conflicts
of industrial society and keeping it in a balance. Secondly,
as per the Marxist viewpoint, the social welfare scheme is way
to sustain the capitalistic society as the citizens, who take
benefits from the social welfare scheme under capitalism, will
also accept it. With the measures of social security, the government
gets legitimacy to control and discipline the citizens.
Nepal's constitution had also adopted
a number of constitutional provisions to evolve it into a robust
welfare state. The interim statute has guaranteed the rights
to health, education and jobs. For the senior citizens and widows
and widowers, the government has arranged monthly allowances
it is a pittance. Likewise, it grants scholarships to the Dalit
students and formulated the policies to raise the living standards
of the people from Karnali zone, an economic backwater. The
major and minor parties in the CA have promised to implement
social security and justice provisions but they have failed
to live up to their commitments as they reach power. The government
needs to bring youth policy immediately to ensure employment
opportunities to them. Civil society and NGOs have done commendable
job in the social security areas. The conscious citizens should
nudge the state to implement the social security provisions
spelt out in the interim constitution.
The parties should be recalibrated in
a way that enables them to build a common position on the issues
of public interests such as the /hydropower and road construction.
Nationalism is becoming weak. The nation has reached such a
pass as the leaders have failed to catch the right path. The
cadres of the oldest Democratic Party are not satisfied with
the working style of the leaders. The intellectuals should also
play their proactive role to deepen democracy.
Nepal is evolving into an amoral society-
it is becoming more and more individualistic and sans esprit
de corps- feelings of pride, care and support for each other,
etc. that are shared by the members of a group. The people are
guided by money, not by the democratic ideals. Even the educational
curriculum has not included moral education. A mere word 'democracy'
does not deliver anything. The state needs to fulfill the basic
requirements of the people. It is necessary to bring all classes
to the mainstream to ensure social justice for them. Politics
is the master of all social sciences and it needs to be strong.
One way to strengthen it is to promote moral education.
From the floor
Mr. Ram Krishna Panthi was concerned
about some names omitted as martyrs. He further added that by
promoting religious tourism and cultural tourism we can create
employment. Likewise, Khuma Sharma Wagle was curious about Secular
religion in Nepal. On the other hand, Mr. Ram Chaudhary posed
a critical question to the paper writer as to why the constitution
writing process had come to a halt.
In his concluding remarks, MMF general
secretary Khila Nath Dahal said that the state has not been
able to pay due attention to the woes of the family members
of martyrs. The citizens have not felt that they are given the
social justice in the term of economic benefits and opportunities.
Democracy could not arrive in the poor people and workers. In
this context we all have to focus them for sustainable democracy
and people sovereignty. Mr. Dahal thanked to respected all stakeholders
to succeed the program.