Sunday, August 22, 2010

Has Government Failed Nepal?

It's always awkward commenting on Nepali politics because as an outsider you really aren't part of the system. So I'll buffet what I'm about to say with the disclaimer that, these are just my opinions and observations. I always stand by the idea that Nepal's politics should in fact be decided by Nepali people and not foreigners, no matter how good the intentions of the intervening nations might be. Also I am the first to admit that my country is politically a complete mess, so I am not trying to suggest that westerners have all the answers. Now with that aside, let's move on.

 Today a quote came out from Maoist chairman Dahal that the failure of the parliamentary system to elect a prime minister amounts to the failure of the parliamentary system as a whole. Now this shouldn't surprise anyone, the Maoists have been clearly working the system for a while to make it look terrible, to cause it to fail. Every time the system stalls and sputters the Maoists can point and claim that this kind of system doesn't work and they can slowly begin to peddle their real goal which is a one party system, where of course they are that party. The Maoists very clearly are still fighting the civil war, it's just changed gears, and the other political parties are too numb to realize it. Every time UML and NC plays for the short term goals of getting the PM seat or any other thing the Maoists can use to divide and make them look like opportunists, they make the system look corrupt and unworkable. In some ways the Maoists don't have to work very hard, because that is essentially the state of Nepali politics as far as I can tell.

UML and NC don't seem to realize just how high the stakes are that they are really playing for, they are always blinded it seems by the next shiny object that lies right in front of them. This is a country without a functioning government, that is in the process of writing a constitution (although that seems to be being avoided at all costs), and is in a very precarious state as the largest party in the constituent assembly were at war with the monarchy and the government of Nepal not all that long ago. The continuation of politics as normal and complete lack of leadership is uninspiring to the public at large to say the least, and dangerous to the precarious state of affairs that Nepal now finds itself in.

When I first came to Nepal, it was only a matter of months after the royal massacre in 2001. At that time it struck me that the county's people were in a terrible predicament, choosing between a corrupt establishment and a ruthless and corrupted ideology in the Maoist alternative. While there is no longer large scale violence in the countryside, the people of Nepal still seem to be faced with that same terrible choice. The constitution process, and the promise of a multi party democracy that works is a farce and just about everyone knows it. The Maoists want this system to fail, and the other parties want things to continue as they have, where government mostly exists as a means to funnel public money into certain people's coffers. So I think it is safe to ask the question whether not only has parliament failed in Nepal, but has the government failed?

At the peace rally back in May many Nepali people I talked to were just sick and tired of all of the political games that were interfering with their lives. "Look, just let us work, run our stores and live our lives." I remember one person summing up her discontent. Isn't that what everyone wants? Just to live their lives and be left alone from these people who assume the role of our "leaders"? Maybe the problem is that of all the options that the Nepali people have been given, the one where they are free of the withering hand of government has not been one of them. Maybe they don't want people trying to enforce some utopian society or maybe they want limits on government that keeps its hand out of their pockets and takes away the power to make arbitrary decisions that allow it to collect so many bribes. This seems to be what I hear from just about every Nepali person I speak with, and yet not one person in politics here seems to be willing to take that angle and lead that charge. The established parties seem to just see the state as spoils that they fight over.

When established parties have so much control over the system it is rarely good for the people of that country, or their freedom. The right to vote is only worth it if the system is able to produce choices that actually represent your beliefs and adhere to the actual rules that government is supposed to be restrained by. The choice between multiple bad answers put out by established powers is not freedom, it's just a dressed up from of tyranny. If no one gives you the choice you really want, maybe it's time to come together and tell them all to go to hell. In one sense maybe the Maoists are right, there should be a people's constitution, but not one written by them for the people, but instead one written by the people to constrain all of them.

1 comment:

  1. As an additional note to go with this story, the Parliament failed to elect a prime minister for the 5th time today (August 23, 2010). UML continues to remain "neutral". It has been almost two months now since PM Nepal resigned, this is becoming nothing short of an embarrassment now.


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