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The Role of the Political Parties in Deepening Democracy in Nepal

“Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when made ourselves sovereign.”-Will and Ariel Durant

Dev Raj Dahal, Head, FES Nepal Office
Dev Raj Dahal, Head, FES Nepal Office

Growth of a dense network of intermediary institutions provides political parties an opportunity to engage citizens in various walks of political life and increase their stake in democracy. Factionalism, split, leaderfor-life, dominance of hereditary elements, social and gender bias, network-based and vertical patron- client relationship characterize the political culture of Nepalese political parties. These trends have encouraged the emergence of regional, ethnic, indigenous and caste-based parties which play with the politics of difference and impose obstacles for social and national integration. The social, generational and gender gaps in the leadership especially of second and third generation failed to inspire the real commitment of youth in the party and institutionalization of political parties through “longevity, renewability and reprogrammability” (Emmerson, 1986: 149). The other missing element is the concept of social solidarity to reduce the cost of politics and liberate parties from the control of dominant interest groups. So long as decision-making prerogative remains with the top leadership, rather than stable institutions, it would be difficult to democratize and institutionalize Nepalese parties. The remedy is the open deliberation in the party committees, internal cohesion of party and upholding positional accountability, democratization, re-socialization and decentralization of structural set up of parties. These processes require a fresh adjustment of ideas and behavior enabling the political parties to expand their social base and make leadership selection inclusive. A democratic leader never loses sight of the balance between four core elements: acquisition of power, maintenance of democratic ideals, promotion of social wellbeing of the people and constructive change in society which makes violent conflict redundant. Similarly, there is also a need for the party to look for leaders who can inspire vision and sustainable change than the father figures (patriarch) who lack vision of creating decent society, fear change including the change of leadership and fail to coordinate the behavior of cadres and voters. Nonperformance of incumbent parties led the voters to change their preferences in each election. Leaders of Nepal require studying the country before they govern, maintain strong feedback with the electorates and get the policy stocktaking of perils and opportunities of new time with the support of organic think-tanks. The coming battles among the factions of various parties for leadership in Nepal will inspire democratic selection of leaders in the future through electoral means than charisma and tradition. Media exposure and democratic awakening are providing normative basis for the social modernization of Nepalese parties and deepening democratic values and institutions in the economic and social life of the nation.

( This is  conclusion part of  keynote address of author presented at a political dialogue on “Institutionalization of Inner-Party Democracy in Nepal,” on December 24, 2014 jointly organized by CelCar and FES. cited from  :

(relevant thought  for  democracy  day – editor )


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