Road to Fair Representation: A Look at the Politics of Transition in Nepal

Published in: | | | | Serai | |

On April 10, 2008, the people of Nepal surprised the world in a number of ways. First, a much awaited, but often postponed, election for the Constituent Assembly actually happened. Second, it happened with a level of violence and disturbances so far below the expected international norm for countries like Nepal that the whole world came to extol Nepal. Big political parties patted themselves on the back for how freely and fairly they had conducted the election, and praised the people for voting peacefully and in large numbers. Third, the people elected the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) with a substantial and conclusive margin even though the high flying media houses, international political pundits, and superpower interests had predicted a humiliating defeat of the Maoists as late as late April 11, 2008 when early results had started to trickle out. Today Nepal has become the subject of talk in the world media and there is a mass euphoria at the time being. However, this is not out of character. Continue reading

Road to Fair Representation: To Be or Not to Be Proportional?

Published in: | | | | | | | | |

Nepal is a great country of debates and arguments, and the country would have been in the leading edge of philosophy if only the debates were done with sufficient research and originality. Nepal’s history is awash with creative and philosophical thinking, which is evident in great texts like Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Vedas, as well as in the science, technology, art, and architecture that followed those texts. Just inspect Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, and Changunarayan built two millennia ago that are still standing and in use, and you will be convinced. However, we are spending much time today in selecting among imported ideas than developing our own. The “mixed representation” versus “proportional representation” debate, which is tearing apart our psyche today, is an evidence of our mindset that has turned lethargic for some time.

An enormous amount of debate is required in this matter but most intellectual friends are busy parroting party lines. This is because we love to choose among what is presented by others than searching for the solution of our own. A debate is required not on whether to choose proportional representation but on how the proportionality could be designed to formulate better inclusion. A debate is required not on whether we need geographic representation but on how much local a sovereign unit of federation be made so that people participation in governance could be maximized. Continue reading

Road to Fair Representation: The Paradox of Democracy

No system becomes a democracy simply by calling it a democracy. Nepal was declared a democracy in 1950 after the fall of the Rana regime in face of an armed rebellion. At that time, an agreement for electing a constituent assembly was reached and a coalition government between the king, the Rana oligarchy, and the Congress Party was formed to carry out that election. Those rebels of the Congress Party who demanded the complete abolition of the Rana regime were exiled and what ensued was not democracy – the king was sovereign and the people were not.

Without holding any election, the king appointed Prime Ministers for eight years before unilaterally issuing a constitution, written by palace operatives, which formally gave sweeping power to the king, who then used it in 1960 to consolidate all powers to him. Although many party operatives who benefited from the king’s actions during that period still refer to the day that King Tribhuvan landed in Kathmandu as Democracy Day (Phalgun 7), it is nothing but a perversion of what democracy is all about. When King Tribhuvan died in 1955, the position and authority to rule Nepal was inherited by his son Mahendra, who also inherited the sovereignty. Successive democratic movements were ultimately betrayed time and again by the palace and Nepal always returned to an autocratic rule. The April 2006 popular movement was supposed to be the end of this tradition and be the birth of a republic. However, too much energy is still being expended on the fate of monarchy, which should already have been a thing of the past. Continue reading

Road to Fair Representation – Part II

Published in: | | | ConcernNepal |

These days, a rapid political transition is taking place in Nepal – a tiny country on the Himalayas. However, the changes taking place in Nepal are of immeasurable scale and are intriguing the spectators of international politics and diplomacy on an unprecedented level. Nepal’s transformations are noteworthy because this country is characterized by complex interactions of hard-to-solve issues of ethnic, religious, cast-originated, geographic, and regional differences manifested and highlighted by 10 years of armed conflict. These issues are further compounded by gender, economic, educational and other disparities, and also by a labor of transition from feudality to modernity. In this backdrop, Nepal is attempting to develop a system of representation that is fair, futuristic, and acceptable to all. This endeavor of providing fair rule and unity for Nepal’s 28 million people, who are increasingly aware of their rights, is a tall order for any mortal living in this planet. But, Nepal’s rapid march in pursuit of answering the question of “who represents me?” bears potential to become a model for the whole world if it is handled successfully. Continue reading

Road to Fair Representation: Ethnic Identity and Freedom

Published in: | | Nepali Post | | |

The events unfolding in Eastern Terai in recent times have brought into our consciousness the fact that Nepal is boiling under a crisis that is looming along a blurred line of struggle for freedom and struggle for ethnic clarity. This blur has made it difficult for ordinary mortals like me to figure out what is what. This is painful predicament for people who stand for equality of all humans and harmony in the world. When emotions and passions rule over reasoning, and aspirations of people take wrong turn to put “me” against “you” among the oppressed masses, solvable problems become unsolvable ones. It has, therefore, become important for every conscious observer of Nepal to pause a bit and think of solutions that are compassionate, fair, insightful and lasting. Continue reading

Road to Fair Representation

Published in: | Nepali Post | | | | AsiaViews |

Swayed by the news of the positive and historic developments in the political landscape of Nepal of late, I spent hours scanning the analysis of the events presented in the weekly and daily newspapers of Nepal. Although it is my predisposed expectation to find them poorly biased, I read them in search of something philosophically important or intellectually intriguing. This time I noticed that many of our intellectual Bidhatas of the parties appear to be throwing an aura that they had embraced the greatest democracy in 1990 itself but what happened this time was that they were able to “teach” Maoists the lessons of democracy! But what actually has happened in Nepal is profoundly different than what our “scholars”, who branded 1990 constitution as the best in the world, can see! US Ambassador Mr. James F Moriarty must be delighted to learn that Nepal is full of such “scholars,” who are perfect recruits for his Politics 101 class. Continue reading