Despite the odds, Nepal’s Constitution is being implemented
In an interview with DIPD’s representative in Nepal, senior leader of the Maoist party of Nepal, mr. Dina Nath Sharm, gives his honest analysis of the political sitution in the country.
The current chair of DIPD partner Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS), Mr. Dina Nath Sharma, is one of the senior leaders of the Maoist party of Nepal. Currently, the Maoist party is the third largest in Nepal’s Parliament and Sharma is a member of the Central Secretariat — the highest decision-making body of the party comprising 34 members.
Sharma began his political career nearly 50 years ago as an activist committed to overthrowing the prevailing autocratic Panchayat regime. In around 2000, he joined the Maoist party as the party emerged as a formidable champion of the underclass in Nepal. Apart from being a political leader, Sharma is also a lover of literature with 11 published books. He describes one of his saddest moments in life as when the Nepal Army, during his underground years, burnt his whole house in Baglung where many of his unpublished writings, scarce historical documents, and his beloved collection of books were kept.
Sharma was the head of the Peace Negotiation Team from the Maoist party that finally led the party to a democratic peaceful fold. Once the party joined the democratic mainstream, Sharma became the Minister for Education as well as a Member of Parliament a few times. He headed the International Department of the party till recently and was also the spokesperson of the party. These days, Sharma heads the Intellectual Department of the party and thereby he is the key person to guide the Maoist party’s policies both inside the party as well as in the Government/Parliament. DIPD Representative met with the JOMPOPS Chair Sharma to discuss about the current political situation in Nepal. Below are excerpts from that discussion
– Could you briefly describe the current political situation of Nepal?
Since the promulgation of the new Constitution in September 2015, the Madhesi issue has emerged as the most pressing problem for us. The Maoist government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal was able to make a few breakthroughs in bringing the Madhesi forces to accept the present constitutional framework.
Most Madhesi-based parties participated in the recent local elections. All the Madhesi-based parties have agreed to participate in the local elections in the remaining province 2 scheduled in coming September. These elections are crucial for the implementation of our new Constitution.
Now, we are planning to hold both elections, parliament and province, in November 2017. We have already proposed this with the Election Commission. If we can hold these two elections in November then we can meet the deadline stipulated in the new Constitution. It would be also preferable from cost point of view; we have realized that the elections have become too expensive in Nepal. The Election Commission right now is saying that they need at least one month between two elections.
Irrespective of what the ECN finally decides, it is certain that Nepal will be fully focused on holding these two elections in the coming months. Once the elections take place, our main agenda would be economic development.
– What are the main challenges to achieve what you just described?
We have seen that there are powerful forces, which are against the current transformation of Nepal into a secular federal republic. These forces also oppose the move towards proportional representation based inclusion of diverse groups in the decision-making bodies of the state.
Such forces occupy powerful positions in bureaucracy and in the court and also in major political parties to an extent. They are trying to thwart the Constitution implementation process. You can say that Nepal’s current politics is shaped mostly by the contradiction between those that support the changes and those that oppose them.
So, I see the main challenge for us is to defeat those powerful forces actively trying to reverse the current political changes.
– What is your analysis of the recent local elections?
Firstly, I must mention that despite challenges we were able to hold these local elections peacefully and according to the international standards of free and fair elections. This is a great achievement for us.
The elections results showed that people prefer big strong parties as most votes have gone to one of the three major parties in Nepal. In the coming days, we are likely to see more mergers of the political parties in Nepal.
In the local elections, UML became the first party followed by the Nepali Congress party. My party came to the third position. We are not discouraged by this result at all. The government led by the Maoist party was able to conduct the elections after 20 years, we think that it is a significant success for our party.
More importantly, all the political agendas raised by the Maoist party have been established with the beginning of the implementation of the new Constitution.
Now, Nepal has one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world. Our Constitution ensures that our local level exercises maximum power. Previously marginalized groups such as women, Dalits and Muslims have been empowered remarkably.
We feel that we have the youngest Constitution in the world in content as well as in essence. This is an era of inclusive democracy and Nepal’s new Constitution fully embraces that essence. We don’t know what the global community says about this. We definitely feel great about it.
– Could you say something about your engagement with DIPD as a JOMPOPS member?
We had a political culture in which one party did not tolerate another party. Interactions between different political parties were also limited.
In JOMPOPS, we have parties with different ideologies, different backgrounds, and different strengths. We are working together to find a common ground on important national agendas. Through engagement with DIPD, we were inspired about this culture of inter-party collaboration.
In the coming days, as Nepal starts to focus on economic agendas, we would want to hear more through DIPD about Denmark’s story of its economic prosperity.
Contact DIPD’s Country Representative for Nepal, Shristi Rana: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact DIPD Project Coordinator, Bo Karlsen: email@example.com