Stability and crisis are two most absorbing concepts in political science. With the overthrow of an old order, the problem of stability has always challenged the minds of those immersed in politics. To all those who hold hope for democracy, or at least attempt for it, and even those who can exacerbate conflicts, Nepal’s transition from a monarchy to a republic provides a lifetime opportunity to study what Grofman and Stockwell likened to a ‘peaceful, syntropic democracy’ which pretends a sort of civility that boasts for having common legal system with well defined civil rights and liberties and shared civic values. If surely the structures of power to reward those at the top, while penalizing the majority poor at the bottom of the pile, Nepali leaders have been more vocal than even progressive scholars and statesmen when it serves their self interest, sidelining the CA as a default venue for settling political scores or setting national course. In psychology this is analogous to a condition called denial.
The notion that democracy has failed to take clear hold cannot be viewed as an issue involving explicit choices that can be left untouched at this juncture without being accommodated in a written instrument; for a half-baked foundation is likely to have divergent outbursts and aching tensions due to the mindset that harbors status quo, and adverse dichotomy that hampers institutional and ideological transformation. The chameleon-like commitment of ruling elites is characterized with crude clientelism; so all-out state failure is most unlikely.
Obviously, failure to build institutional arrangements, including adequate accommodation of the President’s act or order, would prove dearly to all. Nepal’s democratic deficits must be comprehended in terms of numerous political strings in action rather than obligations toward the mute and destitute. If one indeed believes that democracy involves development, dignity, dissent, and diversity involving responsible display and general acceptance of values, norms and practices, there still remains a great opportunity for sustainable conflict management and subsequent transformation into consolidated democracy, although a confounding riddle keeps reappearing: whether promised reforms are merely rhetoric?
As blatant hypocrisy, rules are breached by public officials and ‘politicians’ in general, acting with a motive of particularistic gain and wielding political power by paying tribute to formal rulers, where the state apparatus is extensively exploited by ever-changing coalition, which leads to noninstituionalizational phenomenon. That is why public policies are continually changing and hardly ever implemented, as the state dances to the tune of their diktats leading to profound disintegration of sociopolitical and geographical spectrum. Conflict management has its limit, contrary to a popular title, but often in confrontations and through contradictions that the country is teetering on the brink of catastrophe with a demand either partition or contonization.
It is often argued that it is futile to imagine things can be changed for better under the current Nepali state actors due to oligopoly in policymaking dominated by a small gang of say selectorate, nepotism in political parties, and cynicism-among numerous others, toward the democratic process. It is all bewildering and largely undesirable, even as politicians do deal with messy issues on daily basis. Some may argue democracy under Madhav Nepal is working; it remains ‘the old boys’ network’ and is indeed a sitting duck protected by double-standard chickens that contributed to a neo-barbaric or a corrupt culture, with the sole message of rage and hate and a failed opportunity to creating a strong society-a presumably liberal-democratic modern revolutionary state where the entire population ostensibly shared benefits. It matters little whether Nepalis have much faith in PM Nepal as the real power rests in obscure hands - internal and external - the real live enemies in terms of political, economic and social transformations, and he is here to stay because of division dramatics complete with sound international effects and domestic vision deflects. Such short-sighted response to crises brought Nepal to its politically sensitive chapter in history. Sadly, it’s a wakeup call.
The process of democratic transition itself is a source of considerable uncertainty and anxiety. Any support to the ordeal can only be generated through inorganic but live optimism that keeps assuring that ultimately all Nepalis will benefit. The end of decade-long conflict was followed by political openness and Maoists’ punditry to redefine their strategy, although socialism with development cannot be achieved without willing participation by the people. Yet it almost goes without saying that in a competitive democracy consensus requires to find a middle ground in all substantive issues, what Irving Mcrkovitz calls ‘either in the form of a common belief in certain fundamentals or in procedural form on the rules of the game particularly in countries with prolonged political struggle.’
Thapa is Professor of Politics, TU