Despite the fact that political parties are the backbone of multi-party democracy, in Nepal; the people have accused the leaders of political parties for a constant erosion of democratic norms and values. In the past, political parties were responsible for political instability. There has been increasing erosion of public trust in political parties which are mostly power oriented. Intense power struggles, rampant corruption, favouritism and nepotism, monopoly and abuse of power are some fundamental challenges which need to be addressed for strengthening democratic ethos in Nepal.
The role of monarchy is another significant issue. No one can doubt the power and influence of the monarchy over the Nepali people. However, history shows that democracy and the role of monarchy in Nepal have become contradictory and hostile to each other. Now, on the question of rationale of the monarchy the disagreement persists among the masses, which must be addressed properly. Similarly, democratization of Nepalese Army is another important task to be tackled. Apart from this, to decide mode of devolution and demobilisation and decommissioning of the Maoist cadre and reintegration of the politically trained Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) with the national army will be most challenging aspect of democracy in Nepal.
During a March 2016 visit to Kathmandu with the , I had the chance to observe such use of alternative democratic spaces in the “artivist” performances of , a leading artist and political activist in Nepal. Like many others, Ashmina has been a vociferous critic of the , and specifically of its failure to uphold the rights and freedoms of women and children. According to the current legislation, the state to children born out of wedlock and to children born to men who are not Nepalese nationals. Somewhere in between the jus soli and jus sanguinis, the constitution essentially chartered a different version of citizenship rights: as mediated through marriage and the nationality of the male parent. “Jus matrimonium et masculum,” as this retrograde constitutional provision/citizenship law could be called, appears to completely disregard the legal, social and political status of the mother, making her all but a non-entity. Even worse, children born out of wedlock would appear to be non-existent, relegated to statelessness before they are even born.
Bipad also becomes a provocation that both frames the affective response (disgust, curiosity, amusement, fear) and dis-aligns the object from the surrounding environment (, 37) as a way to trigger interaction: What is a skeleton doing on the back of a colorfully dressed woman walking in the midst of Kathmandu’s busy market street or eating ice-cream on Fifth Avenue? Bipad can either be alienating or riveting, but either way it produces a reaction. Ashmina hopes for the latter because that is usually followed up by questions and a discussion — about Nepal, the constitution, and women’s rights. This is the moment when the aesthetic-affective energy produced by the material object (Bennet ) sparks a democratic engagement.
Democracy is the most widely admired political system, but perhaps the most difficult to maintain. Democracy begins with excellent objectives in human governance with unquestionable intensions to impart freedom from injustice and social exclusion. It is characterised as a system in which expectations are raised because people identify themselves with the polity. There has been a greater urge for opening up the space for participation and competition in a state like Nepal which had a long history of monarchical domination.
It is very probable that Oli’s resignation was triggered by multiple factors, and the two media commentaries are not mutually exclusive. Yet what is unique in Al Jazeera’s reporting is that it underscores the extent to which the streets of Kathmandu are seen as the space to congregate, express political opinions, and — in the themselves — to exercise democracy. Al Jazeera’s coverage of Nepal is also a reminder that in the case of people who are left voiceless or marginalized by constitutional clauses, political processes, or social stigma, democracy is only possible in alternative spaces — such as the streets — where new forms of political engagement emerge, claims for social justice can be made, and popular pressure can trigger reform.
Nepal’s democracy is in its embryonic stage which faces several challenges from various fronts. However, it would be too early for Nepal to anticipate a nearly perfect democracy as democracy is a self-learning and self-correcting system that requires longer exercise as well as commitment and sincerity of people. With the promulgation of an Interim Constitution in Nepal, the latest wave of democracy now appears to effectively institutionalise democracy at all levels and achieve sustainable peace, coupled with the implementation of a visionary sustainable development agenda. But, the leaders have an uphill task to make the roots of democracy go deep into the fabric of Nepal’s social system.
As Nepal being traditional and pluralistic society, the participation of different minority groups in governance and decision-making process becomes an important aspect in this direction. A few caste groups exercise excessive domination in all important spheres of national life. Hence, it has become imperative that major reforms in political institutions must be carried out in view of inclusion of marginalised ethnic groups proportionately in the political process. There is a need to initiate radical reform in the state structures towards achieving a more equitable and just society and inclusive democracy. The state should address century old social problems like injustice, inequalities and discriminations based on class, caste, sex, ethnicity and geography. Without abolishing these inhumane pathogenic characteristics of Nepalese society, thinking a democratic Nepal is meaningless.
Though, interim parliament is certainly a good beginning, strengthening of democracy depends on the sufficient flexibility and willingness of leaders to work together. The civil society groups, political parties and media have a significant role to play in making certain sense of democratic values and behaviour amongst all citizens. If the forces of the country want democracy, they have to become active to create a national consensus showing probity, flexibility and learning from the past weaknesses and avoiding blame and counter blame. There is a need to address the root causes of crises and to develop confidence. Hopefully, the future of democracy in Nepal depends on how the Maoists work on ground.