Tag Archives: Nepal

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

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

Why do you need Ushaft’s election updates for Nepal?

UWB:

Ushaft says:

“I have repeated many times that the English language media circuit in Nepal is an echo chamber, consisting of a very narrow group of privileged and detached people who always agree with each other, often to imply that the Maoist war was the greatest achievement in the history of Nepal. As it is, relying on most of Nepal’s English language pundits can end up in very embarrassing situations for yourself. As was evident in one instance from last week, a very vocal “Nepal expert” English language writer was found criticizing a New York Times article because, according to her, the article was making fun of the Maoists in Nepal by calling them “Dashists” and “Cashists.” In fact, the Nepali language press and the streets of Nepal have long been using these terms coined by the Maoists themselves. In the past, the Maoists have made public remarks like calling the third largest party “an eunuch party,” and the echo chamber didn’t even produce as much as a whisper for this insult (or joke for them) that would be unacceptable in most of the civilized countries.”

“Take another example. We had an election for the constituency assembly in 2008 too. The run up to that election was full of violence, intimidation and countless other incidents that could have influenced the result in the end. However, election observers and foreign press, watching elections in the polling centers near the highways, and from the eyes of Nepal’s English language commentators, were unaware of all that was going around. In the end, a very violent polling campaign was termed as completely free and fair, even before polling had closed at all centers.

“Nepal’s politics and society is much complex than it seems. The English language press can make you believe in a very simplistic picture of good guys vs bad guys (with Nepal’s radical forces always being their good guys), but you will be left very ill informed with sources like these, which can be both ignorant about the issues and manipulative and driven by their vested interests at the same time. It is no surprise that many commentators, writers and columnists do not provide full disclosure in Nepal, often hiding their affiliations with interest groups, which however, are of common knowledge to many others inside Nepal.”

We agree with Ushaft. We will reblog him as soon as he comes up with informed analysis on the site.

Originally posted on Ushaft's Blog:

More info (22nd Nov): Followups to this blog post can be seen here: How was the polling day? and Citizens’ Statement about Maoists’ walkout from vote counting. After polling closed across Nepal, I have made some revisions about my prediction made in the initial posts of this series. The results that are coming out right now confirm the general mood in Nepal I had described in one another post and the vested interests and ignorance of the echo-chamber.


Starting today, I’ll cover some of the discussion from the Nepali social media circle related to the upcoming election. Because of the discussions being in Nepali, many outside observers will miss the real pulse of Nepal as we draw very close to the election. The aim of this blog-series is to narrow this gap and let everybody get a feel of how it is like here at present. Many such reports…

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Contradiction, Evidences Suggest, is the Communist Religion in Nepal

Temple hopping CP Gajurel (You spotted him! Silver-haired and in white kameej) of the Maoist party at the Doleshwor Mahadev temple.

Temple hopping CP Gajurel (You spotted him! Silver-haired and in white kameej) of the Maoist party at the Doleshwor Mahadev temple.

By Siromani Dhungana

Communist movement in Nepal is full of controversy and contradictions. Nepal has seen communist leaders who once called parliament a “butcher’s shop, where dog’s meat is sold by displaying the goat’s head” got elected in the same parliament to lead a government. This country has also seen communists who waged a bloody war against parliamentary democracy join the mainstream, got themselves nominated to the parliament and take part in elections of a parliament to be the largest party in the House.  The country has also seen atheist communists who condemned religion as opium turn into devotees and companions in temple hopping. 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 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

A Conversation with Departing Nepal Chief of the UK Aid Agency

Dominic O' Neill on his last day in office as Head of DFID Nepal.

Dominic O’ Neill on his last day in office as Head of DFID Nepal. Pic by Amish

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

At one point on his last day in office as head of DFID Nepal, Dominic O’ Neill was waiting for reporters. And a photographer.

“So, you guys want to take a picture?” He said as he fixed his tie. “This will probably be the last meeting with journalist in my nearly two years of stay in Nepal.”

“Tomorrow,” he said on Friday, “I will be leaving this beautiful country. I will never forget this land. Be it Humla, Mustang, the Tarai or Hilly belt, my desire to visit all the parts of the country will always remain the same. This county will always stay fresh within my heart.”

In an hour long conversation with us (friends Gaurav Aryal and Amish), Dominic addressed a range of issues- from donors’ role in Nepal to socioeconomic situation. What Dominic says as head of DFID Nepal is important because the UK aid agency, called Department for International Development (DFID), is currently the largest bilateral donor in Nepal. DFID “disbursed £55.9m of bilateral development assistance” in Nepal in fiscal year 2012/13. The UK also “disbursed £3.56m as debt relief.” According to DFID Annual Report and Accounts, UK aid to Nepal for the FY 2012-13 was divided into several sectors: Continue reading

To Hold Democratic Elections, Supreme Court Chief Justice Becomes Prime Minister in Nepal

WHAT- Nepal got a new Prime Minister today. President Ram Baran Yadav appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi as the Chairman of the Interim Electoral Council of Ministers (basically the Prime Minister) of Nepal. Dr. Yadav also administered the oath of office and secrecy to Regmi this morning. Regmi became the PM because Nepal’s top political parties, at war with each other and unwilling to accept leadership of the party other than their own, finally agreed on CJ Regmi’s name for the leader of the electoral government to hold elections of the Constituent Assembly. It is believed that Nepali leaders, generally considered corrupt and incompetent, did so at the behest of foreign forces especially our southern neighbor.

GOOD? BAD? Both.

First, why it is good:

1) Regmi replaced Dr. Baburam Bhattarai as the PM. This is good. I had big hopes from Bhattarai when he became pm 18 months ago. But he turned out to be a utter disappointment. Just another corrupt man who promoted nepotism and favoritism and, through his wife, misused resources of state in a naked manner. So Bhattarai’s exit is a relief. The Maoists were milking the state resource. I am not sure if that will be stopped entirely because the militant party in Nepal has the capability to extort and intimidate general public, business and government machinery even when they are not in power. Moreover, they have put in place many of their men and women in many plum and crucial positions in Nepali government machinery and administration that it will childish to say that their illegal flow of income from the state coffer will stop.

BAD

Now, why it’s bad?

1) If you believe in democracy, its principles, constitutionalism and fairness in politics, you will be very sad with the way Regmi’s name was proposed and appointed to lead the government. When he was appointed the prime minister, he was the serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Stunningly, he still is the CJ. He hasn’t resigned. Now, where has that basic principle of a constitutional democracy called separation of power gone? And look at what happend at the Supreme Court today? It was supposed to hear on the writ filed against the appointment of the CJ as PM. But the hearing was differed because CJ was appointed PM merely an hour before the hearing  was scheduled to begin. The whole concept of independent judiciary has received a big blow.

NOW WHAT?

Those who are support the CJ’s appointment as the PM argue that it was done to hold elections and provide an outlet to nearly 10-month long political deadlock. Okay, I get the point. But will an election which itself is an outcome of undemocratic exercise be able to provide solutions? It will be a step towards right direction if Regmi resigned from his post of the CJ.

Also, there really wasn’t any constitutional way to appoint a new pm because political parties who were to work in conensious were not willing to accept each other’s leadership. The only other option would have been to continue with BRB, whose legality was already in question, at the helm. Nepal’s current flawed interim constitution provides only ways for a prime ministerial appointment: one, the person has to win a majority of votes in the CA which is no more. Two, the person has to garner the support of major political parties, namely the NC, UML and UCPN Maoist (called national consensus).

I am all for elections. My hands are etching to caste a vote (two votes actually). Yes it will be very hard for me to choose the candidate (or a party) because all of the partie that are likely to contest in the elections have been tried and tested and they have all disappointed us. I just hope that some good candidates show up in the elections and some really good leaders emerge out of the democratic process.

Some say they doubt elections can happen under this government. Some say, there are high chances for elections to happen (in November, not in July though) because parties do want to rule and the only way for them to go back to power is to content elections and win the votes of the people.

Now the danger is that we can fully trust this government either. It is because these bureaucrats (two former secretaries were appointed ministers today and eight more will be included in the cabinet) are accountable to none today. And people can not punish (or award) them in elections either. They may turn out to be even more corrupt. Bigger danger is that they may get unduly influenced to sign anti-national treaties and other provisions.

A Maoist Attempt of Merging the Judiciary into the Executive

Appointment of the SC Chief Justice as the Prime Minister will be Supreme injustice to the people of Nepal.

Political parties in democracy can, of course, be good or bad but most certainly without a capable leadership of political parties, the democratic system will never be anything but bad. -tweaked version of Albert Camus’s quote on free press

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

On January 30, before the Maoists proposed appointing incumbent Supreme Court Chief Justice as Prime Minister, I had written in in this blog: “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.”

Unfortunately, the Maoists have proved me right yet again with their flabbergasting proposal. You don’t have to be a political scientist to know what the Maoists are trying to do is completely against the basic notion of democracy, that is, the check and balance. And, incompetent and shortsighted opposition parties are once again going to be fooled by the UCPN Maoist. And that will cost Nepal’s fledgling democracy dearly.

The propose of appointing incumbent chief justice as the Prime Minister of the country has apparently showed that the largest political party of Nepal is trying to ruin the basis democratic concept ‘check and balance’ among major state organs — judiciary, executive and legislature.

If materialized, the Maoist proposal will not only ruin completely the independence of judiciary but also jeopardize the entire justice system of Nepal. On the other hand, it will also help undermine the importance of political parties in Nepal which will have repercussion in the long run.

It is for sure that the Maoists want to resume their war-time ‘kangaroo courts’ which they operated in villages in a direct challenge to the existing judicial system. Even after ending armed conflict in 2006, the party had floated the idea of reviving ‘kangaroo courts’ in 2007 in an effort to step up pressure against the then interim government headed by NC leader Girija Prasad Koirala.

The Maoists never believed in current judicial system in Nepal. They have constantly argued that this is the one State organ that still represents that feudal, old Nepal. They have constantly flouted Supreme Court decisions. Their senior leaders, including the PM, have every now and then spoken against the judicial system and courts in general. They think, after controlling executive and having had largest number of seats in legislature parliament (dissolved in May 2012), the judiciary is the last  bastion that still remained out of their sphere of influence. The fact that the Maoists couldn’t win notable number of seats in the recently held elections of national committee of Nepal Bar Association despite fighting polls against democratic candidates in partnership with the UML-supported lawyers shows their poor presence in judicial sector.

And now, suddenly, they have this new-found trust in judiciary! Doesn’t sound plausible at all. Those who have been criticizing and flouting judicial decisions are now suddenly seeing ‘most independent and trustworthy’ person in the head of the same judiciary.

And at a time when the SC is already stretched- and is functioning with only around half of dozen judges and can’t fulfill vacant positions because there doesn’t exist a mechanism in the absence of parliament.

And at a time when the SC has issued quite a few orders staying or stopping several controversial decisions of the Maoist-led government including in the case of Dekendra Thapa. Continue reading

Press Council Nepal: From a Watchdog to the Maoist Lapdog

Awadesh Kumar Yadav

Awadesh Kumar Yadav

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

The present Press Council Act in Nepal need to be revisited, restructured and reformed to ensure the independence of the council and to establish it as a true ‘watchdog mechanism’.

After the appointment of new chairman at Press Council Nepal (PCN), the need of reforming the existing legal provision has further garnered its relevancy.

In what appears to be a controversial move of the Government of Nepal, it appointed former Supreme Court Justice Awadhesh Kumar Yadav as the Chairman of Press Council Nepal on January 25, 2013.

Reportedly, Yadav as the apex court Justice had issued an order to prevent the prosecution of a war-era criminal case against then Maoist lawmaker Keshab Rai. Continue reading