More than a numbers gameWhile casting their votes, people must shun rank opportunists and unholy coalitions.
Elections are often called a dance of democracy; but in Nepal, they have been turned into a dance of undemocratic coalitions as political parties hanker to return to power by all means, fair and foul. If you elect jokers, they say, you must expect a circus. But it seems that the circus is already out here to behold. The distribution of tickets was a mess as the leaders and cadre who gave their blood and sweat to their parties have been shunned in favour of fresh candidates flush with money. Interestingly, the parties have been enthusiastic about supporting rebel candidates from rival camps. The ruling and the opposition coalitions alike have jumped at the opportunity to support the candidates who have turned rogue after failing to get tickets.
As the Post reported on Thursday, the coming together of strange bedfellows is not new anymore, as the Janata Samajwadi Party and the CPN-UML joined hands after the JSP failed to secure enough seats from within the ruling coalition. The coalition, it is understood, is just for the duration of the elections. The spirit of competitive politics has been reduced to a game of winning by collusion by the same political parties participating in the electoral process. They are holding on to each other, not because they are ideologically congruent, but because they are desperate to win some seats. Such a debased culture could ultimately lead to a serious crisis in democracy.
The saddest part is that the idea of issue-based politics seems to have been completely shunned as political parties are desperate to garner the required number to form the next government. They publish their election manifestos without much homework. Ticket aspirants were reported to have shifted their political loyalties within hours, depending on which party offered them a better deal. The parties themselves have become undemocratic, as most of the leaders who were critical of the party leadership were passed over while distributing tickets. The big crowds outside the homes of a handful of top leaders in the final days of the ticket distribution were telling of the concentration of power in their hands.
This is not the kind of democracy those who fought long battles against authoritarianism of various shades envisioned. Interestingly, many leaders at the top rungs of the political parties waged these battles in their youth. This signals the erosion of their democratic values with time. What this does is make people lose faith in the elections, which does not bode well for a fledgling democracy like Nepal. Does this mean we should start looking for alternatives to the electoral and political systems we have today? No.
Inherent to the idea of a democracy is the possibility of improvement, and efforts to bring such improvements should never end. As Nepal readies for the polls, it is incumbent on the people to judge which political party or leader has worked to uphold democratic values and who has debased them. If the people do not show the political parties and their leaders their proper place in the upcoming elections, Nepal may continue to hold elections, but they will be no more than contests between the undeserving and unqualified—and thus pretty much meaningless.