A Democratic Alliance, Accountable to the People By Comrade Libre|
The core dynamics of Nepal's peace process hinge on the need for political agents to act in cohesion and simultaneously, to engage in competitive democratic politics. In other words, the specifics of Nepal's situation demand that political actors perform with autocratic efficiency while radiating democratic virtues. Both of these dimensions together, are what have helped propel the Maoists to their current political stature.
For the past year and a half, the Maoists have manoeuvred with cut throat efficiency along multiple dimensions. By leveraging the need for horizontal political cohesion, the Maoists have demonstrated political acumen of a calibre that far exceeds anything that Nepal's democratic forces appear, capable of collectively comprehending.
Through alliances of convenience, mobilization of their sister organizations, and through carefully targeted public fixation on the monarchy, the Maoists have outmanned, outgunned and outwitted the Nepali people and their democratic representatives in one clean sweep.
As repulsive as the thought of "power through the barrel of a gun" may be, the Maoists' inclusion in the Nepali government was more than a mere compromise - it was inevitable. This inevitability in turn, has generated a unique set of risks and opportunities.
Rehashing risks associated with the Maoists' rapid ascendancy to power is unnecessary. Volumes of history already depict in graphic detail what happens when ruthless killers with inflated egos (and impossible ambitions) are met with disorganized apathy, appeasement and delusional, wishful thinking.
In terms of opportunities however, now is the time for centrist, democratic forces in Nepal to unite with a common understanding that nothing remains for the democratic forces to offer the Maoists. From the signing of the 12 Point Agreement to their inclusion in the Nepali government, the Maoists' journey to power is complete. There is no internal leverage left that Nepal's political agents can apply to integrate the Maoists into a democratic setting.
With this fundamental realization in mind, Nepal's centrist forces need to transition from the current mindset of cohesion, back to the natural state of democratic politics - competition. The challenge of course, is to keep the peace process on track and the best way to maintain the momentum, is to proportionately distribute the accountability - not just ministerial portfolios.
As members of the current interim government, the Maoists need to be delegated responsibility commensurate with the portfolios that they hold. As equal agents of the State, under no circumstances should the Maoists enjoy disproportionately lower accountability while their counterparts remain wed to utopian standards.
The days of pitting human rights activists and international media organizations against the government are over. Whether it be the YCL beating up students from Padma Kanya Campus, Maoists padlocking municipality offices, refusing to abide by terms and conditions outlined in the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement), or the YCL engaging with the APF, all such events are fully transparent for everyone to judge - the Maoist leaders are either losing their grip or they're changing the rules as per their convenience.
Where the peace process is concerned, Nepal's centrist forces need to understand that they no longer have unlimited liability. The manner in which the King and his forces manoeuvred, left no choice for centrist agents but to bring the Maoists into the government. Having accomplished this feat, Nepal's centrist forces are no longer liable to being held hostage to peace on the Maoists' terms.
As sitting members of the same interim government, whether Maoist, NC, UML or whoever, each group is accountable to delivering Nepali citizens the peace, democracy and prosperity that has been promised. In other words, Nepal's political agents (irrespective of their ideologies), are all accountable to only one group - the Nepali people.
Nepal's centrist parties would do well to start campaigning for a national debate on the basis of accountability to the people. This is the single, most potent platform, that has been glossed over for almost two decades.
Mere talk of "people power" and "people's courts" have done wonders to elevate expectations. But where delivery is concerned, the "people" deserve so much more than what they have been given.
With the mindset that each and every political agent in the interim government is equally accountable to the success of Nepal's peace process, the rules of the game are changed. If the Maoists want a leftist alliance or a cross-party republican alliance or whatever, centrist parties should feel free to form their own democratic alliance along any dimension they feel appropriate.
With the UN on the ground, the international community, India and the United States fully committed to the success of Nepal's peace process, there is no direction left but to fully lever one's political platform. If these positions are chosen carefully, space can be created for everyone without stumbling into the Maoists' royal agenda - keep the public focused on a powerless monarchy while the Maoists get away with murder (literally).
The bottom line is this: For as long as the Maoists are able to leverage the monarchy as a political agenda, they (and their leftist ilk) will continue to drive the direction and momentum of political discourse. The minute a democratic alliance is formed (that delegates debate on the monarchy to the first seating of the Constituent Assembly) and focuses on delivering to the people (with accountability as the only agenda), there will be a monumental shift in the political tide.
The luxury that the Maoists had as external agitators (armed opposition) to Nepal's government is a extravagance they no longer retain. The more radical the Maoists become, the greater the likelihood of a democratic alliance that will expose the Maoists' for the sham they are.
Right now, Nepal's centrist forces are expecting a political victory on the basis of "suicide goals." If their strategy persists, the only outcome that is guaranteed is of another variety - "political suicide."
To prevent this tragedy, Nepal's centrist forces must urgently reassert their democratic credentials, replace the debate over the monarchy with a debate over the direction of democratic polity, and finally, they must regain the middle ground by revolutionizing the country's perception on the unacceptability of violence-driven politics.
(Note from the Nepal Horizons Editorial Team: The views and opinion expressed in this article are that of the author and not of NHC. We request individuals with interest in Nepal to submit their views on contemporary Nepalese issues to the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures of contributors or images that relate to submissions are welcome)
Posted on: 2007-05-03