Nepal’s Local Governance: A Unique Model
Democracy or loktantra is the rule of the elected people. In Nepal, people have already chosen their representatives for local government to be ruled by their representatives. The Constitution of Nepal 2015 has incorporated the issues of local government in Parts 17-19. Similarly, Schedule 8 and 9 of our Constitution has listed powers of local level government. Following these powers, the local government has to meet the people’s essential needs to strengthen the foundation of the country’s democratic system. The common people have the desire of being free from any sort of fear and want. For this, the political parties should comprehend the people’s growing aspirations and fulfill their basic needs.
Most of the democratic countries of the world incorporated a provision of the local government in their constitutions only after the end of the Second World War. Again, exceptionally American Federal Constitution (1787), Swiss Constitution (1848), Canadian Constitution (1867) and Australian Constitution (1901) about local governments are significant. Germany’s Basic Law (1949) got constitutional status to run federal local government, India’s federal Constitution (1949), Spain (1978), Brazil (1988) and Nigeria (1999), South African Constitution (1996), etc. have accepted the principles of local government.
Modern democratic governments have now welcomed the idea of ‘Federal Local Government’ to recognise the self-government mechanism to address the needs of the local people. Our Federal Constitution is an outcome also of a decade long armed conflict which divides the legitimate political power to local bodies in a vertical division.
Around 30 countries have adopted different models of federalism. US federal system reflects a dualistic model in which the union and states government share political power. In Switzerland, cantons, as local units, are stronger and powerful. Nepal’s constitution has granted sufficient power to the local government. The constitutional provision of our national code has envisioned a model of cooperative federalism in which the federation, province and local level work with a spirit of cooperation, coexistence and coordination. Principles of ‘self-rule’ and ‘shared rule’, are the core parts of Nepali federal system in which our local government can clearly reflect in the constitutional practices.
Nepal is the youngest country in the international club of ‘federal governance system’. The largest functioning democracies like India which is second in population size, and the USA which had adopted dualistic federal constitution first, a small and landlocked country Switzerland, etc. are the members of this club covers about forty per cent of world population. Professor Nico Stytler of the University of Western Cape (South Africa) states that Nepali federal constitution is appropriate to address the conflict that happened for a decade in the past. Nepali experiment on the issue of local self-government model is constitutionally sure to empower the people. Yet, the potential hurdles of managing diverse interests of people and communities and establishing intergovernmental relations can create havoc in the future.
Formation of powerful local bodies and shifting power from the centre to local level is the unique model of our political system. Nepali local governments have exercised executive power, judicial power and local legislative power. It clearly indicates that our elected leaders at the local level can function as ‘blended representatives’. They have adequate supportive mechanism to develop capacity to perform allocated functions and duties for addressing the common issues of the people. The financial power of local bodies can make estimates of revenues and expenditure of local level government. Quite the contrary, the more power our local bodies use, the higher risks of power misuse.
Schedule 8 of the Constitution has granted twenty-two different rights to the local government. Some of them are management of drinking water, electricity, residence, roads, agriculture, sanitation, health, education, entertainment, disaster management, preservation of the environment, culture and fine art, etc. If the local government properly addresses these issues, people can feel free from all problems which they experience in their day to day life. No doubt, these tasks are quite challenging for the local government to execute. For this, local governments ought to get sufficient financial resources either from the federal government or manage necessary funds themselves.
Our constitution acknowledges in Article (230) (2) that “the village executive or the municipal executive is required to make a deficit budget, it must also propose the sources to meet the deficit as provided for in the federal law and the state law.” In this situation, the newly elected local governments should exhibit competent leadership and an inventive mindset to be successful in their mission. For the sustainable and environmental friendly development, it is significant to involve the people’s sharing in the development activities.
Our constitution has followed the principle of cooperative system in which our loktantra seems to be more responsive to the people. The rule of law principle only can control corruption and financial irregularities. Corruption and policy lapses have been a big threat for our democracy. Protection of people’s sovereignty, right to autonomy and self-rule, freedom of people, respect for the dignity of people, etc. is the essential parts of our constitution.
The representatives of local level government should accept these constitutional principles for fulfilling the high aspiration of Nepalese people. Through the systematic practice of local level government, it is sure Nepali people would experience sustainable development, peace, good governance, prosperity and national integrity and unity.