South Asia and the Fourth Wave of Democracy

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From King Gaynendra’s dissolution of the National Assembly and imposition of emergency, citing the inability of the political parties to deal with Maoist insurgency to the termination of the institution of Monarchy in Nepal by the combined efforts of the political forces and Maoists in 2008, Nepal was undergone the most unexpected political transformation of the current century. The ushering in of a new era of democracy in Nepal not only witnessed the abolition of the 250 year old institution of Monarchy, but also allowed the former guerrilla group, Nepali Maoists, to join and head the new Government.

No Western democracy has thus far attempted to restructure the traditional lines of political authority in the manner that Nepal has done. Western democracies aspire to thrive on the continuity to their political institutions and rarely appreciate a break in political traditions. Armed opposition against political authority is considered highly undemocratic and such groups rarely, if ever, join the political The democratic experiment in Nepal, if successful, will be the best example of democratic evolution by involving the separatist forces.

The disparate political groups of Nepal joined hands with the separatist Maoist forces in a bid to challenge the greater evil: Monarchy. The occasional disagreements notwithstanding, through this endeavour, Nepal has come to redefine the basics of political competition in an attempt to restore democracy. The peace monitoring process by the United Nations, including the arms management of the People’s Liberation Army proved largely successful. The victory of the Maoists in winning the maximum number of seats in the Constituent Assembly reflects the popular support for the induction of the Maoists into the political mainstream. On the other hand, the top leadership of parties like Nepali Congress and CPN-UML failed to win the elections reflecting the desire of the people for change, a primary qualification for a viable democracy. The current political process is also expected to impact the highly feudal society of Nepal, thereby making political revolution an instrument of social transformation. The insistence of the Maoists on re-negotiating the India-Nepal Treaty of 1950, visit by Prachanda, the P.M. of Nepal to China and the upcoming visit to India, efforts at de-politicisation of the education sector in the country, The Judicial Council’s circular to judges to submit their property details reflects the pursuance of the cause of national interests by the new leadership of Nepal.

Nepal is currently under the process of drafting a new constitution for providing wider democratic freedoms to the people. Nepal’s contribution to the fourth wave of democracy is the recognition that a break from traditional political systems and proper involvement of dissident sections within the political mainstream can enhance the quality of democratic governance. Political transformations cannot always be accomplished through constitutional amendments; constitutional evolution can also imply a new constitutional framework to respond to unexpected political developments.

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