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Report on Democratization of Political Party

Organised by Center for Legal Consultancy and Research (CeLCAR) and Sagarmatha Multiple College


21-22 December 2007, Nagarkot


INAUGURATION

The seminar began with formal inauguration chaired by Dr. Prof. Chaitanya Mishara and with his few words on the importance of inner party democracy. Mr. Hikmata Karki made welcome speech on behalf of organizer.

Mr. Dev Raj Dhal, Country Representative of FES, Nepal made a very scholarly and illuminating speech highlighting the importance of inner party democracy and drawing many references from history and the contemporary world. He opined that leader should synthesize ideas and opinions scattered. A dichotomization between party and citizens is deepening. This poses a threat to democracy, therefore, must be overcome effectively. (For details, see the paper)

SESSION I

Paper: Inner Party Democracy
Author: Khagendra Prasai

The paper entitled "Inner Party Democracy" was presented by author Khagendra Prasai. The Paper covered major issues of inner party democracy: justification for inner party democracy, problems of inner party democracy in political parties, constitutional regulation of party, elements of inner party democracy, leadership and inner party democracy.

Hari Sharma, Chief Commentator

This paper has covered theoretical part well but practical part is missing. The paper is a-historical as it has ignored the historical development of our political parties. At present we also, suffer from crisis of representation. In some South Asian political parties, have a strong system and culture of "high command".

We must also pay adequate attention to entry or recruitment of new people. We must accept that the major problem is that of leadership. I strongly disagree with Mr. Prasai's idea of absolute transparency of all decisions and decision-making process. Parties strategy, as they compete with each other, can and should be confidential.

FLOOR

Pari Thapa: Marx idea of recall and universal suffrage constitutes the best principles of direct democracy. Democratic centralism, a system of inner party democracy advocated by left parties has become ladder for 'gangism'. Our culture is not research oriented. Political parties do not emphasize scientific research and study, therefore, they have failed to generate new knowledge and ideas essential for building of new society.

Udaya Raj Pandey: We must first democratize ourselves in order to build a new Nepal. Our leaders wish to remain in leadership or power till death. A good leader knows not only when to take leadership but also when to leave leadership.

Sabitra Bushal: Those who lose in party conferences are punished. Culture of toadyism is rampant.

Chet Raj: I think party funding is an important element of inner party democracy which is missing in this paper. 'Yes man' is favored and preferred by party leaders.

Sudip Shrestha: The method of election matters in democracy.

Tika Ram Bhattarai: Is inner party democracy equally attracted in all parties in all situations? The good side of Nepali Congress's conference is that representatives are elected from below. The good side of CPN UML is its culture of discussion on issue, policy and ideology.

The issue of inner party democracy has been raised by leaders when they are in minority and oppressed by majority. Nomination is also a kind of election. Reservation is needed.

Constitutionalism is equally attracted in party and state.

Ajambar Kangbang: In democracy the order of priority is nation, people, party and leader. But this order has reversed. Our politics is not issue-centric but lobby-centric. The important question in the context, therefore, is how we can develop critical or questioning mind. The process of recruitment is serious as it can affect the entire life of party.

Yogesh Bhattarai: What is political party? Are they like private organization or public forum? What is the ideological justification of political party itself? I mean, why should party exist? Our leaders and cadres lack in intellectual ability to understand political events. Party is an institution, therefore policy is primary. Is politics profession or service?

Tirtha Koirala: Our leaders become manager once they acquire top position. Nomination is a must. It is not possible for others to make reasonable comment and judgment on leaders as the formers do not know the latter' point of view.

Rameshwor Phuyal: I do not agree with author on the point that confidentiality is not needed. System of recall is very important. In our parties, we have more Ganesh than Kumar. We are more monarchical than democratic in our attitude and action. We must initiate process of democratization of party.

Dhyan Bahadur Rai: We lack in capacity and culture of entertaining questions. What our leaders look for and prefer is indubitably Sepia rather than an informed and critical member.

Bishnu Rijal: The author said Cuba has system of recall. But how is it that single person is in power for more than four decades? Leadership must be periodically subject to public endorsement.

Hari Sharma (Chief Commentator): Party can not be egalitarian through and through. They need to be hierarchical to some extent. All party business is the matter of concern of members as well as of non-members.

Response from Author:

As regard the question of our leader clinging to power for long or rather till death, we need to investigate the "why" of this kind of tendency. I have good reason and ample evidence to substantiate this that such tendency has been given rise to and boosted by absence of democracy in inner party affairs. Some have suggested term limit as an effective check to corruption of power. The important question is not how long a person remains in power but how he or she exercises power. If his or her exercise of power is governed by fundamental universal principal democracy.

If party claims to be democratic, inner party democracy is attracted in the case of all parties in all situations. There is no denying in some situation like autocratic regime; parties may keep some of their decisions and organization confidential, but they are not supposed to sacrifice fundamental principles of democracy with an excuse of 'situation' and 'need'.

If nomination is also a type of election, then what is not election?

Some of our friends have stressed the need of confidentiality. What I have not understood is where and why it is needed for political parties in an open society. On the one hand, we demand transparency, where as, on the other, apparently contradictorily, we defend confidentiality and secrecy. Commentator Mr. Sharma said that strategies must be confidential. In the meantime, he forgets that all strategies of competition and any other affair must be governed by fundamental principles of democracy. Moreover, in order to acquire power should party prepare themselves for open, fair and democratic competition or should they use conspiratorial tactics?

Ishwor Pokhrel, Chairperson

We cannot understand this problem independent of the historical and social context. We can have academic discussion but solution does not stem from mere academic discussion. A good leader is not only a good manager. But one needs to be a good manager in order to be a good leader. The entire party must have ownership of making of ideology, party constitution and leadership. What is meant by respect to dissent position in concrete terms? If parties do not become updated in ideology, they become outdated. Many evils have entered into politics primarily because we take politics as profession rather than service.

SESSION II

Paper: Modernization of Political Party
Author: Bhesh Raj Adhikar and Hikmat Karki

Chandra Bhandari, Chief Commentator

Everything depends on leadership. Should politics be profession or service? Participation, discussion and consensus are today's need. Nothing else is more important than this. We need a new kind of schooling for our political parties, their leaders and members.

FLOOR

Udaya Raj Pandey: The members of party must be able to feel their ownership in policy formulation and leadership building. What kind of system is needed for this? Democracy can sustain only when people can feel their share.

Pari Thapa: I think transformation rather than modernization is appropriate. Our parties are hungry of power.

N. P. Sout: Our parties are poor at practicing internal democracy. We still carry feudal culture Our leadership lack in dynamism. How can we build up secular parties?

Tirtha Koirala: We talk about human rights as fashion not as expression of those ideals which we have really internalized.

Rabindra Khanal: If we apply principle of secularism to build up federal state, the division must be based on regions rather than on ethnicity or any other factor.

Sarita Neupane: Party must be made accountable to people. Mobility brings modernization.

Puskar Gautam: We need to develop a clear concept of what constitutes modernization.

Tika Ram Bhattarai: What is standard of modernization? Let us bring our discussion to the ground reality. Talking on vacuum does not help. We need to make a provision in the new constitution which will allow the judicial review of statue of political parties.

Rameshwor Phuyal: What constitutes new culture?

Jhalak subedi: Political party itself is a modern invention. Will party make their stand clear on social and economic issue?

Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal: Party must have clear ideology. Leadership must be build on the basis of ideology not on age.

Chaitanya Mishra: Modernity is an age specific concept not an eternal one. Standard of modernity is missing. We must attempt a concrete definition of modernity.

Response from Author:

We have not undermined ideology. We will try to concretely define modernity and include in the paper.

Shankar Pokhrel, Chairperson

There is a need to establish ownership of party members on policy and ideology formulation. The broader the ownership, the stronger the party. We need to address social issue only then we can address class question.

Capitalism and socialism has influenced each other. The success of one has compelled another to change.

We need to initiate reformulation of ideology. Four factors must be paid attention to: ideology, organization, movement and life style. The quality of leadership is a relative phenomenon. One time successful leader may not prove so the other time.

SESSION III

Paper: Deliberative Democracy: A Socialist Agenda
Author: Ghanashyam Bhushal

Pari Thapa, Chief Commentator

The topic suits Nepali Congress and Communist both. Marxism is primarily a humanist philosophy therefore it demands conscious participation of individuals. Is election always practical? Or is nomination needed in certain circumstances. Can everything be made transparent?

FLOOR

Chandra Bhandari: The paper is based on certain ideology? Is it advisable to carry out discussion being based on certain ideology? Classless society is unnatural and utopian. When people become conscious, do they do revolution for power or for transformation of society?

NP Sout: The author contends that man is not free in capitalism. Is this true? The paper seems to be one-sided.

Rajan Bhattarai: The paper must be locally contextualized. How should we perceive individual freedom? What is the limit of such freedom? As long as class exists, individuals are never equal.

Geja Sharma Wagle: To me Nepali Congress and Left parties share many things ideologically and organizationally.

Shankar Pokhrel: The paper seems to be more academic. It is not much relevant to go back to Marx to find solution to contemporary problems. Political power can be achieved through ideology, organization and support of people. The paper has stressed ideology and organization only. We must take into consideration our society and its level of consciousness in order to make a good start. The split in parties can be attributed to clash of personalities. In order to solve this problem, leaders must be distributed posts and positions.

Tirtha Koirala: The paper is more hypothetical. What revolution constitutes depends on how we perceive. What are the fundamental methods of organization? Do technologies of communication have some influence on organization?

Sabitra Bhushal: It is very crucial that all members of party have and feel their ownership on leadership and ideology. The marginalized sections may remain further marginalized if everyone is to be elected. We must manage this.

Tika Bhattarai: I do not disagree with author. But he needs to elaborate the organizational technique and method suitable for deliberative democracy.

Khim Lal Bhattarai: How can we prevent our parties from splitting.

Chet Raj: Marxism is not adequate to solve present day problem. We need to resort to Gandhi too. What decisively matters is leadership.

Responses from Author: The first question we must answer is whether Marxism is right or wrong. Only then we can make choose to be Marxist or non-Marxist. The idea that all members of organization must be equal, which Marx and Engels emphasized, is not wrong. The question is how can we put this principle into practice. Let us not make a sweeping conclusion that Marx's ideas are irrelevant.

The way issue of ethnicity has bee raised is surely a bourgeoisie agenda. We need more deliberation on this.

Chaitanya Mishra, Chairperson

If deliberation is used within progressive framework, the consequences are progressive. But if deliberation takes place within irrational and dogmatic framework, the results may be regressive.

If we really practice deliberation, parties are not needed. Parties may impose. A free discussion may take place when individuals are not bound by anything.

SESSION IV

Paper: Role of Political Party in Multi Party Democracy
Author: Dr. Rabindra Khanal

NP Sout, Chief Commentator

Two organs of the state- executive and legislature are run by the political party. We need to investigate into frequent split-up of political parties after 1990. Were there reasonable ground for split of NC and CPN UML? What is the fundamental difference between left and democratic party? We have poor political culture.

Our leaders wish to remain in power for good. In western democracy, parties do not direct and control the government. But in Nepal such voice has been powerfully raised. This is, perhaps, because of our compulsion to work with Communists. Our parties have failed to work out common agendas.

FLOOR

GS Bhushal: Survival politics is done by leaders for their own survival in party's important position and power not for survival of party and nation. We are extreme short of vision. Our politics has never been guided by vision but has always centered around immediate practical question. With clear vision in our mind, we can drastically transform our society and nation.

Pari Thapa: The most important question of present time is that of state-building. Party is the representative of certain category of people. Representation and governance are different things.

Bhanu Dhakal: Author seems to lose objectivity. He seems biased against left movement and parties. Today's problems can be largely attributed to inability of our leaders.

Udaya Raj Pandey: Parties have failed to institutionalize the achievement made in last several years. The author conclusion that CPN UML has deviated from its ideology is absolutely wrong.

Sudip Shrestha: How capable and confident are our parties to make sovereign decision?

Khim Lal: Our leaders who were quite successful during movement phase turned out to be unsuccessful during reconstruction phase. We need different vision and political culture for reconstruction phase.

Chet Raj: We need long term vision. Were there hidden factors behind the split-up of parties? Has this present coalition been built internally that is to say by members of coalition or by some outsiders?

Sabitra Bhushal: We have fought within ourselves. We need a new political culture.

Chandra Bhandari: We need to make a critical analysis of our history. Our leaders are too weak at management. We have elite culture.

Bhesh Raj: Paper should give some space to discuss method of achieving goals. Why do party split? If party had been adequately democratic, we would not have lost democracy.

Umesh Jung Rayamajhi: We have adequate resources to fulfill our needs. What we need at this moment is vision and planning.

Dhyan Bhahdur Rai: We believe that we can strengthen ourselves by weakening others. To what extent is party-ization acceptable?

Response from Author: Thank you all for you invaluable comments. I will make correction in my papers taking taking into account comments raised here.

Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, Chairperson

We must rely on the best achievement made by entire humanity. International standards matter and must be given due recognition. Political parties need to be based on ideology. Parties must be adequately transparent and democratic.

Our road is that of peace and democracy.

At the end of seminar, the participants stressed on the continuity of seminar on such themes and subjects.

 
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