Published in: Kantipuronline.com
A heated debate is brewing in Nepal after PM Koirala said that the monarchy requires to be given a space in order to build democracy in Nepal. PM Koirala and his core supporters argue that the Maoists and other political parties are given space, which the palace also deserves. This argument would be valid if the space given to king Gyanandra is of the same nature and value as the space given to other political parties. However, what PM is proposing is dangerous and against the core values of democracy.
The fundamental premise of democracy is that a state should treat all its citizens as equal. All people ? millionaire, beggar, prime minister, peon, Olympian, and disabled – are given fundamental rights, including the right to vote, of equal value. By this principle, everyone, theoretically, receives an equal space for influencing how that country is governed. Therefore, in a democratic Nepal, every Nepalese, including Gyanendra, Prachanda, Girija, beggar, and blind, should deserve a space and equal space – not of different value or weight. Once the fundamental rights of equality are guaranteed, the country is governed as per the will of the majority of the population. The rule of democracy, however, guarantees that the ruling majority cannot take away the fundamental rights of the minority after coming into power.
No system becomes a genuine democracy simply naming it a democracy. Once upon a time, an owner of a factory with 2000 workers used to be given 2000 votes compared to one vote for an ordinary citizen; people needed “certificate of qualifications and good conduct” to be able to vote; women were not persons and could not vote; blacks were denied right to vote in the USA till 1965 and in South Africa till 1993. All these were practiced on the name of democracy. Today, those old ideas are rejected and only a democracy that enshrines equal rights to all humans, irrespective of social status, sex, race, religion, color, and age, is acceptable. Today’s people want democratic model where all segments of society are proportionally represented so as to ensure fairness.
However, what PM Koirala is asking for is not the right of Gyanendra as a citizen of Nepal. He is bargaining for special rights and privileges for the palace (Gyanendra is just a temporary dweller of that institution) as exercised in the feudal past. No doubt that Koirala will be in favor of reducing the quantity of the privilege but what he is standing is against the fundamental principle of democracy.
Some people have argued that since Maoists and other previously excluded political parties were given space, monarchy should also be given space and power. This argument is severely flawed. When we give space to Maoists, we do not give Prachanda any blind mandate to rule Nepal. Prachanda, another Maoist, or member of previously excluded groups will be given one vote each and a right to participate in an election. They could come to power only if majority of people elect them. Even those in power have to step down when majority of people do not vote for them. Most importantly, an elected leader cannot pass his power to his children through inheritance. By the same token, democracy fully permits Gyanendra to open a “Palace Party” and fully participate in democratic election and take the helm of the state if he garners the mandate of the majority of people.
However, Girija and other Monarchists are not trying to give the same kind of space to the parties and the palace. They are trying to allocate portion of the state power to king Gyanendra and his successors against the will of the people. Allocating portion of the state power and state money to an unelected person without popular mandate in a manner that the power and wealth can be passed through inheritance is not about democracy but is about retaining portion of autocracy and feudal rule.
Those who deliberately want to take away portion of the state power, which solely belongs to Nepalese people, and permanently give it to the palace do not trust democracy. They believe that the world would crumble if it slips away from the grip of monarchy. If they are trying to give power to palace out of fear, they are cowards – unworthy to be in the helm of a government that was established by the will of the people who fought on the streets of Nepal against a brutal regime. A democratic state should give the same rights and privileges to palace dwellers as every other citizen of the country ? no more, no less.
About the author:
Dr Pramod Dhakal is a former lecturer of Tribhuvan University. He holds a Ph D in electrical engineering. He lives in Canada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org