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Why are parties failing Nepal?

Nepal is dealing with a number of social and economic issues that may affect its growth and people’s well-being

Why are parties failing Nepal?

The entrenched issue of political fragmentation and instability in Nepal are two deep-rooted problems. Over the years, the country has witnessed the emergence of several political parties, many of which have divergent ideologies and national objectives. Due to the difficulty in forming stable, efficient governments as a result of this fragmentation, coalition politics and frequent changes in the political leadership have hampered the creation and implementation of long-term policies.

Political parties have also failed to adequately address the nation’s socio economic problems, such as poverty, unemployment, and infrastructure deficiencies. Because the political system has failed to address these critical concerns, social discontent, and dissatisfaction have grown, which has weakened support for major parties and increased the need for alternative political options.

Leadership questions

Any political party can face serious leadership challenges with an adverse effect on their performance. The characteristics and behaviors of the party’s senior leaders frequently play a role in leadership issues in the context of political parties. The ability of a leader to effectively articulate the concerned party’s vision, objectives, and policies to party members and the general public can be impeded by a lack of strong communication skills. At the same time, a lack of vision among leaders makes it difficult to establish strategic priorities and make wise choices, which undermines the party unity and a sense of direction. A party’s capacity to put on a united face and successfully rule can be undermined by internal rivalries, leadership conflicts, and a lack of cooperation among party members. Certain parties may occasionally be ruled by political dynasties, in which positions of power are passed down within families. This could impede the formation of new, competent leaders and help explain why there is a dearth of creativity and diversity.

Corruption and governance challenges

Nepal has long struggled with issues of corruption and poor governance, which have hampered the nation’s growth and political stability. The several types of corruption include low-level bribery, elites’ embezzlement, and nepotism. Public faith in political institutions is damaged by widespread corruption. A major issue in Nepal has been a lack of accountability in governance. When corruption and the abuse of authority are frequently left unchecked, a culture of impunity takes root. The ineffectiveness, excessive paperwork, and opaqueness of Nepal's bureaucracy have been criticized. Administrative procedures that are too onerous might make it easier for corruption to flourish and delay timely implementation of plans and initiatives. Political parties stifle public institutions’ independence and objectivity by influencing administrative decisions. Political meddling in governmental affairs can result in bias, compromise merit-based hiring decisions, and jeopardize public services. When it comes to delivering justice on time and handling cases of corruption, Nepal's court has experienced difficulties. This could deter people from bringing up corruption and seeking judicial redress, continuing the cycle of impunity.

Institutional feebleness

Political parties in Nepal have had a lot of difficulties due to institutional inadequacies. These flaws affect a number of political institutions, including the legislature, the judiciary, the electoral system, and other governmental organizations. Weak institutions may make it more difficult for political parties and their leaders to be effectively checked and balanced. This may lead to a concentration of power in a small number of people, opening the door for possible abuse of power and compromising democratic ideals.

Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson’s book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” makes the argument that institutions are vital in determining a country's success or failure. The laws, customs, and groups that make up a society’s political, economic, and social interactions are referred to as institutions. When a strong elite controls the government, they frequently create extractive institutions in order to preserve their privilege and stifle opposition to their rule. In the case of Nepal, leaders’ poor judgment and shortsightedness in constructing extractive institutions caused the failure of the nation’s overall development.

The public’s trust in institutions has been further eroded because political parties are taking advantage of this circumstance to advance their agendas without being held responsible for their activities. Because of institutional flaws, Nepal has frequently changed governments and coalitions. Weak institutions make it difficult to establish stable governments, which leads to frequent changes in leadership and the direction of policy, which is having an impact on the development and progress of the nation. Because some groups may feel excluded from or underrepresented in the political process, weak institutions can increase ethnic and regional tensions. Political parties in Nepal are taking advantage of these splits to win quick supporters, thus solidifying social and political divides.

In “Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World,” another intriguing book by Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart, the authors argue that states fail because they lack a flexible framework that can map what voters want and create the means for change. Leaders must also be prepared to make difficult choices in order to address the underlying causes of state failure and be dedicated to prioritizing national interests over personal or factional interests. But we observe in the context of Nepal that leaders are driven to satisfy their objectives through institutional manipulation. Recent instances of manipulation can be seen in the Lalita Niwas controversy, gold smuggling and the episode involving the phony Bhutanese refugee.

External influence

An important feature of Nepal’s political environment has been the involvement of outside parties. Due to its geographic location and historical ties to its neighbors, Nepal is vulnerable to outside interests. India and China have attempted to impose their will on Nepal’s politics and policy choices, frequently resulting in diplomatic wranglings and conflicting interests. Nepal has received support and foreign aid from a number of nations and international agencies. Although financial help is essential for humanitarian relief and development programs, it can also lead to a degree of economic dependency, which may have an impact on policy decisions. To advance their objectives in Nepal, external actors may ally themselves with particular political parties or leaders. These coalitions and political dynamics may be impacted by these alliances, which may result in changes in the balance of power and the direction of policy.

Nepal’s internal politics may reflect India and China’s geopolitical competition. It's possible for these two nations to try to acquire leverage by backing various political groups or adopting various positions on crucial topics, complicating Nepal’s international relations. The involvement of external entities in Nepal’s infrastructure and connectivity projects may have effects on the country’s economy and geopolitics. The country’s economic development and regional connectivity, for instance, may be influenced by projects supported by China’s Belt and Road Initiative or India’s connectivity initiatives. Particularly in relation to cross-border security challenges, external actors may have an impact on Nepal’s security dynamics. External participation in Nepal’s security matters may have an impact on regional stability.

Economic and social challenges

Nepal is dealing with a number of social and economic issues that may affect its growth and people’s well-being. The country has a high rate of poverty, especially in the countryside. Widespread unemployment and underemployment, particularly among young people, are caused by a lack of employment opportunities and limited economic alternatives. For the nation, overcoming poverty and establishing stable livelihoods remain major obstacles. A majority of people in Nepal depend on agriculture for their livelihood. However, the expansion and sustainability of the business are hampered by low productivity, conventional farming methods, and vulnerability to climate change. All across the nation, access to high-quality education and healthcare is still unequal. There are discrepancies in educational and health outcomes because many rural communities lack adequate schools and healthcare services.

Numerous Nepali residents go for employment overseas for want of economic prospects at home. Remittances support the economy, but they can also cause social problems like family dissolution and reliance on outside income sources. Gender discrepancies still exist in Nepal’s political representation, job, and educational opportunities. Girls and women frequently experience societal prejudice as well as restricted access to opportunities and resources. Nepal is also prone to natural calamities like landslides, floods, and earthquakes. Strong disaster management and climate resilience initiatives are required because these calamities represent considerable hazards to infrastructure, property, and human life.

The solution

Political parties must deal with these fundamental problems and seek to create a stable and accountable political system that can successfully address the nation’s difficulties and meet the goals so as to restore public trust and confidence. They must accord top priority to leadership development and foster an environment of accountability and openness in order to overcome leadership challenges. Effective leaders, who can inspire confidence, put forth a compelling vision, and rally party members around shared objectives can be molded by building a collaborative environment, encouraging open communication, and supporting leadership development programs. Ultimately, for the parties to succeed and successfully advance the interests of the people they represent, strong and effective leadership is crucial. Prioritizing equitable economic growth, infrastructural development, bettering access to healthcare and education, and enhancing climate resilience are all necessary in Nepal. Building a more wealthy and equitable society in Nepal also requires advancing gender equality, social inclusion, and political stability.

The author is a doctoral fellow of IR in China