Institutionalization of inner-party democracy
One-day seminar organized
by the Centre for Legal Consultancy and Research (CeLCAR) and
FES, Nepal office
24 December 2014
Prepared by Ritu Raj
With the nation trudging wobbly in transition,
fostering a robust inner-party democracy is still a far cry. The
political parties and their leaders often boast of their relentless
fighting for democracy and human rights. But, when it comes to
promoting inner-party democracy in their parties, their response
has often been tepid. It is not that the status of inner-party
democracy is very pessimistic. Some of them have taken encouraging
steps to enhance internal democracy. Several legal measures were
taken to this end. But, it is not up to the mark yet. They still
lack coherent procedures, methods and strong political will to
live up to the inner-party democracy as spelt out in their statute.
When the parties fail to exercise internal
democracy, they indulge in unethical acts and behaviours. Blame
game, brickbats and slugfest become the norms during the crucial
moments of parties' life. The bossy attitude of top leaders
and anarchism of cadres ail the parties if the internal democracy
eludes them. It is essential for the functional democracy as
it 'presumes the opening up of party's leadership selection
periodically to new candidates, leading to better democratic
process.' It prevents the possibility for the rise of authoritarian
tendency and fiscal indiscipline. It enables parties to function
in a more autonomous, transparent and effective manner. In a
multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious
society like Nepal, the quest for legitimacy on the part of
political parties is imperative to transcend societal cleavages
and accommodates the divergent interests of people.
With a view to give momentum to the inner-party
democracy debate, the Centre for Legal Consultancy and Research
(CeLCAR) and FES, Nepal office, jointly organized a one-day
seminar 'Institutionalization of inner party democracy in Nepal'
on December 24, 2014. Political leaders and analysts shared
their views at the seminar attended by the people from different
walks of life. CPN-UML chairman KP Sharma Oli delivered his
thought-provoking speech. Three experts presented their working
papers on the theme of the seminar. The speeches, comments and
gist of working papers have been presented below.
Finding consensus on all disputes impossible
KP Sharma Oli, Chairman CPN-UML
The UML is for writing the new constitution
in consensus but it objects to the idea of obstructing the entire
statute writing process on the pretext of consensus. We want
to forge consensus on fundamental issues of the constitution
but we protest that there should be consensus in all contents
of the constitution. The UML always stands for national unity
and integrity. Our party will not allow Nepal to turn into Rwanda
and Crimea. Nepal is a multicultural society and making new
provinces on the basis of ethnicity is simply unacceptable.
Prithvi Narayan Shah had said that Nepal is a garden of 4 castes
and 36 colours but some communist leaders do not have perceptive
power to comprehend the character of Nepali society even in
a way the unifier of Nepal did some 240 years ago. There has
been a tendency not to abide by laws, constitution and morality.
'If you do not agree on my stance, I do not
come to consensus' is what the UCPN-Maoist has been saying.
The Constituent Assembly is a sovereign body and it cannot be
subordinate to its thematic committee. By creating rumours of
consensus, there is tendency to include anti-people elements
in the statute. Can the CA not take its decisions independently?
The current CA is not the part of first CA and it is not tied
to the decisions of the first CA. The UML initiated the process
to strengthen internal democracy in Nepal and other parties
followed suit. The collective leadership, institutional decisions
and accountability towards the people are prerequisite to the
democratization of the parties. I will step down as the party
chair after completing one term to promote internal democracy
in the party.
Marxism is a dynamic principle and rejects
any form of dictatorship. For many a communist here, Marxism
looks like groping an elephant by a blind man. Its ultimate
goal is to bring happiness and prosperity to the humanity. Loktantra
is a system that ensures the people's rights and participation
in it. It is not only political rights but also the social and
economic ones that are guaranteed in Loktantra. Loktantra differs
from anarchism. Peace, equality, social justice and national
unity are inherent parts of Loktantra that operates as per rules,
regulations and constitution. The UML has the strength to unite
Nepal by maintaining social harmony and goodwill. It is frontrunner
in the sphere of ideology too.
Democracy ought to be an active verb: Dahal
Dev Raj Dahal, head of FES, Nepal office,
put forth his views on 'Institutionalization of Inner-party
Democracy in Nepal'. His opinions are as follows:
Inner party democracy requires constant political
education about enlightenment so that leaders, cadres and citizens
know not to behave arbitrarily and remove those agencies of
socialization that subordinated them, disseminate democratic
values in the society, political parties, leadership and governing
institutions, create democratic institutions and promote participative
There are a few points that are key to promoting inner-party
First, inner-party democracy requires political
education about the functions of state, polity, government,
parties and civil society's membership of citizens. Learning
of emerging democratic values from the initial membership stage
such as popular sovereignty, social inclusion, and principles
of affected, subsidiarity, social contract and provisions of
rights and duties erode parochialism. These are cosmopolitan
values and can prevent the polarization and paralysis of political
parties incubated by personal and group interests.
Second, inner-party democracy presumes the
opening up of party's leadership selection periodically to new
candidates as it leads to better democratic process, controls
the possibility for the rebirth of authoritarianism, improves
the effectiveness and constantly renews the party's organizational
life. The quality of democracy and its legitimacy largely rests
on the selection and outcome of leadership process.
Third, inner-party democracy enables parties
to function in a more autonomous transparent and effective manner.
In a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society
like Nepal that just emerged out of conflict, the quest for
legitimacy on the part of political parties is essential as
it can transcend societal divides and accommodate all strata
Fourth, inner-party democracy broadens policy
making through deliberate process in party's general convention,
multi-level committee during normal times and with the ordinary
citizens so as to aggregate and articulate their legitimate
needs, rights and aspirations.
Fifth, inner-party democracy helps to improve
horizontal and vertical communication across voters, members,
cadres and leaders.
Sixth, in a country of minorities with the
mixed election system, inner-party democracy helps to beef up
the social base of politics by strengthening the representation
of women, caste groups and Janajatis, Aadibasis, dalits, Mahdesis,
youth, minorities and ancillary bodies of parties into the party
structures, committees and cells and allows a system of feedback
so that inputs and outputs of the democratic polity are roughly
Seventh, inner-party democracy can create
common background condition for conflict resolution and muster
the will of system-maintaining forces for social cohesion and
Democracy ought to be an active verb in the parties to make
their structures robust and functional, not just the passive
noun with no concerns to the political promises. Inner-party
democracy demands not the winner-takes-all game but also a respect
to diverse opinions within the parties, inculcation of listening
culture, inclusion of minorities and unrepresented and political
Comments by CPN-Maoist leader Suresh Ale
The political parties should be class oriented.
For any political parties to be called to be Marxist, they must
accept the dictatorship of proletariat. There is either bourgeoisie
dictatorship or the proletariat one. It is not wise to fix the
age limit of leaders in the communist party because the leaders
have to engage in a long-term struggle for revolution but for
bourgeois class, it does not matter which political system is
in place. Until and unless there are classes- the haves and
have-nots- in the society, using forces to achieve goals is
not ruled out. Therefore, our party might choose using force
to usher in proletariat-led revolution now or in the future.
The term proletariat is not only an economic term but also an
Purshotam Dahal, political analyst
The term 'Loktantra' is a Sanskrit word that
comprises of two separate words- Lok and Tantra. 'Lok' means
land or people and 'Tantra' a system. I do not believe that
Nepal consists of only two classes- the proletariat and the
bourgeois. There is also rising middle class. The political
ideology should not be confined to mere speeches; it should
be reflected in practice. To pin faith in Loktantra is the first
prerequisite for it to be successful but we have seen the tendency
of subverting Loktantra as the parties practiced it. Is that
inner party democracy gets strong just by democratizing the
parties? The media should be also democratized as it is also
a co-partner of political parties. Co-forces of democracy such
as media and professional groups needed to be democratized for
promoting inner party democracy.
Loktantra entails basic values and they must
be embraced in letter and spirit. Transparency is the key to
the democratization of the political parties. No party has made
public its reports of annual incomes and expenditures. Fiscal
transparency is necessary for the parties to enhance their democratic
credentials before the public.
Lal Babu Yadav, Associate Professor, TU
There is no any political system that is better
than democracy. Political parties are the lifeblood of democracy.
Politics is the service to the nation. But, there has been propensity
among the politicians to define democracy and federalism by
putting themselves at the centre. Madhesi parties are showing
their double character. The second CA poll rejected their one
Madhes one province agenda. Even 80 per cent of Madhesi people
are against the One Madhes One Province demand. The new federal
design should include the mountains, hills and Terai belt. Loktantra
thrives in a healthy competition. In order to ensure inner-party
democracy, the parties should engage in debate, discourse and
dialogue. Discrimination meted out by Kathmandu against Madhesi
community filled a sense of animosity in them. As the state
became weak, the ethnic and linguistic conflict came to the
fore. This sort of undesired scenario was never seen in the
Nepalese history. While writing the new statute in India and
Finland, many disputes were settled through process. So, we
should also follow the due democratic procedures.
UML secretary Pradeep Gyawali, political analyst
Mumaram Khanal and CeLCAR chief Bhesh Raj Adhikari presented
their working papers at the one-day seminar. In his paper entitled
'Institutionalisation of Inner-Party Democracy,' Gyawali says
that democratization of the political parties is the key to
the democratization of the entire society. He highlighted the
efforts the UML made in the direction of promoting inner-party
democracy and its impact on other parties.
Khanal's paper 'the institutional development
of intra-party democracy in UCPN-Maoist' analyzed inner-party
democracy of UCPN-M during the time of conflict and after it
joined the competitive peaceful politics. Khim Lal Bhattarai
commented his paper.
Adhikari's paper 'Institutionalisation of
Loktantra in the parties: Challenges and Solution,' sought to
unleash creative debates on the inner-party democracy. He offers
theoretical premises to ensure inner-party democracy. Pusrshotam
Neupane commented his paper.
The gist of Gyawali Paper
UML's guiding principle is people's
multiparty democracy (PMD) that is based on the long democratic
tradition of Nepalese communist movement, reinterpretation and
restoration of basic principles of Marxism, analytical observation
of and lesson from the ups and downs of international communist
movements. It envisions a socialist society where there is a
beautiful synthesis of Loktantrik values and socio-economic
prosperity. We believe that Loktantrik rights will be incomplete
in the absence of economic freedom and prosperity. The PMD aims
at attaining socialism through the peaceful transformation of
society and rejects violent methods of changes. The 9th convention
of the party held in June of 2014 set important precedents for
its democratization. Despite some unhealthy exercises such as
factionalism among the leaders, contesting the election on panel,
and mudslinging and throwing brickbats at each other and persiflage,
the convention was a milestone in the democratization of the
The deficit of inner-party democracy
alienates the parties from the people and its negative impacts
hit the democratic system, paving the way for the rise of ultra-leftist
and ultra-rightist forces. As the Loktantrik ideology, politics
and thinking becomes weak, ethnic, regional and cultural extremisms
rear their heads. An inclusive and Loktantrik party can represents
the feelings of all organs of society and provide them a rhythm.
When Loktantra is in grave peril, anarchy will take its place.
The parties are important instruments to bring unity to the
Discourses, disputes and intra-party
conflicts are characteristics of the live political parties.
If they are not well managed, they will weaken and disintegrate
the parties. Their proper management makes the party dynamic,
energetic and live. Democratisation is the key to the solution
of intra-party conflict.
To ensure democratization of parties,
following points should be implemented by them:
- The parties must have their statute
written through democratic procedures. The parties should
run as per the system and democratic methods.
- There should be impartial process
to attain party membership. The committees should be formed
on the basis of statute.
functionaries should have their decisive say in policy formulation
and decision making. The party's policies must not be framed
in the smoke-filled rooms or on the whims of leaders.
- The leadership should be picked as
per the democratic methods. Nepotism and political bias must
not be allowed. The leadership should be inclusive and no
resources should be abused.
- There should be transparency in the
economic sources of leaders and parties. The leadership building
and handover should be based on scientific and democratic
The gist of Khanal's paper
We need to study the status of inner-party
democracy within the UCPN-M by dividing the period of its movement
into two parts- during the conflict period and after it joined
the peace process. During the time of insurgency, the party
formed militant committees based on the top-down approach. All
the rights of party committees were concentrated in the hands
of secretaries of the committees. It was very difficult for
the cadres and leaders to continue to work by registering their
different views in the party. The leadership gave short shrift
to the inner-party democracy. In order to strengthen its military
position, party invited different anti-social and anarchist
groups to the party. The party virtually brought an end to the
scope of inner-party democracy from its fourth plenum that endorsed
a proposal 'the establishment of leadership and centralization.'
This was followed by factionalism, conspiracy and one-upmanship
among the leaders, leading to the deaths of many cadres. When
Dr Baburam Bhattarai wrote a 13-point letter to the central
leadership, questioning the concentration of powers in one leader
and his authoritarian tendency, he was kept under house arrest.
After the party made a safe landing
and joined the peaceful politics through the 12-point agreement
with the then parliamentary parties, it made several commitments
to the concepts and values of Lotantrik system such as the competitive
multiparty governance system, periodic election, and freedom
of citizens, human rights, press freedom and rule of law. Its
military structures were integrated into Nepal Army. The multi-post
leadership system introduced, replacing the one-man leadership
and the convention was held after 22 years with the election
of almost all district committees. However, despite the above
commitments and steps, the party has not truly practiced inner-party
democracy and the war-era mindset continues to linger. The leaders
and cadres engaged themselves in the anarchist acts and often
resorted to double standard and often made contradictory remarks.
In order to institutionalize inner-party
democracy in all Leftist parties, including UCPN-M, they should
adopt effective measures in distributing the party memberships
to the cadres. The dominance of elite class within the party
starts from the distribution of memberships. When the time comes
to convert the party position to the posts of benefits, there
is the unfair use of force, influence and money. To minimize
this malpractice, the current organizational structure should
be reversed. It should be oriented towards lower committees
and the people, not the top leadership. Following measures should
- Before granting memberships, the
prospective members' background, ethical conduct and educational
qualification should be examined.
- To end the practice of sucking up
to the leaders to climb the leadership rung, the party should
conduct election at the Ward, VDC and Municipality level to
form the committees.
- There should be the provision of
calling up members on the basis of majority of committees.
The district committees could elect one or two central committee
members as per the given number and the majority of district
committees can recall them.
- The CC can nominate a maximum of
10 per cent CC members and key leaders can be in office not
more than two terms.
- The District and Central committees
should be the powerful organs and other structures should
remain as temporary and have only the role of coordination.
The bureaucratic networks created to entangle the CC members
should be dissolved.
- Every leader and cadre should be
self-reliant and have to pay tax to the state and certain
portion of profits- if they earn from their business- to the
- The party should arrange the collective
residences for those retired central leaders, who do not have
their own houses and sound fiscal position.
- The party should dissolve its sister
or professional organizations such as employees, youths, peasants
Comments on Khanal's paper by Khim Lal Bhattarai
The prevalent socio-cultural settings
have their impact on the functioning and tactic of the parties.
The Nepali Congress that calls itself as the messiah of democracy
but shows autocratic character inside the party. The UML is
too suffering from the same ills arising from the over centralized
of power. However, it is trying to democratize the party with
the internal elections being held from the local to central
level. In the beginning, holding election at every level looked
odd but now it has been accepted whole-heartedly. The leaders
and cadres are not free from feudal mindset. UCPN-Maoist has
more centralized structures at the centre compared to the UML.
The former rebel party is still in dilemma. There is the need
for holding democratic election as an inherent political culture
of the parties.
Comment from the floor
A host of participants put forth their
views on the Khanal's paper. Some of them included Rashmi Acharya,
Kalyan Rokka, Shyam Basnet, Khagendra Rai, Dipendra Singh and
Santos Pariyar. Their views are as follows: The students' organizations
are not professional groups. Education sector is grappled with
new problems as the operators of schools are affiliated with
different political parties. Therefore, the students' unions
have their role in addressing the anomalies in the education
sector. Here is a pertinent question: Whether the society democratizes
the parties or vice versa. Today's parties cannot be run on
the basis of democratic centralism propounded by Lenin. It cannot
address the new challenges facing the communist parties. It
is necessary to make sure that the spirit of inclusiveness and
class character are well reflected while nominating individuals
for the post of lawmakers and other important posts. The management
and transparent transaction of incomes and expenditures are
important to ensure inner party democracy. There should be the
provision of recalling of lawmakers in case they fail to live
up to their commitment to the people. The seminar merely focused
on the condition of inner party democracy within the UML and
the UCPN-M. There should be genuine debate on the number of
provinces that Nepal could sustain. The matter should be discussed
with the experts. If there is the provision of recalling the
elected representatives, it would ensure the parties' accountability
towards the people.
The gist of Adhikari's paper
It is no exaggeration to say that the
parties failed to institutionalize democracy largely because
they failed to institutionalize inner-party democracy within
themselves. They are facing daunting task of promoting and strengthening
inner-party democracy. Loktantrik culture is the key to the
democratization of the parties. For a political party and an
individual to be democratic, they must embrace following political
- To respect and protect human rights,
- To participate in public and political
- To recognize views and outlooks of
- To exchange views and opinions,
- To pin faith in power of logic,
- To be ready to change his/her own
thought or viewpoint,
- To be willing to forge agreement
and reconciliation and
- To show readiness to resolve problems
through peaceful means.
Although there is no any unanimous and
universal definition of inner-party democracy, many scholars
agree on some basic elements of internal democracy. They are-
election, responsibility, transparency, inclusiveness, participation
and representation. If inner-party democracy exists profusely
in the parties, they can effectively execute democratic works.
The mass democracy cannot function well in the absence of parties.
However, they should be democratic themselves to discharge democratic
and social tasks. The following measures are necessary to promote
and strengthen inner-party democracy:
- Civic education needs to be expanded
and made qualitative: Political scientist Dev Raj Dahal said
that the people should be transformed into citizens to democratize
the parties and this requires imparting civic education to
the people. The civic education informs the people about the
basic principles of democracy, and their rights and duty as
well. Once the people get enlightened and informed, they keep
vigil on the activities of parties and their leaders. This
will also help minimize anarchy and violence in the society.
- To grow the youth's interests in
politics: The Nepalese youths have become disillusioned with
politics. For them, it is a dirty game. The political parties
have become laughing stocks and subject of mockery. This has
prevented handing over the baton to the young generation.
The participation of youths in the politics promotes democratic
culture and norms within the parties.
- To extend democratic values and norms
to local level: It has been more than a decade since the local
election was not held, obstructing the development of local
democracy and leadership. Therefore, it is urgent to hold
the local polls that helps deepen democracy.
- Democratic method needs to be adopted
to build ideology and leadership.
- Building party on the basis of ideology.
- Parties must abide by the laws and
- Parties' economic transactions need
to be transparent.
- Upgrading the capacity of local committees
and their members.
- Formalize the decisions of informal
meetings of leaders.
- Building the capacity of training-imparting
bodies within the parties.
It has become imperative for the parties
to take steps to do away with the undemocratic acts and conduct
by their leaders and cadres. The parties must not be run on
the basis of sentiments but on the basis of system and statute
that enhances inner-party democracy and ensures their sustainability.
No matter how much the people are disillusioned with Loktantra
due to the behaviours of the parties, there is no alternative
to Loktantra. There is the need for bolstering the democratic
norms and values within the parties. Inner-party democracy that
democratizes leaders and party structures is also prerequisite
for vibrant and functional democracy.
Comments of Neupane
With the 1990 political change, the
notion of inner party democracy gained ground. The UML is the
first party in the country to unveil policies and amend the
statute to promote inner party democracy. It held interactions
with the concerned stakeholders three months before the 9th
convention. The UML is becoming the party of all classes and
communities because of stipulation and practices of inner party
Chairing the session, Keshav Pandey,
who is also the UML leader, the concept of inner- party democracy
continues to receive attention in the democratic set-up. In
the absence of viable democratic structures, the political parties
are not democratized. There are two extreme views associated
with it. The top leaders have failed to take it positively.
When the cadres voice for the embrace of inner party democracy,
they see it as a threat to their position. On the other hand,
the party functionaries exploit the idea of inner-party democracy
as a means to grab power, post and pelf.