What puts Nepal’s democracy in peril?

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Nepali leaders frequently express concern about the perils to Nepali democracy from unidentified sources, yet none have explicitly articulated the basis for their apprehension. The political maneuvers diverge from reality, and Nepali people are sick and tired of the leaders from all the political parties, who are still imposing conspiracy theories regarding democracy in Nepal. These leaders persist in imposing outdated notions of political stunts, despite a transformative shift marked by the overthrow of Narayanhiti Palace and the establishment of a new democratic order. The question remains: Why do these self-proclaimed democratic leaders persistently ‘invoke’ threats to our democracy and the rule of law?

These leaders have failed to steer the country with democratic norms and values. Despite Nepal officially discarding the monarchical and autocratic political system and enacting a new constitution in 2015, political leaders have not rekindled their commitment to democratic principles, remaining out of sync with them. Huq and Ginsburg argue that democracy devoid of democrats poses a distinct ethical dilemma, where unelected actors must decide between honoring the preferences of current voters or enabling future voters to make a meaningful democratic choice (2020). Nepal is a stark illustration, with rejected political leaders continuing to influence decision-making processes and governing bodies. The recent appointment of Krishna Prasad Situala to the upper house reflects a non-democratic trend and disregard for the people's mandate. The government appears more focused on retaining power than fortifying democratic institutions and principles, leading to power imbalances among coalition partners and neglect of the voters' mandate.

Nepali voters still grapple with illiteracy, facing challenges in comprehending democratic values and institutional development. Rather than safeguarding democracy, political parties and their leaders exploit this situation as an opportunity to seize power. These self-centric leaders neglect investing resources and efforts in voter education, opting instead to manipulate power through intimidation and vote buying. Presence of corrupt and unethical leaders poses a significant threat to the progress of democratic institutions and the empowerment of the people. Additionally, leaders across the political spectrum resort to deploying various political tactics to attract voters, often falling short of transparency and honesty. For instance, Nepal’s social welfare program, aiming to provide financial support to the elderly, has drawn criticism from experts. This initiative was implemented without sufficient public discourse and research on its potential outcomes and sustainability.

The prevalence of financial and policy-level corruption in Nepal is alarmingly high. Political parties and their supporters engage in substantial financial expenditures during elections, emerging as a primary catalyst for political corruption. Parties and their leaders frequently misappropriate development budgets intended for societal progress to fund costly election campaigns and appease their constituents. Moreover, a disturbing trend in corruption cases implicates high-ranking political figures. Examples include Nepali Congress leader and former minister Bal Krishna Khad, CPN-UML leader Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara, and former finance minister Janardhan Sharma, all directly implicated in various corruption-related incidents. This poses a significant threat to Nepali democracy, the rule of law, and the moral fabric of society.

In his book “The End of History and the Last Man,” Francis Fukuyama posits that liberal democracy, characterized by a focus on human rights, regular and free elections, and adherence to the rule of law, represents the ultimate stage in the evolution of human history. According to Fukuyama, the path to success for underdeveloped countries involves embracing freer markets and globalization. However, Nepal lacks the foundational tenets of democracy, such as freedom, human rights, and the rule of law.

The 2022 index from Freedom House reveals that Nepal is classified as partly free, scoring 57 out of 100 on the global freedom index. 

Nepal performs poorly in preventing corruption, government transparency, ensuring due process in civil and criminal matters, implementing equal treatment policies, safeguarding individual rights to equal opportunity, and preserving freedom. The government has fallen short of upholding democratic norms and principles for its people. In the light of these shortcomings, the question arises: Why do leaders persistently claim that democracy is under threat, even when they are in power?

The straightforward explanation lies in their apprehension of facing repercussions from the public due to their inability to govern with integrity and uphold the rule of law. Their anxiety is also fueled by the deceptive pledges they have made. Although Nepal theoretically operates as a democratic republic, its leaders often resort to autocratic practices, posing a more significant threat to democracy and the rule of law than external factors. Shifting blame toward foreign entities and passive political interest groups won’t contribute to political stability. It is the responsibility of political parties to fortify democratic institutions and principles, fostering peace and prosperity in Nepal. The primary threat to democracy originates from within the political parties, and their ineffective governance should not be attributed to unidentified elements.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s sole responsibility and do not reflect the views of any organization with which the author is professionally affiliated

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