Governing Elite And Democracy In Nepal : Mukti Rijal

One can say that Nepal has become the foremost and youngest democratic republic of the 21st century. This is no small political development. And very few countries have the distinction or privilege to enroll in this category of nations. Furthermore, very soon, the country is entering the league of federal nations – another epoch-making case of Nepal’s transformation.

Theoretically, a democratic republic is itself a very proud privileged and enviable political status for a country. Many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are republics. But they are not democratic in the exact sense of the term. They are dictatorships, quasi-dictatorships or theocratic regimes in broader terms. They may claim to be democratic, and have some of the democratic trappings in their polity. But they are not essentially democratic. They do not have several attributes that a democratic country is supposed to have.

Attributes of a democratic country

These attributes are fair democratic elections, peaceful transfer of power, an independent press and a free and competent judiciary and respect for fundamental human rights. In many nations, power transfer through fair and democratic elections is very difficult to happen. The latest developments in some of African and Asian nations attest to it.

Other democratic attributes in Nepal worth noting are a free and vibrant press, independent judiciary and a democratically-elected government and so on. The most significant part of the recent political development in Nepal is that the state is bracing for democratic transformation and reorganisation based on federal polity. This will be instituted and clarified in the new constitution.

The new democratic republic constitution is being enacted by a Constituent Assembly elected by the people. The Constituent Assembly includes and represents the people from all walks and strata of national life. It mirrors the diversity, plurality and complexity of the country. However, political polarisation has presented difficulties in promulgating the constitution.

Needless to discuss, democracy connotes the rule of the people, for the people and by the people. Democracy can be direct type and representative type. Especially in the representative type of democracy, as in Great Britain, decisions are taken by the majority vote. Majority power often behaves as if it was absolute and unlimited.

The framers of the U.S. constitution, for example, had described majority power as excesses of democracy that can jeopardise the inalienable rights of citizens. Perhaps the U.S. constitution framers had before them the lone example of the United Kingdom where the parliament had been supreme. Thomas Jefferson, who was among the chief architects of the US constitution, had said, “An elective despotism was not the government we fought for.” But Indian democracy is the UK type based on majority vote.

When democracy is compounded with a republic, it is understood to describe a government where most decisions are made with reference to established laws rather than the discretion of the head of state. It is due to this reason that a republic is incompatible with the notion of hereditary monarchy. A republic is thus closer to the concept of limited, constitutional and inclusive government. The notion of a republic underpins a constitutionally limited government created by a written constitution with its powers divided between three separate branches: executive, legislative and judiciary.onceptually, the notion of a republic is wedded to the principle of separation of power with strong provisions of checks and balances. It is premised that the people form the republic, form the government and grant to the government only just powers, limited powers primarily in order to secure their inalienable rights. It is often said that the republic bars “ the snob rule of a governing elite and the mob rule of the omnipotent majority”.

Both in principle and practice, a democratic republic presupposes the institutionalisation of limited constitutional governance in which citizens are sovereign and also the fountainhead of state power. Moreover, excessive power of the state organs is checked and balanced to secure, promote and protect the democratic rights and freedoms of the citizens.

s mentioned at the outset, Nepal is writing a new democratic constitution. No other option exists for the CA than to enshrine and incorporate the principles of democratic governance as fundamentals of the new constitutional law. However, it should be mentioned that a democratic republic is not merely a theoretical notion to be written on a piece of paper. It matters truly only if the rulers and citizens free themselves from the practices and behaviours reflecting those of the feudal despots. Again to refer to Thomas Jefferson, he had said that one despot in the form of a hereditary monarch can be more tolerable than many legislative despots who fail to follow the behaviour and cultural orientation befitting a democratic republic.

Problem is the political leadership

In the case of Nepal and many other new democracies, the basic problem lies in the political leadership. The leadership has failed to grasp the essence of democratic behaviour and orientation, as a result of which several problems and issues do crop up. And when the working style, temperament and orientation of the political leaders and governing elite are not compatible with the values and norms of a democratic republic, the credibility of the system can be questioned. The current political uncertainty and crisis in Nepal stems from the self-seeking attributes and myopic vision of the political leaders.


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