Politics Of Compromise
Dev Raj Dahal
Nothing in human nature prevents Nepalis to become proud national and global citizens. Social diversity and tolerant culture provided them both resilience and belonging to common values while associations of family, community, society, nation, the state and world community shaped their psychology, identity and worldview. A harmonious order entails balancing of their ties with these associations. Propelled by emancipatory forces of education and modernity, the shift of inherited Nepali society to self-willed and contractual ones has turned those associations contested sites. These forces question their imagined boundaries without supplying matching norms and laws that can resolve conflict over interests and coordinate successful action.
Membership in self-chosen associations ensures liberty, equality and solidarity if it is animated by a sense of justice. But the requirements of non-negotiable basic needs have linked the poor Nepalis to engage in life-saving politics and question the moral basis of national and global polities. Democratic politics of Nepal has admitted the legitimacy of differences. But its success rests on addressing rival aspirations and inconsistency between multi-cultural constitution, parliamentary polity and proportional election through dialogue and compromise and fulfillment of citizens’ needs and rights. Compromise becomes stiff if opponents are too many and unsettling each other for absolute gain.
In Nepal, an array of electoral dispensation has produced a scrappy legislature and delicate coalitions of government, oppositions, caucuses and alienated groups each fuelled by passion, not animated by the live vision. Compromise of each other’s legitimate interest can keep extremism in hold, ensure political stability and ease the burden of human progress. It can make Nepalis real stakeholders of democracy. Seductive promises are life force of politics. Nepali leaders are creative on making grand promises of happiness, prosperity, stability, peace and good governance but they will remain only a matter of ritual political style if Nepali state is not capacitated to fulfill them and eradicate the sources that feed injustice, domination and discrimination. Its remedy lies in boosting the institutions of enlightenment - education, health, productive activity, media and culture and helping Nepalis realise their potential. Nepal is now monitored and judged by multiculturalist donors on account of human rights, including those of minorities and conflict victims and questioning the disciplining state institutions’ laws over the civil society and NGOs while Nepali government finds their policies repulsive as it senses them behind those disobeying the sanity of social cohesion and national laws. In a pluralist nation, electoral promises alone cannot fulfill citizens’ hope for “double dividends” of democracy and peace.
The promise of stable peace has become precarious because politics has given citizens right to equality while economy fails to distribute wealth to make them equal. Economic inequality has rendered the equality of vote of little value. Economic rationality is vital for the endurance of democratic system which can care the ethics of ecological renewal, government’s reason to cope market flaws and the state’s imperative to serve citizens. In an unsteady economic equilibrium, democracy with swollen constitutional rights of Nepalis can easily fertilize the fury of the deprived and contradict leaders’ edict of the “end of politics” and start of economic prosperity. The social media reveal a new mode of politics with the self-representation, self-assertion and self-projection a political project of Nepali democracy. Democracy provides free space for debate, understanding and resolution of differences by fair compromise between politics of promise and economics of delivery. The solution of Nepalis problems needs controlling economic vices by rational means and lift citizens from the unjust burden of human condition. All conflicts can be solved if they are put into a rational structure and their outcome benefits all.
Stable Consensus: One generation of ideological consensus, which criticised Nepali society for a lack of its rationality, modernity and secularity, cannot be uncritically applied to the next without contextualising it to popular culture, language and vision. Nepal’s political parties, civil society and interest groups involve in various exercises of bargaining, negotiation and consensus-building to optimise public interest. But they need to abide by the rules and resources of national wisdom. Compromise formula as a process of reaching an understanding on vital issues stokes civic virtues that index the leveling of human condition. Critical discourse and free communication can liberate Nepali politics from the sound-bite of media which tends to make it a grand sport, not shape a shared political culture across various positions, interests, values and identities. Modern constitutional state itself is built on compromise, accommodation and participation of citizens in public spheres. Compromise is the life of democratic action. Awareness of its principles and techniques can educate leaders to negotiate their legitimate interests with others for common good and civilised coexistence. It seeks a balance between the general and particular will of citizens and enrich and enlarge the material basis of democracy. Alienation distances actors from caring each other’s legitimate needs. A reflection on the intricacy of politics, institutional culture, inclusive practices, sharing of needs, values, interests and power can create common ground for sustainable democracy in Nepal.
For the progress of its post-conflict order, Nepali leaders need to care for the transitional justice as highest value. If all actors adopt norm-governed action, the conflict which divides them would be resolved in a compromise. So long as constitutional conditions of Nepali democracy are based on a strong social contract, they can shore up a modicum of public order and provide a chance for citizens to self-organize, articulate and effect collective action. As élan vital of democracy, Nepali political parties are people’s organic and critical institutions but they lack unified belief for intra and inter-party teamwork to pursue public and national interests. They are formed to obtain political power, influence official policies, promote certain ideology and flush special interest. But they also espouse democratic communication to provide a means to mobilise Nepalis to enforce collective duty. Competitive parties are keys to the functioning of a democratic state. By managing conflict of interest, they need to set the public policy over private interest. Nepal now needs a politics based on “adversarial collaboration” owing to heterogeneity of opposition forces, not adversarial competition and conflict so that leaders can delink their position from the partisan identity and see the rivals like themselves. Excessive partisanisation of public sphere in Nepal has corroded the integrity of constitutional bodies.
Leadership: Democratic politics selects the fittest for leadership but protects the weak from the social costs of their selfishness and shapes habits, norms and competence of citizens for self-governance. Leadership with historical insight and memory can take right decisions. The culture of democratic politics is shaped not by scientific mindset or professorial temper but by the sagacity of statespersons who can perfectly conceptualise changing situation, apply systemic foresight to respond to it and save the state and citizens from every kind of uncertainty. They represent the spirit of the nation unified into the policy and perfectly fit to catch the flow of zeitgeist. The flaws of Nepali polity, however, reveal the frailty of its leaders who are unable to control rowdy, destabilising and secessionist forces. Thinking cogently on national condition enables them to know the causes, correlation and outcome of events and apply sound judgment based on evidence-based policy and behavioral insight. It helps to eliminate unfair competition in society, breaks the representational monopoly of powerful interest groups and overcomes democratic deficits for the excluded. Elections of three layers of governance in Nepal have unleashed citizens’ greater engagement in politics. The representation of social groups continues to affect the role of political parties, parliament and the government. Citizens are demanding leaders’ accountability to their promises.
Citizens change politics of the future with the growth of new values. Nepali parties are marking a transition from narrowly defined leader’s ideological interests to cadre and mass-oriented ones thus broadening the social base of polity. The openness of parties to mass-membership and important issues provides space for the integration of broader social interests. A mass-oriented party involves competing groups of citizens whose participation in politics springs from their aspiration to translate policy preferences into public policy. Its election laws entailed social inclusion of diversity in political power and representation. The merger of political parties and their ancillary bodies ignite a hope for political stability. Nepalis now want a greater say in public life and prefer to voice their interests directly or through civil society, people’s institutions and communication. Growth of social media has helped Nepalis to frequently criticise leaders for their failure in shaping public policy. As a result of this, mass political parties are sharing their power and legitimacy with other groups of society, building segmental coalitions, strengthening their representational power and embedding democracy in society.