The effectiveness in the governance of the state is said to have gradually declined in the country. The horizontal check and balance institutions within the government like judiciary and legislature, oversight constitutional bodies such as the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) seem not functioning effectively. The federal parliament had been prorogued a few months back. And when it will convene next seems not very clear.
Challenges There are several challenges facing the nation. The first and foremost has been the uncontrolled spike of the coronavirus infections. More than 200,000 people have suffered from infection while around 1,200 people have succumbed to it. The economic activities have been halted and the national revenue has fallen short of meeting the general recurring expenditure in the country. Needless to say, a state that is effectively governed can face the social, political and economic challenges successfully as mentioned above. It can be democratic and accountable to the people. In fact, the weak and fragile governance is responsible for growing corruption, stalemated development and misuse of resources. Democratic governance has been the sum total of the institutions and processes by which a state orders and conducts its general affairs. The institutions and processes can be both formal and informal. In this sense, governance refers to the provision of formal and informal political rules of the game. It indicates those measures and processes that involve management and exercise of the state power. In functional terms, governance comprises mainly the institutional capacity of public organisations to set the rules of the game, deliver public goods and services in an effective, transparent, impartial and accountable manner. The things that affect the life of ordinary citizens on a daily basis are – roads being built and repaired, health services being delivered properly and public school education system functioning well and so on are at the core of the governance systems. The governance systems vary greatly from country to country. But, according to political scientists, they should have three fundamental components: how well government institutions function and deliver, how institutions hold government accountable through checks and balances and oversight and how citizens are actively engaged in the governance process to produce results. Governance combines structures, opportunities and processes wedded with the democratic civic competence to engage with the state institutions. The agency and democratic competence of citizens can be institutionalised and enhanced only in a democratic environment. In a democratic political dispensation, the setting of the rules is done with the consent and the informed participation of the citizens. In this sense, democratic system and accountable governance cannot be conceived in isolation. But experiences have indicated that introducing democracy in a country can be easier. But institutionalising appropriate governing process, structures and mechanism cannot be easily achieved especially in a country like Nepal where institutions are still incipient, ad hoc and fragile. Nepal became a federal republic following the introduction of federal constitution in 2015. But attempts to consolidate and institutionalise democratic mechanism and federal institutions have not been a smooth sailing. Moreover, fault lies, among others, in the aberrant tendencies and deviousness of political actors. The political leaders whether in the ruling or the opposition camp indulge in game theory to serve and advance their crass and myopic interests. The game theory in politics implies zero sum game played out to eliminate the rivals. In the zero sum game, the payoffs are generated and distributed to suit to one’s own interests. The ongoing conflict of the ruling party political leaders and its escalation indicates clearly that their tendencies are forged and beholden to individual interests and self-centric predispositions. Maintaining firm control over public resources and expanding patronage networks have been the key functional interests of the key political leaders. The pervasive patronage networks penetrate into state institutions such as bureaucracy, professional interest groups and oversight institutions which build a rent seeking coalition between the political parties, development intermediaries and bureaucratic actors. Political party workers and cadres have become dependent upon patrons (leaders) or a coterie of leaders rather than organisational structure and discipline. They lack courage and confidence to voice dissent. The damaging exchange of charge sheet papers between the apex leaders of the ruling party, the other day, indicates that they act within a culture of distrust and compete with each other subservient to the rubric of enemy discourse. The battle line of the antagonism is drawn or redrawn among the political leaders and groups time and again. The state power has been misused for partisan and personal gains and public institutions have been subjected to intense factional pressure and meddling. It has yielded chronic political instability and directionless as no major leaders are ready to trust each other both in the ruling and the opposition party.
Implicit messages Nonetheless, at the root of some of the problems lay institutional and functional defects in political governance set-up. The practice of partisan politics has severely undermined the state accountability mechanisms and rendered it largely dysfunctional. The glaring instance of failed political governance is engendered due to the pathology of indecision and inaction. Political leaders should respond to the emerging critical situations with due account of the values and practices of integrity. It is incumbent upon them to carefully assess the implicit messages underpinned in the writing on the wall and mend their ways to work in unison for the larger interests of the nation.
(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues. firstname.lastname@example.org)