Tag Archives: democracy

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)

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Dear Comrade Prachanda….think before using the word ‘democracy’

Before calling Baburam a democrat, Prachanda should answer the following questions:

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

Speaking at the seventh General Convention of the UCPN (Maoist) in Hetauda on February 2, comrade Prachanda, after encouraging his followers against main opposition Nepali Congress, posed a close-ended question to his cadres: “Is Baburamjee against peace and constitution? Is he an undemocratic leader?”


His cadres clapped and laughed but did not dare to answer because it was a close-ended question and Maoists cadres are not free enough to oppose their headquarters.

Dear comrade, yes you and your fellow incumbent Prime Minister (Baburamjee) both are indeed undemocratic leaders. Your deputy has dual character. He talks about uplifting lives of the poorest of poor but in practice he does nothing for them. In an interview with the Indian newspaper DNA, he says:

Q: Yet, Maoists in India are popular with the poorest and with many intellectuals, including the likes of Anuradha Ghandy, whose memorial lecture you will be delivering. So why did it not capitalise on this support?

A: (Smiles) I think this is for the Marxists and Maoists of India to asses as to why they failed to make an impact. But seeing this from a theoretical level, parliamentary democracy does not address the problems of the poor masses and people in backward countries like India and Nepal. There is too much disparity, with one section enjoying the fruits of democracy and the majority in the country — the dalits, the tribals, the women, the poor — are deprived of their genuine democratic rights. This contradiction is there. I think the radical communists are trying to champion the cause of the downtrodden.

Comrade Prachanda, your deputy thinks ‘parliamentary democracy does not address the problems of the poor masses and people in backward countries like India and Nepal’. So, which is the most suitable model of democracy for a country like Nepal? Continue reading

Five Reasons Why Nepal is No More a Democracy

Existing political events strongly suggest that Nepal is on its way to being ruled by an autocratic political system. Leader of this new system, Mustang-rider Dr. Baburam Bhattarai (or Dr-sab as some people call him) has accelerated speed of his vehicle to lead the country into an autocratic system where the Maoist party will have its say on all important issues including those that are to be handled by an independent judiciary.

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

Democracy in Nepal is on the verge of collapse. Most of the indicators of democracy are either dismantled or dead. The basic notion of democracy- ‘check and balance’- has been destroyed and now there is only the check of the communist-led government.

Why Nepal is not a democratic country? Because: Continue reading

American Diplomatic Cable: Fear of Royal Coup when Nepal Was About to Limit King’s Power in 2006

2006-05-18 11:49

C O N F I D E N T I A L KATHMANDU 001267

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/18/2016
TAGS: PGOV PTER MASS NP
SUBJECT: POWER PLAY TO WATER DOWN PROCLAMATION FAILS

REF: A. KATHMANDU 1262

¶B. NEW DELHI 3433

Classified By: Ambassador James F. Moriarty, Reasons, 1.4 (b/d).

Summary
——-

¶1. (C) Just a few hours before the Prime Minister’s planned
May 18 3:00 pm proclamation to limit the King’s power and
place the army under civilian control, rumors swirled around
Kathmandu that the Army and the King were planning a
preemptive coup. The leaders of two of Nepal’s biggest
parties, Nepali Congress-Democratic (NC-D) and CPN-UML, told
us Indian Defense Minister Mukherjee had separately called
them May 17 to ask Parliament to go slowly in changing the
King’s role vis-a-vis the Army. Chief of Army Staff General
Thapa told the Ambassador that on the morning of May 18 he
had met with the Prime Minister and urged caution, saying he
was unsure of his troops’ reaction if the government appeared
to be acting vindictively toward the King. The Prime
Minister had rejected General Thapa’s request to postpone the
proclamation. At the end of the day, the PM withstood the
pressure and power play and issued the proclamation as
drafted – putting the King in a box and the army under the
new civilian government’s control (septel). End Summary. Continue reading

Constituent Assembly Gives itself Another Three Months

For the record: The Legislature-parliament (which is the non-constituent making part of the Constituent Assembly that also works as parliament) today extended the term of the CA by another three months. This extension comes a day after Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai was elected the 35th Prime Minister of Nepal. But these two developments are unrelated. The proposal to extend the CA was tabled by the Jhalanath Khanal-led cabinet that was replaced today by Baburam’s two member cabinet. In fact, the newly elected Prime Minister, and his Maoist party, wanted the CA to be for six months. The current CA term was due till This is the third extension of the CA that was originally elected for two years in May 2008. It was extended for a year in 2010 and for another three months in May 28. The term was extended by amending the Interim Constitution by a two-thirds majority. 541 members of the CA were present for the voting. 537 voted for the amendment proposal, 4 against it.

Read about earlier extension which was more “entertaining!”: Constituent Assembly term extended for three months

Kashmir and Indian Democracy

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

A Nepali perspective on a South Asian problem: “Kashmir has never been an integral part of India,” declared Arundhati Roy in New Delhi last week. “It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this.”

Kashmir and Indian Democracy Kathmandu Post

Kathmandu Post. Click to enlarge

By saying so the Booker-prize winning author of The God of Small Things created a tsunami that instantly swept through India—from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The ripples were the biggest in the Capital, the power centre of India. The ruling Congress party asked Roy to withdraw her statement. Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party demanded that she be charged with sedition for questioning India’s authority over Kashmir. The government, through its law minister, said her comments were “most unfortunate” because the freedom of speech “can’t violate the patriotic sentiments of the people.”

Whether India has authority over Kashmir has been a hotly debated issue since 1947. But what the world agrees on, by and large, is that India is a democracy that provides a relatively greater degree of freedom to its citizens. Including, happily, to Roy, who was born in Shillong, Meghalaya, to Keralite Syrian Christian and women’s rights activist Mara Roy, and a Bengali father, a tea planter by profession; Roy now lives in New Delhi. At the same time, rights violations and stiff restrictions on civil liberties have become part of daily life in certain parts of India, almost as a price to keep the Indian union intact and its democracy safe from the ultra-left. That is the reason people like Roy believe India is increasingly becoming a police state.

Every democracy has its flaws. The Indian democracy is no exception. But with strict enforcement of laws like the Right To Information (RTI) Act the Indian democracy has empowered its people like never before. One hallmark of Indian democracy is its crowd culture wherein the collective wisdom of the leadership or the mass outmaneuvers any wickedness of an individual or a small group that may be looking to exploit loopholes—legal or otherwise. There are many instances of flawed decisions of the courts which were later changed to reflect the popular sentiment or public uproar that demanded a more humane and just approach. Despite the controversies surrounding it and despite being branded by opposing parties as a government tool to harass them, public-interest organisations like the anti-graft body of Central Bureau of Investigation are functional. They command public respect and trust. The culture where politically connected and influential people can easily get their work done is still prevalent in India. But thanks to laws like the RTI, the poor and the socially marginalised believe they are also heard by the system. Despite the hysterical nationalistic sentiments and appalling corporate control over some influential media, the public discourse is still open, fearless and impactful because there are too many media outlets in India to be manipulated by governments or business groups or political parties. It is the pluralistic Indian society and its democractic culture that allow vibrant discussions on sensitive issues like the Indian authority over Kashmir. Vague issues like national security are often used as an excuse by Indian authorities and agencies to subvert just voices inside the country and in its neighborhood. But as long as there is stable democracy in India, just causes will find their way to success. Continue reading

Sushil Koirala at the Helm of Nepali Congres: The Road Ahead

What does the strong showing of Sushil Koirala panel mean for the Nepali Congress and the broader national politics?

By Akhilesh Upadhyay

sushil koirala of nepali congress

At least in short term, Sushil Koirala’s election is less likely to have a more telling impact on national politics of Nepal than that of the three-time Prime Minister Deuba’s would have had.

The much delayed Nepali Congress General Convention is finally done with. For now, the battle for succession is over. It is another Koirala. Acting President Sushil Koirala, 71, has consolidated his hold on the Grand Old Party as the elected chief for the next three years. Also, the Koirala panel holds a majority in the party’s central committee. Prakash Man Singh beat the much fancied Bimalendra Nidhi in the crucial race for the General Secretary.

What does all this mean for the NC and the national politics at large?

But first let’s gloat on the success of Gagan Thapa, 34, who got the highest votes at the GC. Gagan made his mark in the party—indeed the national politics—as a fiery orator, a student leader, taking squarely on the NC establishment in the early 2000s. He rode high on reformist agenda but, unlike so many other leaders, both young and seasoned, he had the gift to communicate his ideas effortlessly in large public rallies and the fast mushrooming political TV talk shows. The royal takeover in 2005 only gave him a broader stage to exercise his oratorical skills and expand his national reach. Gagan’s mass appeal does not just come from his youth, which is obviously a huge asset. He has also been quick to move beyond his party veterans (and many young leaders) who speak a very convoluted political jargon—narrow-minded, partisan, and mostly suited for closed-door intra-party debates—uninspiring to the political centre, and indeed the apolitical class. Continue reading

Gagan Thapa: Most Favoured in Nepali Congress

By Kamal Raj Sigdel

gagan thapa nepali congress leader

With 2,061 votes in his kitty, Gagan Thapa, 34, stands out as the most favoured among the 25 new Nepali Congress Central Working Committee members elected from the open competition.

Gagan Thapa means business. At a gathering of party colleagues and friends before the Nepali Congress General Assembly last week, the young Turk said he was confident of victory in the party’s central working committee (CWC), “The challenge for me is to garner the highest number of votes.”

The votes were all counted on Monday (27 Sept). And true to his words, he was the No. 1. With 2,061 votes in his kitty, he stands out as the most favoured among the 25 new CWC members elected from the open competition.

However, this was not a surprise for many inside and outside the party. For, it was discernible before the election that the young man had managed to shore up support from a multiple sections of the party’s constituencies, including the youth, the establishment faction and obviously from his father-in-law, Arjun Narsingh KC, who stood only second after him.

Thapa himself, however, believes that his success is the reward for his loyalty to the party. “I remained disciplined at testing times,” said Thapa, whose request for a ticket to fight for the 2008 Constituent Assembly (CA) polls was turned down by then party president Girija Prasad Koirala. He was later nominated as a CA member from the proportional representation quota. Continue reading

Nepali Congress General Convention Message: Unity Essential

By Anil Giri
[List of winning candidates]
For the record: With the final election results of the Nepali Congress on Monday (27 Sept) giving a verdict for a mixed composition of its 61-member new Central Working Committee (CWC) for a four-year term, maintaining ‘unity’ and working in tandem on national issues will be a serious challenge to both the Sushil Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba camps. The neck-to-neck competition and sizeable representation of the Deuba camp (29 CWC members) in the CWC may serve as a strong opposition to the Koirala camp (32 CWC members) in the party.

As the elected president, Koirala has the authority to nominate another 21 CWC members, subject to the approval of CWC. Many party insiders are hoping that the president uses his prerogative to heal the party after a divisive election.

One interesting feature of the election is that a majority of the new faces in CWC from the open and zonal seats are of the Deuba faction. Shanker Bhandari, Manmohan Bhattarai, Surendra Pandey, Jeevan Bahadur Shahi and Kishor Singh Rathor are the pro-Deuba new faces in the CWC.

The Koirala camp has secured 14 seats in the open category, 9 in zonal seats, 10 in reserved seats while the Deuba camp bagged 11 in the open category, 5 in zonal seats and 12 in reserved seats. There is speculation that some elected CWC members who contested the election from the Koirala camp but had been close to the Deuba camp, could return to the Deuba faction. Continue reading

Nepali Congress: New Leadership, Old Challenges

sushil koirala

sushil koirala

The 12th General Convention of the Nepali Congress on Tuesday (21 Sept) elected Acting President Sushil Koirala the party’s new president. Sushil secured 1,652 votes in contrast to his contenders Sher Bahadur Deuba 1,317 and Bhim Bahadur Tamang 78. Fifteen votes were declared invalid.

As per the party’s statute, a winning candidate must secure at least 50 percent plus one vote from the total turnout, which was 3,062 in Tuesday’s election. According to the Central Election Committee of the party, 20 representatives, including founder member Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, who was critically ill, remained absent due to various reasons. Bhattarai had written a letter to the Acting President a few days ago expressing his inability to attend the convention as, he said, the NC had drifted away from its original ideology of constitutional monarchy.

nepali congress flag

nepali congress flag

The election committee had prepared nine different ballot papers to simplify the election process. The papers were prepared to separate the posts of different categories, including the president, office bearers, and CWC members from the open and reservation quotas.

Unlike the election committee’s estimation that it would take 12 minutes in an average for a person to complete voting on the given nine ballot papers, the actual average time spent by a voter was 25 to 30 minutes. To speed up the election process, booth arrangements were made to enable over 40 voters to cast their ballot simultaneously.

Singh new NC gen secy; Yadav treasurer

prakash man singh and chitralekha yadav

Reaching out to one another:Newly elected Nepali Congress General Secretary Prakash Man Singh and Treasurer Chitra Lekha Yadav exchange congratulations in the Nepali Congress party office at Sanepa, Lalitpur, on Wednesday (22 Sept).

Continue reading