Nepalis deserve better politicians

2 months ago 69

Notwithstanding all that national politics got people accustomed to, its shenanigans, backdoor dealings and secret negotiations, most of us were surprised by the lightning speed through which Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal shifted side and dropped the Nepali Congress from the government.

While it is true that there have been some misunderstandings and disconnects between the CPN (Maoist Center) and the Nepali Congress, few people really were expecting such a rapid change of government.

Once again, we got a confirmation that trust and commitment are not valued currencies in politics.

Rather what always prevails and, at the end count, are cynicism, unhealthy ambitions and a thirst for power for the sake of holding it and extracting the maximum benefits out of it, mostly for personal interest.

We do not need to spend many words on PM Dahal’s attitudes and capacity to retain power at any cost. Most of the citizens just got a strong validation of their feelings about him, a confirmation that the PM is a unique master at preservation and survival.

Probably, we should not even spend too much words on Rabi Lamichhane and his party, the Rastriya Swatantra Party.

Instead of staying out of power and leading a constructive politics of opposition, criticizing the government when it is due but also able to contribute with good ideas any time the occasion would arise, Lamichhane chose to jump and join the government.

It is all quite depressing if you think about it.

If you care about the future of the country, if you are genuinely interested in politics as a platform to change the society for better, then this gloomy scenario makes you really wonder about the future.

If political events stand as they are and continue in such a way, then it is obvious and clear that a sense of doom and hopelessness among people will prevail and it is already happening as we know.

Yet, is there any way to change this status quo and the way politics work?

As an observer to the vicissitudes of this nation, I believe that there are two venues to change the current state of affairs.

One idea is to copy, adjust, simplify and recalibrate some practices that occur in the United States of America.

The other instead is more about a system change in the way liberal democracy works not only in Nepal but also around the world.

While the latter is more complex, bold and certainly more visionary, the former instead could be more doable and practical, a way to ensure that only serious candidates get elected to the parliament.

Let’s start from here.

In the USA, as most readers know, there is a galaxy of so-called Political Action Committees, a complex and uniquely American way of supporting, mostly financially, certain candidates over others.

These tools, known as PACs, come in a variety of forms and they are correctly objectionable for their opacity.

Thinking about how such mechanisms could be improved and made more transparent and adapted to a totally different context go well beyond the scope of this piece.

Certainly, with all the alleged corruption that goes on in the electoral process in Nepal, it would be intriguing to explore ways to bring more accountability to the system.

PACs could perhaps offer an imperfect but more morally acceptable form of reigning malpractices in the system but my interest here is to focus on just some of their aspects that have less to do with the financing of campaigns.

The idea is that citizens of the country could form groups, even informal, to assess not only the moral and ethical leadership of running candidates but also their credentials, their expertise.

Regardless of the parties for which they will run, aspiring members of the Parliament at federal and provincial levels but also those proposing themselves to lead smaller local governments should be assessed based on their own character and performances.

If they are serious, competent, well-prepared and have good ideas, then such candidates should be made more visible, more prominent.

Citizens united even in small groups could do that.

Because the electoral game in Nepal is not so clean and fair, at the end of the day, we all know that what really matters is the “dough”, the money that moves around to win over people’s votes.

Instead, citizens, also based on their political preferences and ideologies, should be able to identify serious and promising candidates and support their campaign.

In the USA, there are many types of platforms, including Emily’s List that is a PAC focused on electing progressive democrat women.

What is captivating is not the financial support, the money put in the electoral campaigns throughout the States, though they are very substantial but requires a specific legal framework that is found only in the USA.

The most interesting part is the capacity-building, the non-financial support that the candidates “selected” by the organization, can count on.

This technical support can really make the difference in preparing a candidate to run a successful campaign.

The training offered vary from “Defining your values” to “Delivering your message” to “Effective campaigning”, just to offer an idea.

The bottom line is that there should be a way to ensure, also in a nation like Nepal, that more able, honest, integrity driven politicians are supported to emerge and win.

Even without a big “infrastructure” in place like the one of Emily’s List with its ambitious mandate of providing political competencies to its candidates and its mission to get elected only a certain typology of them, people in different constituencies in Nepal could come together to “study” and evaluate those running for office.

This could represent a much simpler way to ensure that the best candidates get elected, a bit like what happens in a caucus, another uniquely American mechanism used during the primaries, where citizens gather to discuss and choose their preferred candidates.

Again, there is no need to copy the whole mechanisms here mentioned, this won’t be practical either.

Yet there should be ways, even informal and within the current electoral system, that enable citizens to focus on picking candidates for their quality, because they deserve getting elected.

A citizen might not vote for a serious and competent candidate because of her ideology but the same citizen should be in a position to identify her best option according to her way of thinking.

Obviously, these ideas also provide an opening for more independent candidates, even if, running as an independent, should not be seen as a default guarantee of seriousness and wisdom.

The other option, something that deserves a full column on its own, would instead consist in rethinking the current liberal democracy framework.

I would not certainly change it for a dictatorship of the proletariat but would instead consider offering people more room to participate in the decision-making.

I am referring to forms of deliberative democracy that would not replace nor substitute elections, the core of the current liberal system.

Instead, more deliberations would allow citizens to decide and complement the work being done by elected politicians. But this is another story.

Ultimately citizens should not get resigned to what has been happening in politics with all its downsides. Forming new parties might not be the best way forward but empowering citizens with a stronger saying throughout the electoral process could instead be one.

Views are personal

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