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How democratic are our parties

How democratic are our parties

Political parties in Nepal are embroiled in controversies one after another as maintaining the co-existence between democracy and politics proves consistently challenging.

Speaking at the Nepal Literature Festival in Pokhara on Saturday, Sucheta Pyakurel, director of IIDS Center for Governance, pointed out that while democracy advocates for equality for all, politics has always been based on hierarchy. "Many countries across the world are finding it difficult to advance democracy and politics together," she said, addressing a session titled 'How Democratic Are Our Parties?' moderated by Apex Editor Kamal Dev Bhattarai. She added that this challenge is even more pronounced in a caste-based and patriarchal society like Nepal.

Min Bahadur Bishwarkma of Nepali Congress, Madhav Sapkota of CPN (Maoist Center), and Padam Giri of CPN-UML were the other speakers in the session. The leaders discussed various aspects of internal democracy within the parties, including the election of new leadership through their respective general conventions and issues of inclusiveness, among others.

Maoist Center leader Sapkota mentioned that although communist parties worldwide have been discussing democracy, there is a need for more focused dialogue on the issue within the Nepali context.

NC leader Bishwakarma emphasized that democracy is intricately linked with inclusiveness and the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to vote. "NC sets an example in Nepal when it comes to internal democracy," he claimed. "We believe that party decisions shouldn't be unilateral. That's why we include all opinions and viewpoints and engage in thorough discussions."

UML leader Giri asserted that UML is committed to internal democracy within the party. "We cannot move forward without accepting the diversities of Nepali society. We are fostering democratic exercises in party forums," Giri stated.

Although Nepal follows a democratic system, Pyakurel said its norms and culture are not reflected in Nepali politics. "The failure to embrace democratic culture is our biggest weakness," she added. "Our parties are still not inclusive in terms of gender and ethnicity."

Pyakurel said women’s participation is low in parliament as well. "Not only in parties, women's participation is low in parliament as well. Although there are some women in parliament, they aren't very active," Pyakurel said. "There are numerous examples of capable women being denied opportunities. Parties have also failed in this regard."

Responding to a query on why there is no alternative to Pushpa Kamal Dahal in the Maoist Center, Sapkota insisted that the party will find an alternative to Dahal after specific stages are completed.

All the leaders agreed that their respective parties have made weaknesses in fulfilling people's aspirations for economic and social development.