Nepal: People's Democracy vs. Pluralism

Raj Kumar Siwakoti

SG, Human Rights and Democratic Forum, Nepal

Election to the Constituent Assembly (CA) was held April 10, 2008 to institutionalize achievements of the second Jana Andolan of 2006 followed by the overwhelming solidarity of the political parties and the general people. Citizens expect that the new constitution shall fulfill the people's aspirations for new Nepal with restructuring of the state and its governance system. It was expected that the new constitution shall reinstate the snatched rights of Nepali citizens and ensure economic prosperity through the prevalence of complete political stability in the country. The CA had expressed commitment to formulate inclusive and democratic constitution with federal system and to lead the peace process to its logical end. Unfortunately, the working solidarity of the parties faded away after the success of Jana Andolan and election to the CA body. The unending debate about consensus and pluralism brought number of upheaval in the constitution making and peace process. The CA term has been extended for six months until 28 May 2012 after completion of the initial 3 years and 3 months term. However, there is no sign of formulating new constitution even within this additional period.

Management of the transitional phase after the success of Jana Andolan II, democratic schooling of the UCPN-Maoist that came to open politics after 10 years of violent people's war, formulation of new constitution and measures to institutionalize democratic stability are inter-linked. Democratic forces have to modernize their classical political ideologies. It is natural that the power established through armed conflict and the traditional democratic forces have theoretical and philosophical differences. While presenting its ideas in the theoretical and philosophical ways, the Maoist attempts to be in a separate panel and the democratic forces react in a rigid way against such attempts. There was a marriage of convenience between these two extreme poles till the CA election. However, these differences emerged as a standard to incorporate certain types of provisions in the new constitution pushing the peace process towards an awkward position.

There are dozens of issues of contention between UCPN-Maoists and Nepali Congress as well as other parties in the course of constitution making. There are debates over the unchangeable provisions and language of preamble including in the form of governance of state, form of legislative organ, state restructuring and division of power, justice system, fundamental rights and the directive principles. The words to be used have become issue of contention. Maoist party is insisting that the people's democracy should be mentioned in the constitution as the change was possible through their people's war; however, other parties stress that people's democracy is not established through any philosophy or practice so people's democracy is not acceptable instead a democratic society based on pluralism should be maintained as unchangeable provision. There is dispute about the terms including form of governance of the state, form of legislative organ, state restructuring and division of power, justice system, fundamental rights and directive principles, language of the preamble and provisions to be incorporated as unchangeable. There is bitter difference about what types of words to be used in the constitution.

Academic discourse is necessary on the philosophical and theoretical ground about whether pluralism or people's democracy should be incorporated in the new constitution as unchangeable provision. Pluralism is a political system developed by democratic society with the history of almost 2500 years to bring about a change in the economic and social life of the people. Numerous groups run by society and various communities are dominant in the democratic practice. These groups usually have close links with the ruling system. Pluralism is protected by law in a democratic society. Liberal democratic and social democratic systems believe that democratic practice is not possible without pluralism. However, people's democracy is yet to be established through convincing theory and concepts. Maoists claim that pluralism is a component within people's democracy. This claim can be true, but philosophical and academic logic is required to justify this. Some scholars intend to use people's democracy as synonym of absolutism. UCPN-Maoist claims that absolutism does not represent Janabad, the people's democracy. However, this concept itself is confusing and it is not logical to claim it as democracy. It is a hypothesis that the term Janabad can be defined as democracism. This is yet to be experimented. Maoists have not been able to justify this concept with academic discourse. If one succeeds to establish people's democracy as equivalent to democracy understood by the Westerners, it might represent a revised form and new ideology provoked by the democratic movements of the poor and exploited people of the third world. Otherwise, we will have to understand that the people's democracy proposed by the Maoist is a political system without political pluralism established as totalitarian at the cost of pluralism. In such a system, pluralism is shadowed by a single aim, and the government compels people to follow a single ideology and pattern.

The people's democracy understood by the contemporary society is somehow near to absolutism. Under absolutism, the leadership rules its cadres and community through undefined limitation and unpredictable way. A single ideology, party or ruler continues to rule. The practice to resolve differences through discussion, interaction and consensus is completely ignored. The citizens are deprived of the benefits of private life and liberal economy. Therefore, the people's democracy is almost equivalent to absolutism. If the Maoist want to establish people's democracy as a modern democracy, it has to establish first through philosophy and explanation that it is more advanced than pluralism. Otherwise, the logic of Maoist without philosophical or theoretical ground to prove that pluralism is a component or dimension of people's democracy cannot convince other parties during constitution making process. UCPN-Maoist, being the largest political party in Nepal, has more responsibilities, and it is natural to expect that this party has the responsibility to convince other parties through philosophy, logic and conscience. Such a responsible measure shall prove its accountability as well as good political activism.

Nepal has a rich and unique natural diversity. People from various religion, ethnicity, and occupation have been living in this land together for several centuries. A single party, ideology or leadership cannot lead the genetic, geographical, social and cultural diversity of the land. About political system, there is no choice but to incorporate either pluralism or people's democracy in the new constitution. Pluralism has a relatively longer and more logical history. At the same time, we cannot say that people's democracy cannot offer a wider measure to address the current problems. For a long time in the past, Nepalese people have been expecting a revised framework of political and governing system. We have to watch the Maoists to see whether they can address people's aspirations and fulfill their expectations through people's democracy or vow to the established system of pluralism.

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I agree


  • Posted on - 2012-03-08    by     gaunle
  • If a person closes his mind towards logical reasoning nothing can be done about it.