‘Three sets of polls crucial to end Nepal’s political transition’

- Post Report, Kathmandu
I’ve always believed that democracy is the only system that provides means to bridge differences, as alternatives are even worse---Kenneth Wollack, president, National Democratic Institute

Jan 17, 2017-The local, provincial and national elections that the government is planning to hold this year will be key to ending the ongoing political transition, as they would provide an opportunity to bridge differences and bring people into the political process. 

The statement was made by the head of a leading US-based non-profit organisation working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide, including Nepal.

“2017 will be very important [for Nepal] because [the year will mark] the beginning of the end of the formal transition period, with the holding of local, provincial and national elections,” Kenneth Wollack, president of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), told the Post during his recent visit to Nepal.

Of the three elections, local polls are being seen as crucial, as they have not been held for almost two decades. 

Elections are considered as the cornerstone of democracy. But Nepal has failed to pave the way for people to exercise power to elect local representatives through periodic elections. Analysts say this has alienated many from the entire political process, dealing a severe blow to the process of institutionalising democracy.

“I’ve always believed that democracy is the only system that provides means to bridge differences, as alternatives are even worse,” said Wollack, who visited Nepal for the first time, although his institution, NDI, has been working in the country for over 18 years. “And the notion of majority rules, but minority rights are protected is enshrined in the constitution,” he added.

But to protect the rights of the minority, power 

needs to be devolved and 

this is crucial in Nepal where connectivity is a major issue because of the terrain, according to Wollack, who has been actively involved in foreign affairs, journalism and politics in the US since 1972.

One example, as cited by Wollack, which can work in bridging differences and reach out to the people, is town hall meetings like those being held by the National Reconstruction Authority.

The apex body that is overseeing reconstruction work after the devastating quakes of 2015 holds meetings at local levels to listen to problems of people. These meetings are attended by politicians, parliamentarians, officials of local bodies and locals.

“This is an example of how government can be seen as being responsive and reaching out and listening to people. Things like these can be replicated. And then it is the responsibility of citizens to take part in this process in a constructive manner,” Wollack said. “The challenges going forward for Nepal and many countries around the world are how to make political system more responsive towards people, engage with citizens and bring them into the political process.” 

Published: 17-01-2017 08:33

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