Tough road ahead for the Maoists

The ongoing political wrangling aside, of all the political parties, the CPN-Maoist is most likely to lead the new government. However, it remains to be seen if the former insurgents can craft a working coalition while at the same time embarking on the most important task of all: drafting a new constitution. The reluctance of other big political parties to join the Maoist-led government hints that the Maoist reign will be no plain sailing.

Most political parties are unconvinced that Maoists are capable of peaceful, competitive politics. Continuing YCL brutalities certainly do not help clean up their blurry image. In this context, how will they go about governing democratically? Can they? Perhaps the Chinese lesson will be instructive. In an incisive essay in Foreign Affairs, John L. Thornton, Chair of the Broad of Brookings Institution, explores the beliefs of Syn Yat-sen, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping regarding democracy. Though all of them agreed that China needed some sort of democracy, what they had in mind was a far cry from the Western concept of the word.

Clarifying on the Chinese model of democracy, Premier Wen Jiabao, in a 2006 meet with a delegation from the Brookings Institution, said: “When we talk about democracy, we usually refer to three key components: elections, judicial independence, and supervision based on checks and balances.”

Does the Maoist concept tack along the same line when they vow to adhere by democratic norms? It is worth noting that press freedom is virtually nonexistent in China and the Communist Party of China (CCP) still rules with an iron fist.

Or will the Maoists adopt the model of former USSR as their chief ideologue Dr Baburam Bhattarai indicated in a recent TV programme when asked how the Maoists would go about achieving the breakneck GDP growth of over 20 per cent. The Cold War was central to Soviet economic revival post Second World War. The US had left USSR far behind in the arms race. Stalin set out to achieve some level of parity through crash industrialisation and collectivisation

of agriculture — which produced the desired results (though the level of economic growth at the time is often disputed; the USSR put it at around 13.9%), but at the cost of millions of innocent lives in forced labour camps.

In his seminal work, The Future of Freedom: Illeberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, Fareed Zakaria points out how it is vital that the basic infrastructures of liberalism are in place for a democracy to function effectively. It is a matter of dispute if Nepal has the needed infrastructure; but most tellingly, Zakaria notes, per capita national income is the most reliable indicator to that end. Only the countries with average income in the range of $3,000-$6,000 (or above) have made successful transition to democracy. Nepal, with $1,100 (in PPP) is a long way off. Even if they so desire, will the Maoists be allowed to pursue economic liberalism at the cost of political freedom, alike Singapore under Lee Kwan Yew?

Whether the Maoists lead a coalition or run the show alone, whichever democratic model they adhere to, the ex-rebels will find themselves in unchartered waters owing to Nepal’s unique geo-political and socio-cultural complexities. This will make their job so much more difficult.