Thursday, April 24, 2014

Politicization- a deadly disease

Few days back when I was reading this book Nepal 2030: A vision for peaceful and prosperous nation in which one of the concluding remarks by Dr. Sagar Raj Sharma in the beginning chapter lured me to craft this article. As he finished his chapter Building a bridge towards development: Nepalese Economy in 2030 saying, “Our future will depend not on what will happen to us, but on what we decide to become, and on the collective will to create it”, the pragmatist inside me could not stop myself from bringing one of the case studies from my 2012 reserves, and giving answer to what actually fails us to become what we are destined to as a prosperous country.
Back in 2011 when Surya Nepal Garment factory- a big employment generator- decided to permanently shut down its operations; a series of interpretations, news feeds and calculations emerged in daily basis over the next few months through different sources behind the reasons for collapse and its possible impacts on the economy. However, such stories neither brought the venture back nor any lessons from it were taken seriously to stop further collapses. So this is a high time to set back to prepare ourselves if we want to be served with the beautifully baked lamington-Nepal 2030 anytime in near future.  
What happened?
Established in 2004 in Biratnagar, Surya Nepal Private Limited (SNPL) garment manufacture unit (SNGU) was popular for its international brands like John Players and Springwood. The factory was installed with an investment of about 700 million and was responsible for 50 to 60 percent of Nepal’s garment export. It was the country’s highest tax paying company which had given job opportunity to around 600 workers, mostly women. Despite all these, the company had to permanently shut down its garment unit in August 2011 because of the continuous labor strike and cancellation of orders by importers.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Kanchan Prasad Kharel & Pratyush Nath Upreti
Freelancer Writer & Youth Activist

The moment we realize the problem of present Nepalese politics lies in self-centered, omniscient and know-all attitude of the top leaders of major political parties then we are doing justice with ourselves. If this very realization within us genuinely triggers the need of revolution in the political culture of the country then we think we are moving towards right direction.

The beauty of present democracy is that the power lies in choices of four not in the voices of the rest. We have been gradually redefining democracy from people centric to power centric. The concentration of power in four faces without any accountability and ethical standards is harmful for the nation. When ‘Democracy’ starts appearing like ‘Oligarchy’, there is no wisdom in keeping quiet. 

Leadership vacuum is the cry of the nation. People have been losing hope in the top leaders. As there is a saying, “expectation is the mother of all frustration”, the same we are experiencing from present politics and its key care takers.  The growing resentment among people towards leaders can lead to devastating situation in future if not timely thought of turning their frustrations into optimism. If the main leaders do not change their attitudes then their future is at stake. They should not forget that people can take power from them like they took it from past heroes. We think leaders should at least for now take time out and think in what better ways they can reconstruct their leadership.

News is coming about increasing ideological tussle between the top leaders and some second generation leaders of the main parties. The grumbling has however shown no effect on top leaders but the later are suffering. In one of the political discussions we recently went to, some of the second generation leaders were sharing about their stories of continuous struggle and revolution against any misconducts and paternalistic attitudes of their main leaders. They admit that the parties are day-to-day becoming very undemocratic, especially the communication gap between the different hierarchy leaders is weakening the party values and deteriorating the atmosphere of mutual trust among leaders. They condemn that top leaders do not even bother to consult with the second generation party leaders about major decisions. What a pity!

Leaders are living in the paradise of self-obsession. The fun will not go long when they realize that loving oneself too much on one side has hatred coming from everyone on the other. Politics does not see person, it sees time. In democracy, people have right to make wrong things right. Now, the question is how can we reestablish the very idea of power on the hands of people by taking it away from the labyrinth of quadrilateral power? There are certain ways to lead the transformation.

Quality leadership and team player attitude is very nursery basics that our leaders need to reinvestigate. The quality of a statesman lies not in how much votes he/she keeps behind but depends upon how many sentiments and agenda he can put forward and find middle way to resolve the indifferences. The political culture of our country is in need of a true leader who keeps the national agendas in the front desk. One who rises above party politics in current transition is the path finder. Such leadership is desired!

In addition, we have always been advocating for the power of youth whom we believe have potential to give new direction to the politics of our country. Repeatedly, in every occasion, we have left no stone unturned to highlight three pragmatic ways youth can choose to change the current political motion of our country. First, changing the attitude of the top leaders requires political pressure from the emerging new generation leaders and party youth activists. Revolution within the parties can lead to gradual transformation of political values and culture. The major agenda of revolution should be towards encouraging shared leadership. Some of our leaders assume themselves to be the ultimate knower of almost everything. Top leaders obsessed about their individual wisdom. Undermining others knowledge and wisdom has been the recent symptom. This has to be changed.

Second, young and dynamic youth should enter into party politics. Since politics pave the way for socio-economic development, capable youth should try to penetrate the fussy political system and struggle to bring hope. Third, those who choose to remain out from active political activities, remaining independent and being critical about the political system would give much in return. Time has come to leave the tradition of handing over party flags from one generation to next.

Forming a political party and contesting an election is part of democratic practice. Since first democratic election in 1959, we have witness only eight election and since inception of election we haven’t seen much participation of youth in main stream politics through filling candidacy. What would be reason behind it? We don’t denie that political thought of defining Youth would be one of the major causes of less involvement of youth in politics. In upcoming election political parties have responded youth outcry by giving symbolic ticket to youth leaders. But this election we have been witnessing break from the past, as young leader of Bibeksheel Nepali have confidently filed independent candidacy for upcoming election. We had an opportunity to through the manifesto of their, it looks promising but we are not expecting much from them.  But effort of young candidate is appreciated, and we are confident that initiative taken by Bibeksheel Nepali party and its candidate will sure encourage youth to participate in election. But one thing we must know is that youth leader talks politics when election is near, but they don’t have habit to continue then after election. Nation is waiting to see how independent candidate of Bibeksheel Nepali party, would response to election results and then after political involvement.

At last, we suggest youth to stay more open to let things come, be more vocal to argue what we need from whom, and believe in what we receive not in what leaders advertize. New Nepal is possible when youth choose to elect issues not faces, lead prospect not flags. Redefining new leadership requires our individual commitment to do whatever we can to alter the current power understanding among top leaders.  As election is near, nation is  optimistic about conducting free and fair election, and by election we are hoping for “common goal with differential responsibility of each political party” to respect people aspiration, prior commitment, and complete the much waited Constitution of Nepal and lead country into political stability and development.

Electoral Education for Youth

The second Constituent Assembly (CA) elections to be held on November 19 have become the talk of the country. While political parties and candidates contesting in the elections have been campaigning in full swing, Nepalis all over the country, and even abroad, are talking about it everywhere – from social gatherings to family get-togethers to social media – discussing and speculating what the elections will bring forth.

Nepali youths, thousands of whom will be exercising their rights to vote for the very first time in the upcoming elections, aren’t unaffected from the election mood. In this context, it is absolutely essential for them to have some key understanding of the various aspects of the CA elections so that they can make an informed choice before casting their ballots.

Kanchan Prasad Kharel
 and Pratyush Nath Upreti, National Trainers on Electoral Education, write about the aspects of the upcoming elections and the processes involved in the same. 

What is Constitution?

The Constitution is the main law of the land. It gives the basis for a state to govern itself. In democracy, Constitution is considered the ‘supreme’ law of the state as it promotes ‘rule of law’ and reserve power in the hands of people. In other words, Constitution is the collection of every law of the land which directs the state and its machineries to function for the welfare of the people.

There are different types of Constitution in countries across the world based upon the state’s functionalities and power relations. Some of the forms are written or unwritten; unitary or federalist; monarchic or republican; parliamentarian or presidential; stringent or liberal. The Constitution of Nepal is going to be a ‘written,’ ‘federalist’ and ‘republican’ in nature.
The Constitution and the CA have an entrenched relationship. More than 30 countries in the world are believed to have practiced the CA to prepare their Constitutions. Some of them are India, the United States, Italy, and France. However, there is no universal compulsion to draft a Constitution through the Constituent Assembly. There are many countries which have practiced other methods. Even the Constitution of Nepal, 2047 (1991) was drafted upon the recommendations of a team of constitutional experts.

Sample Blue ballot paper from Kathmandu, area 1.

Why Constitution through CA?
Thomas Paine, the America political theorist, said, “The Constitution of a Country is not the act of its Government, but of the People constituting a Government.”
The Constituent Assembly method was adopted in 2008 in Nepal for the very first time to incorporate the voices of the marginalized, oppressed, politically and economically excluded members of the society toward nation building. Earlier practices of Nepal’s Constitution drafting process could not address the aspirations, needs, desires and voices of a large section of the society and benefited only a small community. Therefore, the CA approach is being exercised in Nepal based upon the principle of inclusion.

Structure of the Constituent Assembly
The Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2063, gives power to the people to write their own Constitution through the Constituent Assembly. In the CA of Nepal in 2008, 601 representatives came together. Even in the upcoming November 19 elections, the Assembly is going to have the same number of seats.
Nepal adopts the Mixed Electoral Method to bring the 601 representatives in the Assembly. Out of which, 240 candidates come through the First Past the Post (FPTP), 335 through Proportionate Representation (PR), and 26 through Nomination.

Mixed Electoral Method
The system which includes both FPTP and PR is called mixed electoral method. In the upcoming elections, we will witness two sets of ballot papers, one in blue color and the other in red color. The blue ballot paper denotes the voting system under FPTP while the red denotes PR. That means you have to cast two votes – one in red and another in blue. This method has emerged since 1990 and is now popular in more than 20 countries in the world, some of which are South Korea, Russia, Cameroon, Nigeria, and it has been introduced in Nepal since 2008.

First Past The Post (FPTP)
This is the most popular form in the world. Around five in every 10 countries use FPTP in their election process. In this method, the candidate who wins the election among many others becomes the representative.
In the context of Nepal, there are 240 electoral constituencies. In each constituency, many people contest their candidacy in the elections, be it from a party or non-party (independent). While counting votes, the one who brings maximum votes wins over the rest. That means there will be 240 representatives from the 240 respective constituencies. Therefore, on November 19, you can choose your candidate and cast your vote in the blue ballot paper. Also, since different constituencies have different candidates, the blue ballot paper varies from one constituency to the next.
This method is very unique for mainly two reasons: first, people can directly vote their representatives; second, anyone can contest their candidacy in election, be it through an affiliation with a political party or independently. This system is mainly adopted by those countries which are influenced by the British governance system. Some of them are India, Canada, Bangladesh, Australia, and Nepal.

Proportionate Representation (PR)
One of the weaknesses of FPTP is that the winners get inside but losers remain outside. In other words, the winners’ agendas for the Constitution get platform but the losers’ agendas are structurally sidelines. Thus, the need for PR system comes at this point in order to give platform for outside voices. This system is based on the principle of inclusion. It is mostly practiced in countries like Austria, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Netherland, Sri Lanka and Switzerland, among others. 
In Nepal, there are many minorities, marginalized, oppressed, politically, socially and economically excluded groups which have long been kept out of the mainstream politics and development. Although election gives access to raise political voice in democracy, these communities, in many cases, have very less chances to win the election under the FPTP system mainly because their community votes cannot withstand the votes of large communities.
But through the PR system, such communities can participate in the drafting process of the new Constitution. When we go to vote, we will witness the red ballot paper through which we vote for our desired party. Under this system, parties are given responsibility to submit the closed list of PR candidates to the Election Commission before elections. While doing so, political parties should make sure that the list is inclusive in terms of women, marginalized, ethnic groups and other excluded ones. 335 members can participate in the Constituent Assembly through PR system.

Hypothetically, say the total vote collected through the red ballot paper is 100,000 and there are three parties contesting – A, B and C – which receive 40,000, 50,000 and 10,000 votes respectively. Then, A gets 134, B gets 168 and C gets 33 seats – the result of which is found using the formula: (PR votes received by any party multiplied by 335 seats and the figure out of this is divided by the total votes cast for PR). However, the Election Commission uses the Saint Lauge method as the official method for the PR calculation. All in all, the PR method gives access to many small parties and communities to voice their agendas and issues.

Way ahead
We are confident that more youths will participate in the upcoming CA elections which will help the country move forward. In the last five years, although we have seen different phases of politics with a mixture of both good and unpleasant memories, the learning has made us more committed to promoting the values of democracy. Casting our votes is important, certainly, but even more important is making an informed choice.

Published on Republica, November 13, 2013