Democracy within ruling and opposition parties is waning, lawmakers say

  • NCP leaders say their chairman rarely listens to anyone, while Nepali Congress lawmakers say the party president functions in a unilateral style
- BINOD GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

Apr 10, 2019-

The ruling Nepal Communist Party called its Parliamentary Party meeting on March 25, a day after the winter session of the federal parliament concluded. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who is also the party co-chair and parliamentary party leader, spoke at length about the government’s achievements and instructed the party lawmakers to spread the message of government’s success among people.

He also told the party lawmakers to visit their constituencies and come up with suggestions that could be incorporated in the policies and programmes for the next fiscal year.

But the meeting was held without any prior agenda. Nor was there any two-way communication. The meeting ended after Oli spoke.

Party insiders say this, however, was not the first Parliamentary Party meeting in which lawmakers did not get a chance to speak. It has rather become a ritual, multiple leaders from the ruling NCP told the Post.  “The internal democracy in the party is gradually on the wane,” said Sher Bahadur Tamang, a lawmaker from the ruling party. “There is no room for us to interact.”

Lawmakers from the party say, unlike in the past, Parliamentary Party meetings or other organisational meetings have now become a platform for the party leadership to announce their decisions. Either Oli or party’s another co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal make their statements, rarely allowing others to air their views, according to several leaders who spoke with the Post.

But this problem is not limited only to the ruling Nepal Communist Party.

Leaders of the main opposition Nepali Congress, which calls itself the most democratic party in the country, say the party is far from democratic under President Sher Bahadur Deuba. “You have seen how messy our party has become. Our party president doesn’t listen to anyone. Nor does he follow the party statute,” Rajendra KC, a Congress leader, told the Post.

“I cannot say we have democracy within our party.” Senior Congress leaders have in recent days even boycotted the party meetings, expressing reservation about Deuba’s “unilateral style of functioning”.

Due to leadership’s indecision, Congress party’s sister wings, including Nepal Student Union, have failed to conduct their general conventions.

Despite pressure from his party leaders, Deuba is yet to form the party departments, though it has already been more than three years since Congress held its last general convention.

The 42 party departments, as envisioned by the previous party statute, are supposed to advise the party leadership and the Central Working Committee on the issues ranging from national politics to governance to foreign policy to the role the party should be playing in Parliament.

When it comes to the ruling Nepal Communist Party which has emerged as the largest political force after last year’s merger of two communist parties—the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre)—the party leadership’s unilateral functioning has a rather more serious implications. In the lack of dialogue and proper interaction, the party has been unable to complete its unification process.Ruling party leaders say the top leadership keeps them mostly in the dark. The Central Working Committee, the most powerful organisational structure in the party, has been called only once since the merger.

Despite frequent pressure from the leaders, the party is yet to form its politburo, which is the second powerful body. Even Standing Committee meetings of the party have not been held for months.

“A party can be democratic only if it follows its statute,” Birodh Khatiwada, a ruling party lawmaker, told the Post. “The party leadership has failed to pay attention to our call for transparency.”

In November last year, 22 central working committee members of the party, including Khatiwada, had submitted a memorandum to the party’s General Secretary Bishnu Poudel, demanding that decisions be endorsed by the central committee and party politburo be formed immediately.

“The party leadership, in the name of completing the unification, is treating different party structures as a platform to impose their decisions,” Khatiwada added.

Political observers say it is an irony that the same political parties—and their leaders for that matter—who fought for democracy have miserably failed to uphold

democratic principles.

Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst who closely follows political parties and their culture, said internal democracy in the Congress has been poor ever since Girija Prasad Koirala took over the party’s rein. “And Deuba is following suit,” he said. “Then CPN-UML was comparatively a more democratic party earlier. But the situation has changed after Oli took over. Oli, after gaining power within the party and through the election, has become so politically dominant that he hardly listens to others.”

Published: 10-04-2019 11:10

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