Stability For Efficient Republic

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Political instability and power struggles continue to plague Nepal even after it was declared a republic. Since the elected Constituent Assembly (CA) abolished the monarchy on May 28, 2008, Nepal has had multiple prime ministers, governments and ruling coalitions, albeit with ineffective governance and policy consistency. This is due to the fractured nature of Nepali politics, with various parties and groups vying for power. Inadequate policy implementation, poor development initiatives, and poor public service delivery — an outcome of long-running political instability — have raised people’s suspicions about the efficacy of our republican system. 

In a span of only 16 months since assuming office in 2022, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal secured four parliamentary votes of confidence. The Prime Minister switched alliances three times, indicating the unstable nature of our politics. During the CA period, which lasted approximately seven years, the country had four prime ministers and one chair of the council of ministers. These incidents show that the power struggles among political parties continued even after they joined hands to launch a 19-day people’s protest in April 2007, which culminated in the monarchy's abrupt downfall.

Unpredictability 

The unpredictability of our politics is evident, with parties of different hues regularly forming or breaking alliances to achieve an upper hand in power. Lately, amid preparations for the annual budget presentation, parliament has been in chaos due to political parties fighting over alleged misuse of cooperative funds and land scams. In the event that the parties fail to find a solution through dialogues, the budget presentation will confront a chaotic situation. 

Throughout the republican period, many individuals in leadership roles, including party members and bureaucrats, have capitalised on fluid and unstable political conditions to prioritise personal gain over efficient governance and public service delivery. Corruption persists in every aspect, weakening public trust in government institutions and impeding economic and development initiatives. Due to these persisting anomalies, talks are now being heard that the nation needs a directly elected head of government or state who can serve the full period of his tenure, thus bringing much-needed stability to political and development endeavours. 

Likewise, political interference and misuse of power have jeopardised the efficiency and neutrality of the judiciary, legislature, and bureaucracy, which are all essential to a functioning republic. Meanwhile, witnessing matters involving politics and the state being regularly appealed to the Supreme Court for their final resolution is disheartening, as it shows that our politicians and bureaucrats are less adept at resolving legislative, political, and state-related issues. 

Federalism plays a crucial role in the framework of republicanism. The country adopted federalism as a means to address socioeconomic injustice and marginalisation related to ethnicity, language, and caste-based discrimination. Yet, federalism has commonly caused political and social tensions. For example, the Madhesi group in the southern plains claimed that the central government had neglected them and sought more autonomy and participation. The same is true for the ethnic communities in the eastern area who have sought their territory, Koshi Province, to be renamed to reflect their ethnic identity. 

Furthermore, provincial governments, hindered by central government negligence, are ineffective in implementing development projects and public services at the grassroots level. The central government is being urged by authorities in seven provinces to grant them the ability to maintain their own police forces, administrative systems, and taxation systems. A sizeable amount of budget goes to maintain the day-to-day affairs of provinces, causing stress in our economy. Meanwhile, corruption among provincial leaders and officials is notoriously prevalent, while changes in the central government cause upheaval in provincial administrations, instilling a dislike for the federal republic system among ordinary individuals. 

Despite epoch-making political changes, the issue of socioeconomic disparities remain a significant concern. Development, resource availability, and public service delivery are lower in rural areas as compared to urban regions. The concentration of resources and opportunities in Kathmandu and other major cities has exacerbated regional inequalities. Consequently, hordes of Nepali youths are leaving the country in search of better opportunities abroad, while rural people are being compelled to leave their villages for towns and cities. 

Political parties and stakeholders can address all the aforementioned issues and improve the scenario if they collaborate. Parties must display political commitment to bring positive changes to our political culture. Meanwhile, according to experts, political parties must first amend a few constitutional provisions pertaining to our electoral system, which has resulted in hung parliaments in which parties compete to break or build coalitions, even if it means compromising ethical political practices and ideologies. 

An efficient government necessitates a strong parliament, which can eventually tackle corruption and other burning issues. Parties should always respect the people’s mandate whenever a new parliament is elected through periodic elections. Meanwhile, effective governance can be accomplished by increasing the public sector’s transparency and accountability, strengthening anti-corruption systems, encouraging citizen engagement in decision-making, and improving public service delivery.

Democratic institutions 

There is no denying that political stability and a government's success depend on the presence of strong democratic institutions. This includes backing the rule of law, ensuring judicial independence, and bolstering democratic institutions such as parliament. Expediting economic activities is of the utmost urgency. Investing in infrastructure and industrialisation and assisting small and medium-sized industries at the provincial and municipal levels help generate jobs and drive the economy, which ultimately help people to be prosperous and build trust in our system. 

Despite challenges, Nepal is striving to be a stable and prosperous republic through political transformation, inclusive governance, socioeconomic equality, and strong public institutions. The success of Nepal’s republicanism depends on the collective commitment of its political leaders, civil society, and the general population. Should our political parties fail to display commitment towards the institutionalisation of political achievements and continue to engage in power conflicts, they will only embolden those seeking to reinstate monarchy that further jeopardises our hard-earned republican system.

(Upadhyay is former managing editor of this daily.)

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