Category Archives: Nepali Politics 2

Liars! Nepal’s Politics Suffers from a Trust Deficit

The trust deficit among major political parties and their leaders continues to exist even after the election of the second CA and the new Prime Minister by the parliament last week. Leaders continue to spit venom at each other.

By Siromani Dhungana

By now it is clear that the consensus between two major political parties –NC and UML– has become an elusive pursuit. They have failed to win confidence of each other. Evidences suggest that their journey ahead will be full of distrust and discomfort. After the election of the second Constituent Assembly (CA), the two parties are at loggerhead over power sharing deal.

The all-powerful Home Ministry has become the bone of contention between two parties. Nepali Congress has been dismissing the UML claim that there was a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between the two parties to give Home portfolio to UML. NC’s veteran leader Ram Sharan Mahat, who is the sole minister but without any portfolio in the Sushil Koirala cabinet, tweeted on Wednesday (12 Feb): Who says there was a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’? False news has been disseminated intentionally.

On the other hand, UML leader Bamdev Gautam who has been proposed as Home Minister by the party, continues to claim the existence of such agreement. In an exclusive interview with Setopati, he said: ‘Congress dumped the gentlemen’s agreement.’ Continue reading

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For the Record: Sushil Koirala Elected the Prime Minister of Nepal

By The Kathmandu Post

Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala, who has never held a public office, was elected prime minister on Monday (10 Feb) , garnering more than a two-thirds majority in parliament.

A seven-point deal signed between Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, the two largest parties in Constituent Assembly, on Sunday paved the way for 74-year-old Koirala to become the country’s 37th prime minister.

During a poll, Koirala—the sole candidate—got 405 votes in his favour. The third largest party, UCPN (Maoist), and some other parties voted against Koirala. Votes against his candidacy numbered 148.

PM Koirala’s priorities

Just before being elected, Koirala presented a list of his priorities to the parliament: Continue reading

Nepal: Elections, Voters and the Economy

Nepalis Are Not Dumb. They Voted Parties with Best Economic Policies for Nepal

By Siromani Dhungana/UWB

“An empty stomach is not a good political adviser”- Albert Einstein

The Constituent Assembly election is over now but its impact will remain until the next election. People have expressed their aspirations and exercised their power during this election so as to set the progressive course for issues that matter them the most. After humiliating defeat of left-extremism, there is hue and cry among so-called progressive analysts who think the country still needs extremist agendas to dominate Nepali life and influence policies. Supporters of left-extremism (aka ethnic federalism) are trying their best to interpret the result as voters’ revenge against Maoists but not their approval of stands taken by the Nepali Congress and the UML on federalism (multiple identity). In this article, I am not going after the ethnic extremists’ lame argument. This is my attempt to analyze the election results in the light of economy. Continue reading

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: Transitional [in] Justice in Nepal

As today is Blog Action Day 2013, and the theme this year is Human Rights, I thought it would be an appropriate time to write a piece about transitional justice in Nepal. All say Nepal is in political transition but none of them are clear how to end this transition. It seems political parties have not realized the gravity of human rights issues. The country which faced a decade long bloody war is yet to form an ‘independent and powerful’ Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Politicians and security forces, who were supposedly involved in war time crime, have been demanding blanket amnesty to all criminal cases. In this piece, I will focus on transitional justice and issue of disappearance in Nepal.

Siromani Dhungana
UWB

Nepal abolished the monarchy and become a federal democratic republic. In spite of the change in the political sphere, overall human rights situation in Nepal is yet to be improved. Political parties are far ahead in paying lip service to provide justice to victims. But they are reluctant to translate their words into action.

Communists waged war against the state when then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) openly declared that they do not follow parliamentarian system in 1996.

The ‘red revolution’ began with armed conflict, resulting in the death of more than 13,000 people in a decade — from 1996 to 2006. Besides, approximately 1,300 people were forcibly disappeared during a decade long armed conflict in this small Himalayan country. Continue reading

Nepal Needs More Transparency in Political Finance

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

Political parties in Nepal should recognize the value of transparency in the political process and the importance of providing citizens with information on funds raised and spent in the election to influence their votes.

It is clear that money counts in elections where there are needy voters and greedy politicians. Politicians have always exploited vulnerability of poor voters. They have bribed poor people and bought votes in this country. The forms of bribery varies from cash to goods or favor and a few glasses of raksi.

Rich leaders in a poor country do not hesitate to spend billions during the election time. Most of the leaders mobilize goons just to create psychological threat to the voters and supporters of opposition parties. Bribery is a form of intimidation but more straight mediums are always used in all elections.

Another usual feature of Nepali elections is no leader or candidate, however much they spend in campaigns (which includes bribery), comes up clean with their account details.

A Washington-based independent organization International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES)- which is already in Nepal as poll dates have been announced, in a book entitled “Handbook on Campaign Finance in Tunisia: Issues and Monitoring” says:

“Political parties and electoral contestants need money to campaign and make their platforms known to the electorate. Political finance is all the more important in a context of democratic transition given the emergence of new political parties not always known by the electorate. Financing is necessary for parties to strive and play their role in a democratic society.”

I think it is not fair to keep political money hidden from the public eye. Nepali political parties spend millions without revealing the source of their funding and consequently, voters never learn of the origins of the money used in financing election activities including the heavy advertising done during the campaign. This is less than ideal for an electoral system in a country that has its leaders tirelessly talking about democracy not fully institutionalized.

Why Disclose?

It is high time that the need for public disclosure of political finances be demanded. Disclosure helps prevent financial abuse during election and is necessary to promote healthy political competition.

We need a body akin to what was set up in the U.S. under the Federal Election Campaign Act 1974. An agency called the Federal Election Commission supervises all financial transactions by political bodies that have solicited or spent money to support or defeat federal candidates. The organization verifies all reports presented and discloses the same to the public and the media. The Election Commission in Nepal should be empowered to do exactly the same.

Political parties, on the other hand, should be ready for the public audit of their income and expenditure. In a book ‘Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns’ published by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), Karl-Heinz Nassmacher writes:

Most democracies have provided their controlling agency with the powers to sanction in one way or another financial misconduct by a party, candidate or other person or organization subject to the regulation.

In my own opinion, democratic system should be more transparent than any other political system and political parties should pledge to introduce a law to ban anonymous donations in democracy. In the context of Nepal, all political parties should formulate a common minimum understanding and issue the white paper regarding public disclosure of income and expenditure during election time for the time being.

Challenges of Undisclosed Contributions

An undisclosed contribution from any party is not a good sign for democracy. It is believed that contributors want returns from concerned political parties in the long run. But contributors themselves wanting anonymity would not deign well either as they will tend to take advantage of their political affiliation at the expense of ordinary people.

Past experience shows that undisclosed contributions can fuel ‘policy corruption’. The government in a country like Nepal compensates its financial contributors while introducing the budget. Tax exemption or special treatment to particular business enterprises can be regarded with suspicion as the number of politically active tax-exempt groups grows.

Undisclosed contribution often raises questions as to whether political parties benefit from influence peddling, organized crime or drug trafficking.

Terrorized Business Community?

Principally, a major share of funding should come from voluntary contributions but that is not happening in Nepal. Forceful donation drives by political parties has become a common phenomenon and has terrorized the business community. Almost all political parties tend to amass cash by forceful measures.

Some businessmen have even been revealing in public that all revenue frauds committed by them is a result of heavy donation that they have to give to political parties. According to them, they face problems in adjusting donation money in the balance sheet during the auditing process.

Transparency in donation would help boost the morale of the business community that has faced problems in adjusting their accounts because they were forced to donate with such conditions that they could not keep any record of the money dispensed. Political parties should now ensure that the election is not an event meant for terrorizing the business community.

Even Businessmen aren’t so clean

The business fraternity, however, is not clean of controversy. They also tend to appease political parties to hide their malpractices in business. The integrity of Nepal’s private sector is not very high. Multi-billion Value Added Tax (VAT) scandals, adulteration in food products and other unethical business practices have been growing in the country and successive governments have failed to take action against even a single corporate house. The private sector is guilty of its own crimes, and of being protected by the political leadership, which it cannot deny. Renowned faces from the business community entered the last CA representing different political parties which clearly showed that they want political protection and affiliation to go ahead in their business undisturbed.

A Silver Lining

In a commendable move, the Nepali Congress has recently promised that it is ready to reveal its sources of funds for the coming elections. The party has announced its commitment to accept donations through cheque as well.

Transparency is an essential principle of free and competitive markets; it is equally important in a system of free and competitive elections. Public disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures is a core prerequisite of any effective system of electoral campaigns, and its value is yet to be acknowledged by the Congress and the courts.

The announcement may have provided relief to the business community. It is a common practice around the world that political parties rely on donations to build and sustain themselves, to train party cadres and to fight in the elections. Equally important is the fact that the sources of its funding undeniably influence the behavior of the party if it comes to power. The issue thus has a direct impact on democratic rights.

In the End

The recent announcement of the Nepali Congress party has provided strong ground for the business community to bring the donation issue to the public domain. Other political parties should be ready to do the same. As public institutions, political parties should be proactive to disclose their information and arrange for regular briefings using various information demystification channels.

Channeling money through bank accounts can also improve the identification of contributors which is important for the monitoring of limits as well as the disclosure of sources.

Nepal needs to set up a mechanism that can ensure accountability on the source and utilization of party funds. The present opportunity and its timing can be used to promise this much-needed change since the country is ready to go for new a CA election.

(Siromani is the Editor of UWB. He  tweets @siromanid and can be contacted at siromani@blog.com.np)

Elections: Repeating History of Violence?

When leaders or parties lose their confidence to woo people through their policies and programmes, they resort to wielding violence to bring the election results to their favour.

By Sagar Ghimire

As November 19, the slated date for the Constituent Assembly election, draws closer, poll fever gradually grips the government, the Election Commission (EC) as well as the political parties. The EC is in full swing to make the election happen on the scheduled date. It enforced the Code of Conduct for the election and made the election time-table public too. Likewise, the government also held a meeting recently with security organs for the election to chart out a joint security strategy for the event.

However, political parties have failed to do their bit. Instead of forging a conducive and congenial environment to conduct the elections peacefully, the leaders of the parties are now fomenting violence through their speeches.
The unfortunate announcement from the CPN-Maoist to disrupt the election wasn’t as much a surprise as was the demand of the Nepali Congress leader and cadre to form their own ‘security squad’.

Though the NC president turned down the demand raised during the party’s Training of Trainers, the demand is indicative of the deeply embedded militant mindsets of the leaders and the cadres of all big parties. Continue reading

Elections 2013: Challenges Ahead for Nepal

The government has finally announced dates for the CA polls (19 November). This has raised hopes of Nepal getting a new elected body. Not yet time to celebrate hoping that Nepal will have a government that is accountable to people and its acts transparent. Similarly, there will not be a competition among political parties based on issues and ideologies in the upcoming CA polls. The only reason to be happy about this announcement si that this election, if it happens, may remove the current government of bureaucrats.

Siromani Dhungana
UWB

2013 elections are going to be held in the same circumstances in which 2008 CA elections were held.  Almost same faces, mainly same political parties and more or less same agendas. Some politicians have changed their parties but the ideological division that existed in 2008 remains unchanged.

Confrontation (reality) vs Consensus (Illusion)

The problem is politicians are divided not on the basis of ideology or philosophy rather on the basis of their personal interest and benefit. There is wide rift between communists and non-communist forces. The division, a the moment, is in its worst level. There is division within communist forces and also within non-communist forces too. This deep division, almost to the level of hatred, may create obstacles in the election process. It will certainly be a stumbling block in the constitution writing process as it was before. Continue reading

Election Government or Elected One?

Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke. -Will Rogers

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

I don’t support the idea of a government that bureaucrats or technocrats lead. Do you support a military-led government led? If not there is no reason you will support a government led by bureaucrats? The only difference between military rule and present Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi-led government is that Regmi is not wearing combat uniform.

It was no surprise that Regmi, in a recent meeting with medical professionals, said that he was appointed by foreign powers (international community, he said) despite his unwillingness and that Nepal had no power at the moment therefore there was no need for a separation of power (between executive and judiciary). Regmi has clearly hinted that he is not accountable to Nepali people but to a clique of four party leaders and ‘international community’. Continue reading

Who is Serious About Holding Elections?

Prospects of election continue to dominate the national discourse in Nepal but the key question is: are political parties serious about facing ballot boxes?

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

The political arena hasn’t changed since May last year when the then Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and his party UCPN Maoist and their power-hungry Madhesi collaborators let the Constituent Assembly die without drafting a constitution. No political party has changed their stands on several important issues and their tones and (dual) stances remain same. Essentially, all parties have lost their credibility and it seems they are not really interested to go for a fresh mandate. In this backdrop, it is very difficult to believe that election, let alone a genuine, free and fair one, can be held anytime soon.

Chairman of the interim electoral council of ministers, Khil Raj Regmi, might have realized by now that ruling the country is entirely way more challenging than issuing the court rulings that he is used to doing. On the one hand, the government has not yet to fixed the date of CA polls. On the other, Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist cadres have continued to disrupt the work of updating voter rolls in various districts forcing the Election Commission to suspend the work altogether. The problem here is that this non-elected apolitical government can do nothing against the organized political forces like the CPN-Maoist. In an interview with the website setopati.com, Chief Election Commissioner Nilkantha Upreti has clearly hinted that the poll dates may be pushed to later this year. Continue reading

Predicting the Unpredictable: Nepal’s Politics Plunges into Deep Crisis

Growing tensions among major political forces, unsettled ethnic and communal agendas and decline in credibility of political parties have raised serious question about the peaceful solution of current impasse.

With Chief Justice (CJ) Khila Raj Regmi’s March 14 appointment as the head of executive (Chairman of the interim electoral council of ministers), the Nepal has formally entered into the era of decree. On the one hand, Nepal’s political parties have failed to respect peoples’ mandate by installing an unelected man at the helm. On the other, future political course of the country has become highly unpredictable. It is not sure whether Khila Raj Regmi will be successful in holding elections (in November. Forget about June possibilities.)

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

With the appointment of CJ as the chief executive, the notion of power separation has been dismantled. So much for democratic values!  ‘Political syndicate’ practiced by major four political parties forced people to be ruled by bureaucrats. This decision of major political parties was shocking to many democrats and analysts believe that the political crisis in the country will further deepen.

Apolitical Politics

I was en route to Nuwakot — the adjacent district to Kathmandu — the day after CJ was appointed the chairman of interim election government. The microbus driver started talking about appointment and asked, “what happens if we let helper to drive the bus all of a sudden?” According to him, the decision to allow CJ to lead the government was just like giving the control of wheels microbus to an untrained helper.

Many agree with his assessment. This decision doesn’t even represent views of the majority of central leaders of Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) let alone represent the peoples’ wishes (though some foreign diplomats in Kathmandu may love to believe so).  This decision has in fact undermined the peoples’ right to choose their representatives to rule them. It further proved that our top guns of major political parties do not have political capability to rule the country.

Chief [In] Justice Sab

And, Regmi became the synonym of greed and power-hunger. The person who is supposed to provide justice to all easily nodded to be the chairman of the interim election government which made the mockery of the rule of law.

Maoists were clear enough. From the very beginning, they wanted to destroyed the reputation of the judiciary and push it into controversy so as to end the public trust on it.

It seems Khila Raj Regmi failed to evaluate the severity and implication of his acceptance. Now, Nepal’s judiciary has converted into a political-like institution and it is for sure that political institution cannot be out of controversy. Due to shortsightedness of CJ Regmi, Nepal’s judiciary has lost moral ground to charge anyone with contempt of court case. Court will now face heavy criticism from public and its credibility and independence will be questioned and Regmi will be remembered for long for his power-hungry attitude.

Again in Interim

Nepal’s politics has entered into an interim phase once again. Existing political leadership have failed to end the perennial transition pushing the country further into interim rule. The country has already born the brunt of prolonged interim period. Development activities have been halted and national coffers have been misused by leaders from ruling parties.

Deception Forever

Nepali politics is another name of deception. Accountability and transparency have been illusive and leaders are good for nothing than providing false promises. During the constituent assembly election, people were told that they could be master of their own destiny. People were further told that they would have been reeling under poverty due to rooted structure of feudalism.

After six years, it has been proved that people were betrayed and politicians had delivered false promises. It seems no single politician is serious enough to embrace issue of economic prosperity and political stability. Unemployment rate has been skyrocketing but who cares? In fact, our leaders lack vision and political characters. Most of them are deceptive and hypocrites.

More Instability Ahead

The politics in the future may be more fluid and fragile. Tensions between political parties and the interim government will rise. Conducting election will not be as easy as our Chief Justice-turned-chairman of interim government Regmi has thought. The question is: “Whether he can bear the political pressure and face the criticism of people?” I think he cannot. Political stagnation will continue and if failed, the Regmi-led government will push the country into deeper political crisis.