Nepal's failure to recognize and treat social ills has created conditions that are not conducive to its electoral process and hamper the development of democracy. The ability of the people to make intelligent voting decisions is obstructed by their daily struggle for food and shelter. It is difficult for them to understand the virtues of democracy on a hungry stomach, and hard to make informed decisions based on a lack of education. It is difficult to exercise democratic rights in the absence of an independent, responsible, political leaders, especially while struggling to protect life and limb due to continued acts of violence.
Political theory holds that a sustainable democracy is one in which the work and accomplishments of the elected representatives prove more useful to the people than to the candidates themselves. However, Nepal's political deadlock has caused a static condition whereby the actions of elected representatives result only in personal wealth and private gains. These conditions spark social unrest and rebellious conduct.
Social conditions that foster the implementation of democratic reforms include a free and responsible press and a universal public education system. These are necessary to raise the literacy of the people and create awareness of the political, economic and social changes affecting them. These would help the Nepali electorate to effectively judge politicians and not re-elect those whose actions in office have been either questionable or have failed to yield productive results in addressing social problems.
Running a government is not easy. Human nature dictates and translates various forms of governance into viable action, often with distorting effects. Democracy is no different. Winston Churchill once remarked, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." This may be true, but democracy offers the best hope and protection for human beings' basic rights.
In the historical context, democratic experiments in South America and Europe were not always successful when first adopted. This suggests that several variants suitable to specific cultures and locations may be necessary before a workable model is achieved.
In the United States, often cited as the most successful democracy in the world, economic success and personal freedoms are the result of a long process rather than a sudden emergence from a static state. The U.S. Civil War, fought primarily over the expansion of slavery in various states, showed that the democratic principles that emerged from it were different from the ones that created it. Though repeated cycles of boom and bust in the U.S. business cycle led to the Great Depression in the 1930's, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" program between 1933 and1938 brought relief, recovery and reform. Though disputed, it nevertheless gave more rights to unions and encouraged the common person to actively participate in democratic decision-making.
What can Nepal, where democratic traditions are not as developed learn from all this? First, it must understand the dynamics of its own local conditions and cultural diversity, which must shape its own democratic model. After all, there is no "one size fits all" model available. Second, it must nurture the components of a democratic society -- education, press and human rights, including women's rights. The cornerstone of democracy in Nepal must be firmly set in universal free education and equal economic opportunity. If democracy is indeed a process as we know it, then creating favorable conditions for its growth will only aid the Nepali people in realizing its benefits as quickly as possible.
************* This article was originally published by United Press International, Asia. Journalist and Story Writer Kamala Sarup associates and writes for http://www.mediaforfreedom.com/.