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Report on Political Transformation in Nepal

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

13 February 2013, Kathmandu

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Nepal office and German Embassy together have facilitated a high-level poltical dialogue between senior leaders of Nepal's eight mainstream political parties and prominent German parliamentarians-Hon'le Johannes Pflug, Member, Foreign Affairs Committee, Hon'ble Holger Ortel, Agriculture and Transportation Committee and Hon'ble Karin Evers-Meyer-Member Defense and Budget Committee of German Bundestag and all members of social democratic parties. The discussion focused on "Political Transformation in Nepal: The Current Challenges and Opportunities for Cooperation."

Background

Welcoming the participants and guests head of FES Dev Raj Dahal said that Nepal is facing extraordinary moment in the nation's political history. He said, "Nepali leaders have demonstrated a great capacity for peaceful political transformation. This has shaken-up its private and public lives. But the pace and scope of transformation have been unsettling in many ways for Nepali leaders and citizens to manage." Dahal argued, "The consolidation of gain of inclusion of the nation's diversity and popular sovereignty demands the stamina of its constitutional polity, a polity which can rally the compliance of citizens and match their rights and duties with the technological and economic condition of modernity. This is essential to enable its ordinary public to control the condition of their lives." He pointed that in a struggle of winners and losers, Nepal is derailing from many of its positive norms, values and institutions that once shaped its moral fiber, stability and unity. He added, " The sanity of the nation lies in the continuity of its positive tradition which is vital for rebuilding a robust sense of political community-the state. The sanity of leaders lies in fostering change suitable for democracy, social justice and stable peace." In this context, a balanced approach requires rational solution of many of the nation's complex problems.

Middle Path

Ironically, the trajectory of Nepal's political transition has just been shifted from one critical phase to the next with the collapse of Constituent Assembly. The new phase seems far more complex to resolve unless Nepali leaders seek to achieve the best from each other, improve their political purpose to end the current deadlock and help the country come out of the condition of great adversity. This is the best way to prevent the total paralysis of political power which is imposing unfair burden on the nation and the people. Precisely at this time, Nepali citizens are expecting from the leaders to demonstrate statesmanship to set the nation's direction and respond to the aspirations of citizens for economic benefits, dignity of life and solidarity. Perhaps, we might have to consider a Nepali version of Ostpolitik both to break the narrow walls of interests, ideologies and identities and balance them within the normative democratic order beneficial to all sides.

The main thrust of this dialogue was to give support to Nepalese political parties to resolve the current political deadlock and steer the polity to a renewed legitimacy through national and local elections. It was also about the sharing of experience between two sides, particularly, how German leaders have transformed the nation from its tumultuous past and built a healthy democratic society? Despite ideological diversity, how do German political leaders shape common national and foreign policies, resolve differences and shore up the process of sustainable development, and wow social democratic party of Germany has transformed itself into a modern political party and shaping its future course?

Dialogue

Hon'ble Johannes Pflug, who has been parliamentarian in Germany for 33 years said that political leaders should not betray people. What you have promised to the people is need to be given to them. Being a parliamentarian or politician one has duties of providing functioning government. Though situation in Nepal has improved after 2004 and it appears that developmental works have taken place. In Germany, Nepal is favorite for tourism and trekking but we are particularly concerned and worried that there is no parliament in Nepal and there is no favorite environment for capital investment needed to meet the democratic expectation of people. He hoped that situation will improve in the days ahead. Recalling his own experience, he said that the role of opposition in Parliament is very important as it provides space for the growth of robust democracy. He also said that separation of power is also important and so is the democratic culture of moderation, toleration of diverse opinions and compromise. He also pointed out that the President is calling for consensus among political parties and it is the need of the hour for the parliamentarians to help the President. He underlined that Nepali people deserve functioning government that responds the need of people.

Beyond Ideology

Hon'ble HorgelOrtel said that politics is all about building trust among people and in order to build trust, ideology should not prevail. It is always difficult to ascertain what his good and what is bad in politics. The political 'isms' such as Communism, capitalism, socialism, liberalism have their own merits and demerits but we have to strike a right balance by looking into our own situation and context. Hon'ble Ortel said that big ideas may not work all the time and everywhere. We have to find out own ways to move ahead. He also talked about Buddha's 'Middle-Path.' He also said that, in Europe, we are sad about Nepal's situation. I, believe, Nepali politics has become victim of 'old-fashioned' ideologies. He further said, that what I feel for this country is that the young people should come forward and lead the country with fresh ideas free from ideological dogmas. He underlined that it is only Nepalese who know their country and problem best, not the outsider. Too much dependence on outside will spoil your own values and culture. We, Germans, don't want to do that. Hob'ble Karin Evers-Meyer, who has supported a Shahaj Community Hospital in Gaidakot, underlined the need of women's representation in every aspect of state affairs. She hoped that more women will come up in the next election and occupy leadership position.

Mr. Sharat Singh Bhandari, National Madhesh Socialist Party and Former Minister for Defense,Culture and Sports asked how one can overcome the situation of stalemate, when people at the helm of the power, do not want to address the problem, though they know the problem but pretend not to know. He said that it is difficult to wake-up those who pretend to sleep then those who are really sleeping. One can compare Nepal's political situation with this metaphor said Handrail. He further said that everybody talks-talks but nobody is serious in really addressing the problem. Everybody is trying to fulfill their own interest (both partisan and individual) in one way or the other. How do we come out of this dilemma - I am sure, you must have gone through same type of pain and odyssey in Germany and can share your experience of overcoming such situation.

Ho'ble HorgelOrtel and Hob'ble Johannes Pflug said that it is common that we also had gone through same type of situation that you are going through now. But we should not forget that we have duty toward our citizens and society. Our own experiences suggest that creation of functional groups within the parties and serving for them will create more problems. We have to reconcile at some point for the benefit of broader society and stand above interest groups of society to serve the general public.

Dr. Prakash S Mahat, Member, Central Committee, NC and former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Energy reminded that German and Nepal enjoy special relationship and until 1990s Nepal did not require VISA to go to Germany. It is our very good developmental partner and we thank German government and people for the generous development cooperation. He also said that we have enough experiences and we do not need to go for more experiments. Germany is the best example how propaganda can bring disaster in society. He reminded that when you just listen very attractive slogans don't go by that and people here in Nepal have now realized that at last. We are behind in many ways but we are optimistic that good days are ahead and our relationship with Germany will further strengthen in the days ahead and democratic political culture flourish.

Mr. Arjun Thapa, Member Foreign Affairs Committee of Madehsi Jana Adhikar Forum and former Vice-President of International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY), said that the need of the hour is fresh election and for it we need to strike compromise among political parties which is not taking place. This is the real challenge for us to find common ground for power-sharing and resolution of contentious issues of federalism, election system, form of governance, citizenship, etc. He also thanked FES for providing various inputs on social democracy and kicking the democratic debates alive in Nepal.

Mr. Bishnu Rimal, Member Politbureau, CPN-UML and President of GEFONT said that we have learned a lot from Germanys' experience and political system. Political awareness in Nepal is very high. Many of the debate that we do here in Nepal are from Germany, for example, the concept of co-determination, welfare state and social security. He also asked about the future of social democracy in Europe following the crisis of capitalism and its theoretical assumption.

Hon'ble Johannes Pflug responding to the ideologies said that we discussed and discussed about the Marxism (communism) but could not come to the agreed conclusion. Our parties started splitting and splitting and many of them became too radical. Then we have decided to go for the middle path (social democracy) and various other parties joined in. I think the need of the hour is 'middle-path' and the recent financial crisis has also proved it. He responded to other several theoretical concepts and answered the problems brought about by the financial crisis.

Mr. C. P. Mainali, President, CPN-ML and former Local Development Minister, said that there are so many equalities in Marxism and socialism. We have three different political transition during the last six plus decades but it has become very difficult for us to consolidate achievements of each transitions of 1950, 1990 and 2006 due to lack of socio-economic and institutional preconditions. He also reminded that we have had our glorious past, we have our own philosophy and values. But we have failed to continue them with the transition as we were swayed by the wave. In many occasions the oriental values could not coexist with Western model of political system. This has become a real dilemma for us how to make proper adaptation. I think the need of the hour is how best to insert our values in the political system that can alone provide political stability in Nepal and adapt to the technological and structural change of international system. He also pointed out that part of the problem with current political impasse lies with geopolitics of external interests entangled with our issues as well which needs to be managed properly.

Mr. Ram Karki, member, politbureau, UCPN (Maoist) said that we have paid tremendous cost for the political transformation of our society. In Europe too you have tremendous blood-shed. In Nepal more than 60 percent people would vote for Marx and Engels. We should talk about Willy Brandt but should not forget the contribution of Max and Engels in liberating the oppressed. Hon'ble Johannes Pflug said that Marx is dead so is Engels. Let's concentrate more on people's welfare and utilize politics as credible instrument for the positive transformation of society for democracy, social justice and peace.

Conclusion

German Ambassador to Nepal H. E. Frank Meyke expressed happiness over the mutual engagement of Nepali and German politicians in sharing the experiences and also hoped that Nepalese leaders would be settle the problems and shore up the nation's strength for reconciliation and democracy.

Ms. Chitralekha Yadav, Former Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Treasurer of Nepali Congress Party, Mr. Upendra Yadav, former Deputy Prime minister and Foreign Minister and the President of Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum-Nepal, Mr. Ajay Sharma, Former Nepalese Ambassador to Australia and member of Foreign Affairs Committee of CPN (Maoist) and Mr. Rameshwor Ray Yadav, Former Minister of Law and Justice and Local Development and Senior Vice-President of Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum (Democratic) also shared their views with the delegates. In return, German MPs said that we are here to encourage Nepali leaders and express solidarity for their national initiative and commitment to democracy. At the end Head of FES thanked German Guests, German Embassy staffs and Nepali leaders for their support and valuable times and invited them to continue their debate over the dinner. In the informal meetings both sides talked about Nepal's vision and its potentials for a promising future.

 
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