Cultivating Better Opposition Culture

Kushal Pokharel

Although the country has embarked on a new political structure, the mind-sets and attitudes of the political parties remain the same. Whether it is the ruling or the opposition party, abandoning the old bad practices of petty politics remain unaccomplished. Having said that, the opposition parties occupy an important space in democratic polity for several reasons. They are crucial in shaping policy agendas, conducting civic education, fighting corruption and injustices among others. They often act as a pressure group and puts checks on the power of the government if the authority is misused.

In this sense, they are instrumental in promoting rule of law, human rights and good governance. Promoting a responsible and reasoned debate to provide alternative ideas, principles and policies for governing society is equally prominent contribution that such parties should ideally provide to the society. But in practice, most of the opposition parties have failed to embrace the tenets of this culture and they have continued to aggravate the political condition in their respective countries.
Nepali Congress (NC), the major opposition party in the federal parliament staged a demonstration in the capital this week protesting the present government’s working style. No sooner had the government sealed the deal with Dr. KC and breathed a sigh of relief, the opposition party has made its intentions clear that it will revolt from the parliament and street to bring the government back on track. While it is a democratic right of any party to express its dissatisfaction over the functioning of the government, an important responsibility lies with the opposition party in parliamentary democracy to play a constructive role in helping the government to function better.
The growing culture of a critical opposition sans accountability poses a grave threat to democracy. The problem is rife in the South Asian contexts where the opposition forces have traditionally assumed the negative role of merely pointing out the pitfalls of the government. Ranging from engaging in cold war with the lawmakers to vandalising property in the parliament, such gruesome scenes have become a commonplace in the region.
In the context of Nepal, whichever party has stayed in the opposition, it has always exhibited the destructive behaviour historically. However, an important question that needs to be contemplated here is: what should actually be the role of an opposition party in the House? Are there some best practices of opposition culture in other parts of the globe that we can emulate? What is the possibility of the opposition joining hand with the government for shared national prosperity?
Some best practices of opposition leaders provide us some guidance into the potential role of a party waiting in government. The instance of Tony Blair’s labour party re-election even with limited public support provides an example of how the opposition holds the government responsible for its commissions or omissions. Similarly, the Africa region boasts of opposition leaders like Raila Odinga in Kenya and Kizza Besigye in Uganda who fought valiantly against the corrupt governments and corporate regimes.
In light of the above, assessing the role of the NC in Nepal as a leading opposition party will offer some insights into their politics in our context. After a humiliating defeat in the recent federal and provincial elections, NC seems to be psychologically disintegrated at this point of time. NC for now is hell-bent on making every effort to prove the government wrong. While this is not to say that the much hyped Oli government has starting delivering to the public expectations, the opposition is only trying to blow things out of proportion to tarnish the image of the government. This is really a frustrating situation at a time when the country needed coordinated efforts between all political parties to move ahead in the path of national prosperity.
Taking a constructive role would require NC to really provide some useful suggestions to the government to mend its actions instead of just warning. Likewise, engaging in dialogues rather than hitting streets to pressurise the government should be the way forward to realise the dream of the national prosperity. Rising above partisan interests, the opposition should really start re-examining its current roles in the parliament and outside.

Watchdog role
To convert this opportune movement to create a good impression among the voters, NC needs to perform exceptionally well as an opposition party. It should really act as a watchdog of the government’s unlawful and harmful moves but not with the bad intention. Politicising every issue should be strictly abandoned. Mobilisation of the public in social and economic development will be beneficial for the government.
Perhaps the beginning step in this regard would be staying away from the ongoing blame game in Nepalese politics and stop being reactionary. Futile debates to assert individual or party identity are detrimental to the health of the nation.


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