Democratic Consolidation of Nepal: Hopes and Handicaps

Existence of an active civil society is a necessary component and a prerequisite of a healthy democracy. Especially in Nepal it has an additional role. It is to be the harbinger and at the same time to be the consolidator of democracy and development in Nepal. The erstwhile tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal is passing through a phase of transition. Having several unsuccessful and fragile experiences with democracy in the past, with the present Interim Government in power Nepal is now hoping to launch a new version of democracy in the collaboration of an insurgent outfit i.e. Maoists that terrorized the people by spearheading a protracted struggle against the monarchy over a decade. But the developments are very discouraging. Democracy remains still elusive and a hard fact to be materialized. The ever deteriorating political culture and human right situation prevailing in Nepal at present are not at all conducive to the advent of democracy. This has resulted in deferring twice the dates for conducting the elections to the much awaited Constituent Assembly to draft the first ever democratic constitution of Nepal. Who knows the fate of the consensus that has been reached recently after the signing of the 22-point deal that promises to hold the CA elections in Mid-April, 2008. State of Nepal is therefore gradually losing its credibility. Political parties are also losing trust of people to bring democracy and development.

In this background the success of democratic switch over and its sustenance depends much on the civil society. How does it respond to the prevailing situation is a matter that counts. Nepal being a transitional democracy, the ideal conditions of a civil society are not yet achieved but a marked shift has  occurred. Civil Society in Nepal is gaining new momentum. Since the restoration of multi-party democracy in April 1990 there has been the ushering of a liberal tradition in Nepal. Free press (privately owned), non-governmental organizations are on the increase today. Formally registered civil society organizations in Nepal are over fifty thousands. Some of the NGOs are emerging into powerful pressure groups and advocating for sweeping changes in the socio-economic and cultural milieu of the society. The human rights groups, environment protection and conservation groups and women and child welfare movements are already making their voices heard across the country.

People of Nepal are been exposed to an open information environment unprecedented before. With all the attributes of a free and liberal democratic environment, the information systems of Nepal are increasingly emerging as an important factor in shaping the course of civil society movements. The civil society movement now motivates people towards social, economic and political cooperation. People are gradually relying more on these non-state social institutions, through which they can work collectively to solve their own problems, which can act as channels of popular opinion and pressure upon government and which can serve as a protection against its encroachments. These civil society institutions are supposed to enhance social democratization and national development. Not only these civil society organizations are inculcating civic virtues but are also insisting the furtherance of democracy in the country. Credit goes to the leaders of the civil society who have succeeded in organizing an interaction among all stake holders, the disputing political parties and factions along with the Maoists in Lalitpur on 23rd December to sort out all political issues including the decision on holding the CA elections in mid-April, 2008. This has resulted in the 22-point agreement which has again kept the hopes of democracy active and alive.

Despite this commendable initiative of the civil society the current situation of conflict and political degeneration in Nepal calls for soul-searching and introspection on the part of both civil and political society. Civil society organizations have failed to perform as ardent champion of civic values and norms, confronted with the nefarious tendencies eating into the social vitals. NGOs fail to do what they preach. If these are to retain their credibility they need more contemplation and social commitment today in order to play enhanced roles in becoming a potential arbiter of making the socio-economic and democratic destiny of the country. Their foremost concern should be to carry forward the process of peace and to see the election to the Constituent Assembly to happen in due time. They must be cautious about their expectation for representation in the legislature like other stake holders. They must not be a part of the political society like the political parties. Above all they have to prove themselves to be the true representatives of the people's cause as these bodies are criticized as donor centric and elite led and dominated. They must think in terms of common-man's perception.


More by :  Anil Kumar Mohapatra

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