The democratisation process has certain prerequisites. Despite variations in procedural arrangements of democratic systems, regular, free and fair elections remain the determining factor. Nepal, fairly certainly, is a democratic state since the monarchy is nearly washed
out with the collapse of King Gyanendraâ€™s commissarial rule.
But it is a third-grade democracy in terms of Freedom House Index. The crucial problem facing the country is that those excluded from power have little faith that they will have a just share of national resources. The break-up of multiparty democracy was not entirely the monarchyâ€™s fault, but a series of factors, chief among those being the politicians who pretend to represent citizens but serve only their narrow interests.
Though democratisation means the transition of non-democratic regime to democratic polity, mere regime change is not tantamount to political transition. If some people believe that transformation will turn Nepal into a non-belligerent society even in the absence of rationalism and constructivism as basic paradigms, one must admit that repercussions of such beliefs will be superficial. If we believe electoral proportionality will be effective in bringing democratic stability, most people would agree that the essence of democratic government consists in absolute sovereignty of the majority.
If the state is oppressive, the liberal political dimensions would break apart. Even if constitutional federalism is provisioned, its utility would depend much more upon the peoplesâ€™ attitude towards the new dispensation rather than the claims of internal or external forces. Temptation remains among powerful groups to impose their preferences on others. The political parties are not capable of fulfilling peopleâ€™s aspirations and keep presenting grandiose liberties to maintain power.
Many consider the Maoist movement a thing of the past. A critical mass perceives peace to be permanent if all members adapt to rules. The CPN-Maoist doesnâ€™t have unqualified support of the people but its activists take advantage of prevalent social conditions.
The Maoistsâ€™ idea of declaring Nepal a republic through the interim legislature is oppressive, irrational and futile as it allows legislators to perpetuate power in more authoritarian forms. It is interim legislatureâ€™s duty to create an atmosphere for fresh analysis, ideas and constitutional arrangements that provide other bases for political power, especially in giving citizens influence over decision-making.
Nepal needs institutions designed to make the government responsive to public interest. A combination of various elements is necessary for successful democratisation. In the current climate, it is difficult to convince stakeholders that Nepal will witness constructive changes by empowering people with civil and political rights.
Democratisation is a process with clear-cut results. More fundamental problems arise because of â€˜limited pluralismâ€™ or â€˜less democratic polity.â€™ Although the Seven-Party Alliance and Maoists (SPAM) have brought about greater political debates, the â€˜rational spaceâ€™ (where everyone is on an equal footing) is still very limited.
Some studies contend that liberal institutions are not required for democracy if all citizens have equal access to power and resources. The real power resides with eight-party bosses and their henchmen, who function as â€˜fascist revolutionariesâ€™, although Jana Andolan II was meant to replace the overly bureaucratic, corrupt and statist regime by creating a free, fair and
formidable democratic society. The current prime minister is said to have unconstrained powers, creating a â€˜structural crisis of legitimacy.â€™ The interim government will not lead to a just constitutional settlement if political imagination is not stimulated. Nothing less than a fundamental rethink or attitudinal reorientation on the part of policy-makers is required.
While we expect most political problems to be settled through the Constituent Assembly, people with low trust in government are likely to disengage themselves from institutional politics while others might turn to non-institutionalised means of political expression, whereas still others are likely to remain completely apathetic toward political participation.
The Madhesi agitation was unplanned and without a goal. The SPAM initially
took it as an incident bound to crop up in a transitory phase. Indigenous people
have now become weary of drudgery, discrimination and indifference. With no political agreement on greater inclusion, they have become more suspicious of the emerging situation. Presuming that association stimulates political participation, Nepalâ€™s future depends on interlacing of the peace process, consensual and consociational democratic models, and a welfare economic system.
Thapa is professor of Politics, TU