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 gleaning to learn that Nepal is full of such "scholars," who are perfect recruits for his Politics 101 class.
The truth is that what was done in 1990 was a mockery of 21st century democracy, which addresses the problem of "who represents me?" for all people of a country. Out of all the models of democracies practiced in the world, Nepalese leaders were able to receive a parcel of a 300 years old Anglo-American democracy minus the sovereignty of the people. In this model, neither the political parties were fairly represented, nor were the segments of the society. Parties with 35% popular vote gained 60+% seats and thought that they were elected by the "majority" of the people. On top of that, Monarchy was sacrosanct and parties whose objective was to overthrow the monarchy were deemed unconstitutional by default. Excluding democratic participation based on political views is no different than American or South African democracies of a few short years ago where black people could not vote.
The composition of candidates sent by Maoists into the parliament has shaken the foundation of the old guard "representative" democracy. Maoists have shattered some elite-centric values that were practiced by "democratic" parties in Nepal as traditions, which were not the inventions of Nepalese political parties but the diseases inherited by them when copying an old democracy from the USA and India. This old philosophy seeks to provide representation for all spectrums of population - from the poor, oppressed and "untouchables" to the wealthy and elites - by a few benevolent-and-educated millionaires. They use the term "quality candidate" for that purpose. No need to send actual representatives of those people!
Many democratic philosophers long wanted that a parliament be a miniature version of the actual society. However, politicians who usually came from wealthy and educated families, developed representation systems that gave preference to elites. The truth, however, is that a parliament that is a true reflection of the society in all respect can still listen to all views and make good decisions for the country. This is because people with average intellect can distinguish good ideas from mediocre ones if alternative ideas were presented and debated in-front of them. The analogy is that a person who cannot dance can still watch other people dance and figure out who danced the best and who did a lousy job. It is not necessary that the representatives create profound ideas of their own. The parliamentarians' job is to figure out if debated policies do any good or harm to the part of the society they represent. Of course I am assuming a situation where all voices and ideas are presented and debated. For-profit education system, for example, would not have been adopted in post 1990 Nepal if the parliament was a true reflection of the population, or in other words, if there was a true democracy in Nepal.
The intellectuals, elites, philosophers, researchers, writers and more can still contribute in the policy making and governance of the country. Since these people are able to separate themselves from the average crowd, the country and the parties can tap them to develop new and competing ideas. They can be invited to debate and defend their ideas in front of the parliamentarians. However, they should not be allowed to decide for the future of someone else not represented by them in true respect. A parliament, which should be a microcosm of the society in itself, could then re-debate over these ideas and ratify those ideas that do a good to the society in general.
The word democracy is overly abused in today's world. In countries where their primary business is to export their "democracies" to others, parties registering 5, 10 or 15 percent popular support cannot even have one member in the parliament. Half the people living in those countries are women but shamefully few get to reach the parliament. How many Hispanics, Blacks and Asians become congressmen in the US? Disgracefully few! This is the reason Nepal's politicians should not treat Mr. Moriarty as their Godfather of Democracy. We should not be like those who listen to an intelligence agency to go and attack a country while branding their own people with dissenting views as enemies and traitors, and, by the way, spy on them! Instead, Nepalese politicians should look up to the people like Mandela if they have some senses!
A concept of proportional representation first introduced in Ireland then in Germany and Scandinavia brought significant improvements with proportionality among the political parties. Today, the Maoists of Nepal have enhanced the meaning of proportionality one step further to reflect gender, ethnicity and region, which should be good news for the people around the world who are striving to develop just-democracies. For Nepal, however, much challenge is to be faced still in the future when a broad spectrum of policies would have to be brought. And, those who bring inclusive and progressive policies will be the ones who will get the trust of the people.
About the author:
Dr Pramod Dhakal is a former lecturer of Tribhuvan University and holds a Ph D in electrical engineering. He is Executive Director of Canada Forum for Nepal and lives in Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(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: email@example.com. Pictures of contributors or images that relate to submissions are welcome)