Nepal – no national unity without inclusive democracy


Nepal’s Parliament recently elected Pushpa Kamal Dahal as prime minister, in the country’s 25th change in leadership in 26 years, The New York Times notes:

Political instability is harming Nepal’s struggling economy, which is expected to grow only 1.5 percent this year, and threatens to stall further relief for victims of last year’s devastating earthquake.

Unfortunately, there is little hope for stable governance in the near future. Mr. Dahal, under a power-sharing agreement between his Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Center) and the Nepali Congress party, will serve as prime minister for nine months, after which power will pass to Sher Bahadur Deuba, chairman of the Nepali Congress party, for nine months. That transition could well add to the political turmoil involving disputes over Nepal’s new Constitution, which was approved by the Parliament last September, and jockeying between Nepal’s powerful neighbors, India and China.

Since the promulgation of the constitution last year, Nepal has witnessed acute political polarization, The Kathmandu Post reports:

Some have hailed the statute as a progressive document and a historic achievement while others insist it fails to embody minority aspirations and hence risks being politically illegitimate. Akhilesh Upadhyay and Apekshya Shah Rana spoke to Carl Gershman, founding president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US non-profit organisation with the stated goal of promoting democracy abroad, about the prospects of democracy in a society as diverse as Nepal’s, the importance of inclusion and social justice to deepen democracy, and prerequisites for a functional democratic order. RTWT

“Democracy is difficult. It is difficult even in the Unites States today. We are having our own problems and I believe people know about it,” said Gershman (right). “But nobody wants to go back to authoritarianism. You have a vibrant civil society in Nepal, which is going to continue the bottom-up pressure for the political leaderships to make progress and solve the problems facing the country today. And it is happening.”

Gershman is in Kathmandu to participate in the inaugural ceremony of the international Darnal Award for Social Justice, an annual international award that celebrates and honors the life of Suvash Darnal (above).

Nepalese civil society is raising Dalit issues more vigorously, notes Sukhadeo Thorat, a former Director of the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies. “Dalit women have become more conscious. Some of them occupy government posts without losing their independence and freedom. Unlike in India, civil society organization has been able to effect change.”

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