All systems considered - By Trailokya Aryal
The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, although a sad affair, is also a time to think about why we failed in our attempt to promulgate the new constitution. Leaders, intellectuals and the general population are answering this million dollar question based on their political leanings and blaming each other for the historic failure of May 27 and the four years running up to the d-day. However, to answer this question, I believe, one has to be politically incorrect, and question the very foundation of the political changes that took place in 2006/2007 and be ready to question the very notion of universal applicability of western style democracy. It is about time we debated whether or not the western style of democracy is a good fix for today’s Nepal and think of our own way to govern Nepal that is more in tune with Nepal’s ground realities, values and traditions.
The western style democracy is not a good fit for Nepal at present given our economic and demographic realities, but time and again, our so called leaders let the foreigners make Nepal a guinea pig and put the country’s future in jeopardy. If we look at the countries and territories that made remarkable progress in the last 30 years—Singapore, South Korea, China, Malaysia and Taiwan—we find that their development resulted from them following their own ways, rather than succumbing to foreign pressures, or, in other words, by refusing to let the westerners make them an experiment of foreign beliefs. Therefore, the first and foremost thing to do would be to completely cleanse ourselves of the idea that Nepal’s problems will be solved by some imported political model. If democracy were the answer to all of the country’s problems, today, Benin, with its democratic constitution would have been much wealthier and safer than Singapore, with its not-so-democratic constitution.
It is not to say that democracy is not a good system and that we should totally rule it out for Nepal. On the contrary, it should be our aspiration and we should all collectively work toward achieving it, but by taking one small step at a time, rather than hastily jumping on the democracy bandwagon. As many who have written on democracy have argued, for it to take roots, there are certain preconditions: industrialisation and high literacy rate are example, which in turn, lead to a growth of the middle class that wants its rights safeguarded through an independent judiciary and leadership of sane people. In a country that even today exports its young men and women to do menial jobs abroad, where the literacy rate is only 60 percent, and where insane leaders seem to believe they are the new masters of the people, the imported model of democracy, instead of transforming the country for better, only leads to partisan politics, ethnic discords and foreign diktats. Of course, the supporters of all-out democratisaton never tire of arguing that in Nepal, it is the political leaders who have failed, not the system, but they dare not explain why the same old failed leaders and people with criminal records are elected as people’s representatives time and again. These questions needs answering: Why does our police force fail to nab a lawmaker convicted by the Supreme Court for murder? Why do corrupt-to-the-core leaders still walk free? Going by the actions and words of the four leaders running the show, it would not be wrong to say that what we have now is a tyranny of a few—no different from the pre-unification days in Patan where the six Pradhans (ministers) did whatever they pleased. This factor alone is enough to seriously question our approach to democratisation.
Hence, the time calls for our intellectuals to give up whatever inhibitions they have on being labeled undemocratic and politically incorrect, and start healthy discussions on a viable model that would create the preconditions necessary for the eventual real democratisation of Nepal. Maybe, in those models—Chinese/East Asian style benevolent dictatorship, or constitutional monarchy with certain executive powers—we will have to give up on certain rights that we enjoy now, but if we have to trade these rights for economic growth that would, 10-20-30 years down the road, makes us a real functioning democracy, we should now—having experienced democracy(?)—not be afraid to pursue it. The present set of leaders have left us with no option and if we remain passive at this critical juncture, the chances of us remaining where we are now even 50 years later cannot be ruled out. Whatever we choose, we have to choose now. And the time calls for us, the silent majority, to voice what we really want: The tyranny of the few to be replaced by the benevolent dictatorship of one that will, after a certain time, fulfill our economic and democratic aspirations.
Let us not forget those who believe that democracy is sacrosanct and cannot be questioned or commented on are the ones who are undemocratic. We can’t fear putting forth our ideas and expressing the views— which we have confined to discussing with our family and trusted friends—in public.