Building Inner Party Democracy in Nepal
A national seminar organized by Centre
for Legal Consultancy and Research (CeLCaR)
24 December 2013, Kathmandu
Ritu Raj Subedi
The Rising Nepal
The political parties are the agents of
change either in democratic or autocratic regime. But, when they
themselves suffer from the democratic-deficit within their own
organizations, they lose their moral and political strength to
democratize the society as a whole. Therefore, a robust inner-party
democracy is a first prerequisite to bolster democratic system,
rule of law and constitutionalism. Despite long and glowing tradition
of struggle for freedom and equality, the Nepalese political parties
sorely lack democratic culture at the inter- and intra-party level.
This has stalled the democratization process and frustrated the
masses that lend support to the parties in the time of political
crisis and movements but are betrayed as the parties fight for
grabbing power and fail to deliver on promises upon reaching power.
The discourse on the inner-democracy has got momentum as the country's
fledgling democratic republican set-up is struggling to find its
feet. The inner-party democracy has its direct bearings on the
successful management of intra-party conflicts and writing the
new constitution. The grooming of new leadership, developing leadership
hand-over system, fixing the office term and managing the retiring
leaders are important to effectively apply the values of internal
democracy in the parties. Equally vital points are periodic election
at all levels of organization and granting equal status and listening
to and incorporating the divergent views of all functionaries
in an inclusive fashion buttress the spirit of inner democracy
from top to bottom organs of the parties. As the part of its broader
initiatives to democratize the Nepalese parties, the Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung (FES) has been financially and intellectually supporting
different organizations to launch debates on the issue involving
politicians, party workers, experts and scholars from varied backgrounds.
The Centre for Legal Consultancy and Research (CeLCAR) joined
hands with the FES to organize a seminar entitled 'Building Inner
Party Democracy in Nepal' in Kathmandu in December, 2013. It drew
the stakeholders from various sectors. They actively participated
in the interactive seminar and called on the parties to demonstrate
flexibility, wisdom and tolerance to consolidate internal democracy
in their respective organizations.
The first session of the seminar featured both inaugural speech
and the paper presentation. It was chaired by political scientist
Lal Babu Yadav. CPN-UML leader Pradeep Gyawali presented his
paper 'the Management of inter-party conflict and the consolidation
of loktantra' . UML influential leader KP Sharma Oli was the
chief speaker while FES, Nepal head Dev Raj Dahal and political
analyst Purshotam Dahal put forth their opinions.
Factionalism damages communist movement:
Speaking as a chief guest, CPN-UML leader
K P Sharma Oli said that social and political movements were
the results of the social needs and the people's aspirations.
Oli said that the parties came into existence to well manage
the society and deliver justice to the people. They are guided
by the advanced thoughts and ideology. However, some parties
are formed in reaction to the social phenomena such as pro ethnic
Offering his candid views on the nature of communist parties,
he said that they were established for the cause of proletariat
but not a single representative of proletariat is included in
the central committee of the communist parties. "Around
98 per cent of their members are non-communist. Only two per
cent have understood communist ideology," he said.
There is also practice to grant the membership of the communist
parties without fulfilling the required criteria. "Petit
bourgeois character is dominant virtually in all left parties.
Politics seems to be a game of rule. But, we want to build a
party based on ideology."
Diversity and contradictions in the party are natural. There
should be competition to attain noble goals. The political water
of Nepal is not still clean. The floods continue to run. There
is not proper grooming of leadership because the politics is
based on equation. The tendency to promote leaders on the factional
line hit inner party democracy.
"The politics of equation that a handful of leaders resorted
to within the party since the establishment of Communist Party
of Nepal has scuttled the leadership development. The founding
general secretary of CPN Pushpa Lal was the victim of this tendency.
"Those believing in conspiracy were always up in arms to
sideline Pushpa Lal."
"Now, it is idea, not ideology that has taken precedence.
The political parties should prove their mettle in the management
of diverse social interests. The intra-party conflicts need
to be resolved within the broader interests of the people and
the nation," said Oli.
The influential UML leader said that the recent Constituent
Assembly (CA) election had rejected the politics of ethnicity
and gave a thumping victory to the mainstream parties that run
on the basis of ideology.
Critical education for transformation missing
FES, head Dev Raj Dahal said that political
parties represent different factional parts, not whole. "Yet,
in Nepal, they have penetrated every aspect of public lives.
They are keys to serve input function of democracy and engage
with multiple layers of society in political education, recruitment
of cadres, mediation between citizens and top leadership, grievance
collection and procession, political communication, leadership
supply and conflict resolution."
Dahal noted that the political parties
are supposed to translate citizens' grievances and demands into
issues for necessary political action. But, the Nepalese political
parties, mainly grown out of mixture of social and political
movements, leaders' personal ego, party splits and fragmentation
of parliamentary parties, are struggling to expand their political
constituencies through the use of social cleavages and even
generating contradictions in a binary code of friend and enemy
rather than formulating realistic vision, policies and program
for this post-conflict nation.
The dramatic decline of ideology and
policy differences among the Nepalese political parties forced
the leaders to seek new areas and means to mobilize memberships
and enter into deep sub-structures of society with the instrumental
politics of differences and media-mediated image. This decline
has decreased the level of volunteerism and solidarity linkages
and increased the network politics and financial cost of participation
in the political activities. "The core aspect of Nepal's
conflicts is their non-linear solution either in favour of class,
caste, gender, ethnicity or territoriality.
"This tendency has escalated toxic
mistrust among leaders within and across the party lines making
conflict resolution within democratic framework problematic.
Whether the party system in Nepal can function as a conduit
for conflict resolution at intra and inter party levels largely
rests on the ability, skill and performance capacity of their
leaders and their ability to discipline the bureaucratic and
technocratic consultation so that political power does not shift
to global financial capitalism."
Analysing the class character of the
Nepalese political parties, Dahal said: "The needs of Nepalese
parties are, however, dissimilar. Non-communist parties such
as NC, RPPs, and Madhes-based ones are increasingly becoming
personality-oriented, less ideological and seeking a compromise
between parties for power-sharing without knowing hidden dynamics
within them and contradictions with social classes generated
by electoral promises and performances thereafter. They need
more socialization away from neo-liberal temptation. New parties
need moderation, toleration, context-sensitivity and democratization.
"The UCPN-Maoist has formulated
unity-struggle-transformation similar to that of CPN-UML and
CPN-Maoist though their tones and tendencies differ. The critical
education, economic, organization and leadership resources to
sustain this transformation, however, are missing. The Madhesi
parties and Maoists are facing the propensity for factionalism
and individualization of leadership. The road to freedom of
expression exercised within Nepalese parties is good for articulation
of differences but embattled leaders have not been able to steer
it under rule of law.
Ego-inflation has generated the possibility
of conflict at leadership level than healing this post-conflict
society and exposed the leaders to quarrel over defining consensus
over geopolitical, public interest, power equation and broader
societal terms, he said and added that in order to promote inner
democracy, the social base of politics must be bolstered and
party structures at all levels must be democratized and made
effective in performing key political functions.
Political analyst Purshotam Dahal said
that internal democracy was the key to solving the intra-party
conflict. Multiparty democracy is the basis for all parties.
However, it is a challenge to settle the conflict between those,
who stand for democracy and those, who are against it. The beauty
of democracy is that it embraces the voices of opponents. The
political events have shown that it is not only ideology but
also the factors such as region and ethnicity on the basis of
which the parties are formed, said Dahal. The parties have not
been set up on the basis of class. However, the role of the
parties has been shrunk and changed in the new context. The
role of media is ambivalent- they are both trouble-makers and
CeLCAR chairman Hikmat Karki said that the interactions on inner
democracy had positive impacts on the political parties.
The gist of Gyawali's paper:
Consumerism/ utilitarianism threatens
The political parties play a vital role in the modern representative
democracy. Despite their limitation or imperfection, no any
institute can give an alternative to them. To generate awareness
among the people, take their problems to the state and build
an environment in their favour, put pressure on the government
for the solution of the problems of different social groups
and consolidate loktantra as a whole, the parties play their
decisive role. The parties' character, the principle of structure
and activities largely determine as to which class or community
they serve for. The political parties are class-based. Therefore,
non-class or all-class parties cannot be imagined. However,
the parties have to claim that they work for as many as classes
in the society.
The political parties were born in the
course of capitalist-democratic revolutions against feudalism.
For a long time, they acted as messengers of social-political
awareness, propagators new consciousness, crusaders of movements
and mangers of the state following the movements/revolution.
However, with the onslaught of modernization and globalization,
dominance of economic powers, increased role of media and non-state/non-government
organizations and increasing individualism in the society have
put a question mark to the traditional role of the political
parties. Coming under the whim of so-called postmodernism, the
trend of destroying 'centre', denying every truth and saying
that there are many truths or they depend on the consumers or
audience held sway. These have deconstructed the established
values and nourished non-ideology, and increased influences
of consumerism/ utilitarianism have posed a challenge to the
role of the parties.
The political parties have been formed
on the basis of class but the Nepalese political parties were
born on the basis of ideology, not on the real social and economic
grounds. There are basically three factors leading to the internal
feuds - dispute on policy or ideology; structural/systemic problems
and personal/factional interests. The ideological or policy
level disputes in any live party are natural phenomenon but
ideology or policy formulated in a specific period cannot be
applicable to all times because the society is dynamic.
The democratization of the parties was
a prerequisite to the democratization of the society. Following
measures are necessary to this end:
* Guaranteeing the equal status to all party
members in the statute,
* Ensuring the decisive role of all members in the formulation
of policies and leadership selection,
* Developing collective leadership, healthy ideological debate
and critical consciousness,
* Holding periodic election and maintaining accountability,
* Managing the sources and incomes of party transparently,
* Developing planned leadership grooming system and devising
legal and scientific provisions for the leadership transfer
* Creating a mechanism to listen to the people's criticisms,
complaints and suggestions.
Comments from the floor:
Nain Singh Mahar said that Loktantra should encompass the interests
of all classes. If the propounders of political ideologies themselves
implemented their visions, there would have not been much controversy.
The NC and UML leaders seem to be recalcitrant to hand over
the leaderships to their successors. They should realise that
there are other leaders waiting for to take on the mantle. Another
participant posed a question: Is a political party an interest
group? How much does a party work as interest group and how
much does it not? The parties should mobilise the people for
the social, economic and cultural transformations. Democracy
is a bottom-up approach. Rudra Bahadur Khadka said that the
Nepalese communists followed class politics but they are now
coming closer to the NC. Ranju Thakur said that it was owing
to the inorganic intellectuals, who create rifts within the
parties. Only organic intellectuals could well serve the party's
interests. The parties should transform themselves as per the
needs of the people and society. There should be positive conflicts
within the party. Sad to say the elements of sacrifice and morality
have taken a back seat in virtually all parties. Inner democracy
is in a weaker position and negative conflicts are rife. Suresh
Ale Magar insisted that the parties are class based. It is not
only about the economic issue but also of ideological one. Until
and unless classes exist in the society, there will be hegemony
of certain class in the society. The parties are the product
of society. Bala Ram Thapa said that the political parties were
born owing to the social conflict. How can the parties lead
the country when they are bogged down by the intra-party conflict
and debates? The intra-party conflicts have grown because of
lack of the leadership development. Ideological debate is a
key to resolving intra-party conflict.
Wrapping up the first session, Lal Bbau Yadav said that the
political parties are the lifeblood of democracy. However, the
parties here are engaged in the tribal politics at a time when
the citizens are in search of common national identity. The
polls have clearly proved that the ethnic politics will have
no place in the country. Ethnic politics cannot pave the way
for writing the statute. Neither will it ensure stability. He
said that ethnic nationalism should be converted into civic
nationalism. There should be the integration between dhoti (a
long piece of cloth worn by the people in Terai region. It is
sometimes tied round the waist, with the lower part passed between
the legs) and topi (a cap made of typical cloth and is generally
put on by the hill-origin people) for the strong national unity.
It rings hollow for the parties if they give up ideology and
nationality. Democracy is a bottom-up approach and inner-party
democracy is necessary to promote young generation leadership.
There should be strict rules and regulations to manage the parties'
memberships. Political culture must be promoted and people and
nation should be kept at the centre. The office-term of the
leaders should be fixed so that the fresh blood get their chance
to prove their mettle in the party.
In the second session,
chaired by UML leader Rajendra Gautam, NC leader N P Saud presented
his working paper entitled 'the Conflict within the Nepalese
Political Parties and Consolidation of Loktantra.' Another UML
leader Yogesh Bhattarai commented on his paper.
The gist of NP Saud's paper
A handful of leaders
enjoy powers: Saud
Without analyzing whether
the exercises of factional politics within the parties are by-product
of historical development of loktantrik society or a stumbling
block to road to democratic development of society, one cannot
envision the mature form of loktantra in new Nepal. Taking these
questions into consideration, the reasons behind the conflicts
in the parties have been presented in following way:
- Fight for leadership/personality: The
political parties had evolved in Nepal, not through the institutional
development based on bottom-up approach but they were expanded
either creating mythical figures or through the top-down approach.
In consequence of this, the parties are revolving around personality
cult in lieu of thoughts. Therefore, alternative system in
the operation of the organisation and leadership transfer
has been negated in the parties having the established leadership
or personality cult, giving continuity to the status quo.
- Fight for opportunities/control over the
resources and means: The structure of most of the parties
is based on centralism. In some of them, the concept of centrality
has been appreciated with the use of different adjectives
while some other parties accept decentralisation idea in principle
but in practice, a handful of leaders exercise powers. In
order to live up to inner democracy and make the party transparent,
the process of membership distribution should be free from
discrimination and control, and accessed to all willing citizens
of the society. The leadership should be chosen through a
fair election. When some individuals in the leadership control
the means and resources, the conflict occurs between those
having resources and those without them.
- The conflict for ethnic and regional identity:
The factions formed on the basis of regional and ethnic agenda
have also caused conflicts in the parties. These groups have
been inspired by the exterior ethnic/ regional organisations
and they are at the same time taking financial aids from INGOs/NGOs
overtly and covertly.
- Diversities and different identities after
the unification: The intra-party conflicts come to the fore
after the unification between two or more than two parties.
The unification is not carried out on basis of creation of
organisations spontaneously. Unification of the parties is
sometimes based on ideological proximity and sometimes on
the basis of identical goals. Despite this, there is lacking
a true blend of policies and working style, leaving room for
- Feudal dynasty/legacy
- Ideological division and deviation and
- Influences of national and international
Without developing robust internal democracy,
it is unlikely to build the parties' institutional character
and capacity to implement stated policies, develop dexterity
to manage the intra-party conflicts and create widespread people
base. The following measures are necessary to reform the parties:
Ø Independent and transparent
Ø Operation of the parties on the basis of committee
Ø Periodic deadline to the continuity of leadership,
Ø The effective role of thought groups within the parties,
Ø The selection of leadership based on the policy, programme
and credibility of conduct, and
Ø The introduction of special programmes to the target
Yogesh Bhattarai: There has been
debate on inner party for more than a decade. The issue of party
organization is not only a technical affair but also an ideological
one. The party's structure is decided by its working direction.
Cadres are the sources of power for the parties. It is the social
setting and character that defines the parties. The political
movements from 2007 BS to 2062/063 were capitalist. Our path
ahead should be socialist one. Therefore, the parties and the
conducts of their leaders should be socialist-oriented. They
should be linked with production. The leaders should stop taking
salaries from the parties. The economic resources and the transactions
should be transparent. How to build a new model party should
be today's debate. It should be linked with the welfare of the
people and have the national character. If we make the workers
as the sources of power and sovereignty of the party, the inner-party
democracy will be strong. The trend of awarding proportional
representation seats to the rich individuals by depriving the
committed party members must be stopped.
Comments from the floor
A host of speakers, including Bala Ram Thapa and Dayal Bahadur
Shahi, put forth their views. The people's political awareness
has increased. This is also instrumental in promoting inner-party
democracy. The sacred religious anthologies such Mahabharat
and Ramayan had their deep influences on the Nepalese political
parties. Almost all parties are dominated by those leaders,
who have not contributed to the party's organisation. Factionalism
has thrived in the veil of thought debate. Another participant
noted that if the parties begin to run democratically, the dynastic
politics will come to an end. Dayal Bahadur Shahi said that
the relations between the parties and the people should be like
the nail and meat. He said that the parties have tendency to
be closer with the voters during the elections but the post-election
scenario sees them away from electorates. The middle-rung leaders
always created conflicts. Thus, it is necessary to break syndicate
in the parties. The parties are also not working together for
the common interests of the people.
From the chair, Rajendra Gautam said that it was a challenge
to manage the leadership in the parties marred by the factionalism
based on the personality cult. The parties are class based.
However, they should resolve the ethnic and regional issues.
It is not sufficient to insert the word 'democratisation' in
the party's statute but it must be reflected in the conducts
and actions of the leaders.
CPN-Maoist leader Suresh Ale Magar moderated the third session
in which Bhesh Raj Adhikari of CeLCAR presented his working
paper 'the Management of Inter and Intra-party Conflicts in
Democracy'. NC leader Guru Raj Ghimire commented his paper.
The gist of Adhikari's paper:
Loktantrik methods must to solve conflicts
Once the truth that the inter- and intra-party conflicts cannot
be negated, the attention should be given to their proper management.
The following measures could be useful to manage such conflicts:
- Loktantrik methods to build ideology and
leadership: The political parties could make their democratic
participation in the society, control over power and forge
political unity only when they themselves operate democratically.
The organizational structure and decision-making process should
be in a way that would make easy for the cadres and members
to put forth their views. The internal democracy strengthens
committee system, promotes loktantrik culture for solving
disputes and reduces opportunism and dictatorship. There should
be democratic procedures to choose the leaderships. Competition
should be ensured at the every layer. Nominated and imposed
leaderships create conflicts.
- Framing party laws that are in sync with
national legislation: The laws related to the political parties
should correspond with constitutional provisions made for
the parties. The parties are not above the laws. The court
should have a right to impose preventive orders on the parties
in case the latter's activities look dubious and break laws.
This helps maintain transparency in the parties.
- Methods to run coalition government and
manage inter-party conflicts: The conflicts between the parties
and the government lead to toppling of the coalition government.
There should be clear procedures, monitoring and evaluation
mechanisms to run the joint government. The agreements and
understandings forged to operate the joint government should
be transparent and democratic.
- Transparent financial system: All leaders,
cadres and members of the parties should be assured that their
economic transactions are authentic and transparent. Income
sources should be made open. The parties should handle their
fiscal activities through a separate mechanism.
- Decentralising the decision-making process:
The political parties should transfer powers to the lower
committees. The central committee may not be aware of the
problems residing at the lower committees. In such a situation,
powers should be devolved to the district and local committees.
Their capacity needs to be built to address the conflicts
that surface among the local cadres and leaders.
- Conflict management though dialogue and
reconciliation: The intra-party conflicts are like contagious
diseases. There are cases in which the dispute in one party
infects other parties also. There have been also positive
chain effects. When the conflict in one party gets solved,
it has a affirmative impacts on other parties. The central
leaderships should be active to solve the conflicts. Many
of such bickering has been ended through mutual dialogue and
reconciliation among the parties to the conflict.
- Loktantrik methods to operate the parties:
The statutes of most of the parties are framed in a way that
suits the top leadership. Therefore, there is the need to
make statute democratic. Sometime the establishments are intolerant
towards the minority. Sometimes the dissenting factions tend
to violate discipline. The key leadership is power-centric.
The democratic methods are necessary to settle the disputes.
Virtually, all parties are suffering from
one or other form of intra-party conflicts. They require appropriate
mechanism to solve the internal strife. The conflicting leaders
or groups should be made aware of their respective responsibility.
The common ground of consensus needs to be identified. The leaderships
should be encouraged to pursue negotiation and dialogue; seek
mediation and implement the points of consensus. Loktantra should
be run on the basis of system, not on the basis of sentiments.
Promoting democratic culture, rule of law, respect of others'
freedom and autonomy are equally important for loktantra to
be sustainable and beneficial to all. The top leadership must
learn to rise above the factional mentality.
Ghimire's Comments: The paper is compendious
and compact. Adhikari has attempted to include all needed elements
that suit his title. Leader or statesman is one who shows the
way to the people. Nepal is reeling under transition since 2007
BS. The leaders need to change their working style. In democracy,
no one has privilege to hate the opposition leaders. The parties
should run on the basis of philosophy and ideology. The first
CA failed because it could not work as the custodian of all
Nepalese. In order to deliver justice to the Nepalese, they
need an inclusive constitution. Dialogue is the best means to
resolve all types of conflicts.
Comments from the floor: With the advent
of multiparty democracy, Nepal began to witness conflicts. The
country cannot afford any more conflicts. What will be the role
of the cadres to solve the intra-party conflict? Their role
must be defined. There is a tendency among the leaders to favour
and promote their sycophants. There is lacking in the evaluation
of the cadres. The communist parties are not practicing dialectical
materialism. The society has multiple classes. Therefore, diversity
is natural. The inter-party conflicts have grown owing to the
failure of leaders to respect each other. All UML leaders have
accepted people's multiparty democracy. Then why there are deep
differences among them? Whether politics is service or profession?
It is not only the leaders but even the cadres have their hand
in the intra-party conflicts.