TOPICS : Making democracy sustainable

Ashok R Pandey

Mere establishment of a democratic system does not automatically assure its survival. Latin American countries and Pakistan have gone through cycles of democracy and dictatorship because the rule of law was never established. Nepal has faced a similar fate over the last 12 years as leaders have failed to deliver on their promises, and cronyism, nepotism and corruption have become more of a rule. The sustainability of any system whether a democracy or a dictatorship is dependent on economic performance with the creation of jobs and opportunities for all to work and earn. The Maoist insurgency was born out of frustrations of a large number of people that were discriminated against for centuries and the democracy in the last 12 years failed to address these inequalities. The system was busy spreading its tentacles through politicising all organisations. We may still settle our scores with the Maoists and bring them into the political mainstream, but this may not be the end. If opportunities are denied, another group far more violent than the current Maoist movement could potentially take over.

The presence of independent professional organisations in a democracy achieves two very important functions. It assists the political establishment in educating the masses about the real meaning of democracy and the concomitant responsibility that comes with freedom. At the same time, these organisations through constructive criticism and effective policing assist in the establishment of the rule of law and the system of controls imperative in a functioning democracy. However, when professional organisations merely function as an arm of political parties and are not independent in their views, people lose an effective form of control. Journalists and lawyers have fallen into this trap.

Political parties should win the hearts and minds of people with the power of ideas. We have a golden opportunity to reorient our rudder and create a sustainable democracy, but this will only be accorded proper attention by the political leaders if professionals in all walks of life raise these very questions. However, old ideas about the great “virtues of democracy” persist, which in reality is beginning to sound like a broken record. What changes are the people likely to witness in the modus operandi of the parties this time around? How will the various evils be contained, such as corruption and bleeding of public corporations? The people want some answers before there is genuine mass support. The leaders seem ill-equipped to organise and run a system to produce desired results. We are once again witnessing the leaders in their elements with the current movement against regression. It is likely that this leadership will once again prove to be more of a disappointment than the last time around. The bankruptcy of leadership is evident in the persistent call for a Republic by their student wing as a panacea The only real panacea is a disciplined leadership with a vision that can inspire the people to achieve results consistent with a vision. If Nepal was a homogeneous country then the call for a republic merits some consideration, but Nepal from our knowledge is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious country and monarchy is highly relevant as a symbol of national unity at this juncture.