Nurturing democracy

  • Only competent and honest representatives can safeguard democratic norms, resulting in healthy politics and a stable government
- Sarin Ghimire
Nurturing democracy

Jan 5, 2015-

Eight years after Janaandolan 2, Nepal as a republic has yet to be established. Nevertheless, democracy has been restored and the people’s sovereignty reestablished. But amidst all the changes, the struggle remains. With all due respect to the country’s warriors who fought autocratic systems and repressive societies, the war has only just begun.

Uninstitutionalised gains

As per the fundamentals of democracy, the people have the right to speak their minds, but they have yet to shape their own futures. Foremost, democracy preserves human rights. Our right to information, to share our ideas, to associate with like-minded people, to criticise and protest government actions in a peaceful manner, respect for rule of law and the licence of equal opportunities are all part and parcel of the institutionalisation of democracy. Here, we are privileged with choosing or condemning our leaders for they need to be responsive to our needs. The people are thus the highest authority and the government has no option but to base itself as per the will of the people.

Another aspect of democracy includes participation. The public is obliged to obtain information on public issues, discuss them on various platforms, and monitor the conduct of our representatives. Democracy also requires laws and procedures enacted fairly and equally for all citizens. There is a system of the rule of law, and not of individuals. The rule of laws in turn maintains order, protects our rights, and gives the government a platform to function on. With this, discrimination based on religion, ethnic groups, gender, or status is effectively outlawed.

But a democracy needs to be nurtured when young and maintained while it grows. There is an emerging sense of awareness where the public has come to realise that our elected representatives are only concerned with elections and not some of the afore-mentioned essentials of democracy. This includes infrastructure development for an accessible market for all, transparent and accountable governance, and checks and balances on government functions by legislative representatives, citizens, and the international community.

A sick democracy

The democracy we are sowing lacks integrity. Our representatives do not feel the need to be accountable to public sentiments; neither do we, the public, make ourselves aware of issues surrounding us. And surprisingly our form of democracy does not require delivery to win votes. The widening gap between the authorities and the public only adds to the existing image of elected representatives. Politicians need to come to terms with respecting and safeguarding the other facets of democracy, including the judicial system, the media, and bureaucrats. Lacking this, corruption cases pop up every other day in the country, a well-known phenomena that hampers most developing nations around the globe. But the prevailing notion is that democratic countries fight corruption better. Thus, only a long-term stable constitution with stringent laws can do away with the evils of corruption.

Over the years, our democracy has fallen victim to the politics of arms, money, and extremism. Our politics no longer relies on winning the confidence of the citizens, but on threats and cash. A nomination or a ticket for an election is auctioned off by parties and these people are not judged by their qualifications or abilities but by the strength of their cadres and the depth of their pockets.

As the deadline for the new constitution approaches, the public would no longer like to see the confrontational politics witnessed most after 2006. This extreme form of politics, along with single-identity politics, is likely to take us back to feudal days and undermine national unity. A working democracy serves the public in ensuring fair access to resources and services provided by the state, with active citizens protecting society against discrimination and intolerance fabricated along religious and ethnic lines. And in matters of accountability and governance, institutions must be entrusted to people with integrity and ability. Only competent and honest representatives can safeguard democratic norms, resulting in healthy politics and a stable government, something that we, as result-oriented participatory citizens, should aspire for.

Ghimire is a sub-editor with The Post

Published: 06-01-2015 09:15

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