Nepal | September 27, 2020

Failure of govt and opposition: It’s dysfunctional democracy

Jiba Raj Pokharel
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Democratic dysfunctionality raises its ugly head when the six aspects of democracy such as the representation, participation, replicability, predictability, equity and adaptability get an axe due to the lack of solidarity

The much hyped, near a two-thirds majority of the Nepal Communist Party in the Parliament looks like so only in name and less in spirit against the backdrop of its inability to properly run the affairs of the state. It is more than glaring in its failure to spend its peanut-sized development budget when judged by international standards. It is far lesser than the running budget when it should have been to the contrary.

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

The adjournment of the House for a month just because the ruling party could not decide on the name of the candidate for the vacant post of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is another dismal performance of the government. The nomination after an unusual delay of Agni Prasad Sapkota sent the hallowed corridors of the Parliament resonating with the government’s indifference to the judiciary in view of the murder case under hearing by the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court against him.

The confusion prevailing in the government regarding whether or not to join the Millennium Challenge Corporation despite the disclosure of the Chinese ambassador that the sovereign Nepal can take the decision of its own complemented by that of the American Ambassador that it is no political campaign, but merely developmental and economic assistance has exposed the conceptual bankruptcy of the government. The withdrawal of the media council bill after long belligerence also reflects the government’s lack of homework and vacillating attitude.

One of the opposition leaders of the Nepali Congress, Krishna Sitoula, has publicly admitted the party’s failure to perform as a viable opposition. The opposition has been engulfed by divisive infighting as a result of which it has not been able to hold its convention on time. The oldest democratic party of Nepal has been alleged in political circles to practice everything but democracy. Citing undemocratic course pursued by the party, the dissident group led by Ram Chandra Poudel organised the meeting of the district presidents. It created such a strong ripple that the party President, Sher Bahadur Deuba, had to invite them for a tea-party offering an olive branch to open talks in all the contentious issues except for the date of the proposed convention. This is not the first time that the government and opposition have been unable to deliver to the country in the history of parliamentary democracy. The demagogue Hitler emerged in the political scene after the government and opposition were both in disarray following the Great Depression of the year 1928. Similarly, firebrand journalist Mussolini appeared in Italy around the same time after the democratic system in the country was thought to be unsuccessful for the unity of the country. In Nepal also, in the mid-nineties, Maoists attained a dizzying height rebelling against the state when the government and opposition both were alleged to be indulged in corrupt practices.

In the present day Nepal, the situation is, however, different to the comfort of the government that there are no potential Hitler or Mussolini as dark horses waiting in the political back yard. The secessionist group has already joined the mainstream politics. The splinter Maoist Biplab group has not received much support from the people because they are fed up with yet another replay of the Maoists rebellion.

But the fact remains that the fiasco of the government and opposition has created democratic dysfunctionality in the country. Democratic dysfunctionality raises its ugly head when the six aspects of democracy such as the representation, participation, replicability, predictability, equity and adaptability get an axe due to the lack of solidarity. This could be seen in the legislative procedures of the United States which manifested in 2011 ceiling debate and the 2013 government shut down. The delay of 541 days for the formation of government in Belgium in 2010 is yet another example of dysfunctionality and the solidarity bankruptcy.

The absence of solidarity among EU members more particularly with respect to Greece and the vote against constitutional reform in Italy is also a pointer to rising democratic dysfunctionality.  In Nepal, solidarity is evaporating in inter as well as intraparty relations rendering the democracy dysfunctional. One of the most prominent examples of the lack of solidarity in the realm of interparty relationship is the unwillingness of the ruling party to accept the Deputy-Speaker from the opposition when the constitution has made it mandatory to have either the Speaker or the Deputy from different parties and gender. The attempt to edge out the minority group by the majority group through the sheer use of brute majority force in the Nepali Congress is yet another illustration of the lack of solidarity. Such acts of exclusion can be seen in other parties as well including the ruling party in the country.

This is very unfortunate because many people have received martyrdom to bring about the dawn of democracy in Nepal. So many senior citizens lost their walking sticks like sons and daughters in their old age. Many ladies’ vermillion was wiped from the centre of their forehead. The Nepali Congress and the Communist Parties in Nepal have fought together in this regard. But like the fable of erstwhile Kalidas axing the squatted branch of tree, these parties’ activities of late are rendering the democracy dysfunctional in the country.

A version of this article appears in print on January 22, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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