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Posts from the ‘Nepal’ Category

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in life as when the Nepal Army, during his underground years, burnt his whole house in Baglung where many of his unpublished writings, scarce historical documents, and his beloved collection of books were kept.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.

More information

Contact DIPD’s Country Representative for Nepal, Shristi Rana: shristi@dipd.org.np

Contact DIPD Project Coordinator, Bo Karlsen: boka@dipd.dk

JOMPOPS – An Extended Political Family

This week DIPD’s country representative in Nepal, Shrishti Rana, is visiting the secretariat in Copenhagen. On the agenda for her Copenhagen-visit is, among others, exploring the possibility of future engagements of Danish political parties in Nepal. To kick-start the process Ms. Rana met with representatives from the Danish Socialist People’s Party, the Alternative Party and the Social-Liberal Party to reflect on Nepal’s recent political development, achievements and existing needs. DIPD currently has a programme in partnership with the multiparty platform JOMPOPS, consisting of the six largest parties in parliament, as well as a party-to-party programme between the Danish Alternative Party and Nepal’s Naya Shakti Party. The meeting aimed at reflecting on a more innovative and joint approach to DIPD’s work in Nepal, exploring how to engage more Danish parties and conjoining  the multiparty and party-to-party programmes to harvest potential synergies.  

Looking to Nepal for Inspiration
The political development in Nepal has been vast and fast-paced since DIPD and JOMPOPS entered into in partnership in 2012, with the aim of increasing the capacity of Nepalese political parties in order to consolidate multi-party democracy and enhance the effectiveness of the political system at all levels of society. The ambitious 2015-constitution has promoted democratic reforms, including a commitment to increasing female representation at all levels of politics – a commitment which was recently reflected in the first-phase local elections where a large number of female candidates were elected to office, including the election of a few female mayors and many deputy mayors. This result is considered a remarkable achievement for the overall representation of women in leadership positions, not just in the Nepalese context but in a global perspective. DIPD’s work with JOMPOPS is one of the institute’s first multiparty programmes, and Nepal’s evident commitment to deliver on key objectives like strengthening multiparty collaboration and increasing female representation, makes the country an inspiration for multiparty projects in other parts of the world.  Elaborating on some of the key results achieved in the DIPD-JOMPOPS partnership Ms. Rana says:

“One of the recent and very important achievements has been the empowering and training of women at local level prior to the local elections. It is enshrined in the Constitution that at least 40 percent of elected local officials must be women, and it has thus been important to train and capacitate female candidates. 20 percent of the women, who received training through JOMPOPS, were chosen as candidates, and 40 percent of these candidates got elected to office.

Besides DIPD’s engagement in JOMPOPS, the Danish Alternative Party has initiated a partnership with Nepal’s Naya Shakti Party in early 2016. The project seeks to contribute to the development of Nepal’s democracy by providing support towards strengthening the capabilities of the newly established party Naya Shakti, particularly with a focus on alternative means of communication that involve youth, women and minorities and creates transparent access to decision-making within the party.

During the meeting both Ms. Rana and representatives from the Alternative Party highlighted how DIPD’s multiparty programme can inform party-to-party partnerships, just like direct engagement between Danish and Nepalese parties can benefit the multiparty platform. There is thus important synergies to capitalize on, and the meeting raised the idea that all existing parties in JOMPOPS should have the opportunity to be part of a collaboration with a Danish party; maybe not in a classic “twinning” between ideologically like-minded parties but rather through innovative engagements moving beyond ideological affiliation, taking its point of departure in common thematic needs rather than party identity.

Beyond Twinning: An Extended Political Family
As the meeting went on and knowledge of the Nepalese political context was shared, ideas began to develop around a format where Danish parties, through DIPD, engages with Nepalese parties through JOMPOPS, in a set-up where parties engage, cooperate, contribute and benefit across political ideologies.  As Ms. Rana highlighted a number of relevant themes for Danish and Nepalese parties to engage on: “Definitely training in areas such as coalition building and multiparty culture, but also on how to engage and give voice to women and youth in politics.”

Based on an open courses approach, demand from the Nepalese parties could be matched with experiences and strengths of relevant Danish parties, establishing a cross political extended family, harvesting synergies between the multiparty and party-to-party engagements. As this meeting was set up as a first step to explore the possibility of establishing a more joint approach to DIPD’s work in Nepal, it will be interesting to see what these initial ideas materializes into.

More information
Visit our country page to read more about DIPD’s work in Nepal.
Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np

Informal Gathering of JOMPOPS Members

As the second phase of the local elections in Nepal has been scheduled for June 28, Steering Committee members of JOMPOPS are staying outside Kathmandu, preparing for the elections at local level. It has thus not been possible to organize a formal SC meeting of JOMPOPS, which on June 11, led the chair to hold an informal gathering of the JOMPOPS SC members to address the decision of Rashtriya Janata Party–Nepal to only participate in the elections if certain constitutional amendments, committed to by the NC-Maoist alliance, are delivered on. 

New Political Developments
As per the political agreement, Sher Bahadur Deuba, President of the Nepali Congress (NC) – the largest party in Parliament – was sworn in as the new prime minister on June 7, succeeding Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal from the Maoist party. This NC-led coalition government will be supported by the Maoist party which is the third largest in the Parliament and a group of smaller parties including the Madhes-based parties. Essentially, this government is supported by five JOMPOPS member parties, making the Unified Marxist Leninist party – the second largest party in the Parliament – the only JOMPOPS member party in the opposition.

The new prime minister has announced that the main priority of the government is to complete all three elections, including the second-phase of the local elections within the deadline of the new Constitution i.e. February 2018. The immediate priority is to complete the second-phase of the local elections in Province One, Two, Five, and Seven.

The key challenge to this objective is that one of the major Madhes-based parties, Rashtriya Janata Party–Nepal (RJP-N) has decided not to participate in the elections unless certain constitutional amendments, committed to by the NC-Maoist alliance, are delivered on. Earlier, the NC-Maoist alliance has been unable to pass the constitutional amendments due to its inability to garner a two-third majority in Parliament, required to pass the constitutional amendments. Other demands of the RJP-N, such as increasing the number of local units or allocation of its new election symbol, have neither been fulfilled by the alliance as committed.

To address this situation, the JOMPOPS Chair organized an informal SC meeting to explore various alternatives to ensure the participation of RJP-N in the local elections. All the JOMPOPS SC members are senior and influential leaders inside their respective parties. Hence, they can play a significant role in finding resolution of current political problems.

A Unique Avenue for Exploring Political Solutions
The chair started the meeting by congratulating Jeetendra Dev, who had recently become the Minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation. The Chair said that JOMPOPS is delighted to have a minister among its members. Mr. Dev thanked the Chair and all the JOMPOPS members for their kind words and expressions of support, and said that he would endeavor to make JOMPOPS proud as a Minister. He also shared his political journey with other JOMPOPS members, emphasizing that patience is the key in politics.

Soon, discussions on the current political situation began. Most SC members expressed concern about RJP-N’s unwillingness to participate in the elections, which could lead two other Madhes- based parties – Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal and Nepal Loktantrik Forum – to also boycott the elections. It was made clear that it would be unfortunate for the country if such a situation was to pass. Hence, the members decided to explore various alternatives to ensure the elections with the broader participation of all the major political forces in the country.

The SC members agreed that it was useful to have such informal interactions on crucial political issues because JOMPOPS offers a unique avenue to the major political parties to come together and explore solutions to political challenges.

 

Training Newly Elected “City Mothers” in Nepal

On May 14, Nepal conducted the first-phase of the country’s local elections, following a gap of nearly 20 years.  Women have been elected in significant numbers and the Steering Committee members of the multiparty JOMPOPS platform, DIPD’s partner in Nepal, are now taking initiatives to support the newly elected women with necessary training to ensure that they can fulfill their leadership roles effectively.  On June 2, a Steering Committee member organized the first round of trainings for newly elected female deputy mayors along with a few other elected female representatives.

Increasing Female Representation at Local Level

The new Constitution of Nepal, a result of the country’s peace process, has brought a number of governance reforms, including state restructuring. Nepal now has three tiers of government: national, provincial and local. The Constitution has also empowered the local level of government, which now has many important rights and responsibilities such as those related to education, health, infrastructure and cooperatives, among others.

The leaders of Nepal envisaged increased representation of women in the new governance structure, particularly at the local level with the Constitution guaranteeing around 40 per cent female representation at this level. Moreover, the Local Elections Act, finalized on the eve of the elections, requires that one of the candidates for mayor or deputy mayor has to be a woman.

The first-phase of the local elections resulted in the election of a large number of female candidates, a few women have become mayors and many have become deputy mayors. This is considered a remarkable achievement for the overall representation of women in leadership positions – also in a global perspective.

 

 

Energizing the Representatives

A JOMPOPS Steering Committee member from the Unified Marxist-Leninist party, Asta Laxmi Shakya, is the Vice-President of the party as well as in-charge of Province 3, covering a number of districts. Shakya strongly promoted election of female candidates in her province during the local elections. Now, she is keen on energizing and empowering the newly elected women to ensure that they are effective in their new leadership roles.

Shakya organized the first of such trainings on June 2, targeting the newly elected deputy mayors, who are directly elected in and will function as acting mayor in the mayor’s absence. In Nepal, deputy mayors also have special power as they are heads of the Judicial Committees in their municipalities, settling disputes under their respective jurisdictions.

Due to the busy schedule of the newly elected representatives, the training programme was a one-day session. Nevertheless, the full-day training covered important topics such as roles and responsibilities of the elected representatives, the legislative-executive-judicial structure of the local government, relevant legal frameworks, communication and networking.

DIPD’s Senior Adviser in Nepal shared Danish experiences on effective local governance, particularly drawing on practical insights from the locally elected representatives in Denmark and the Danish municipalities’ approaches and measures to serving the citizens. DIPD’s Representative to Nepal gave a presentation on various dimensions of leadership, emphasizing the importance of women in leadership positions, particularly at the local tier, where the deputy mayors will have to lead many initiatives to ensure service delivery to the Nepalese citizens.

The participants rated the training as highly useful, but also highlighted that future trainings should be longer. All the participants are soon beginning their work in their municipalities as “city mothers”. There is no doubt that these female leaders are likely to make unprecedented impact in the lives of ordinary Nepalese people, long denied the presence of elected representatives in their communities.

 

More information

Visit our country page to read more about DIPD’s work in Nepal.
Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np

Local Elections in Nepal

The first-phase of the local elections in Nepal took place on 14 May 2017, with enthusiastic voter turnout of around 71 per cent. These elections are considered as an important step towards implementing the newly drafted Constitution of Nepal; the new Constitution stipulates all three elections namely local, provincial and national need to be held within February 2018.

Around 300 women politicians in the seven provinces were trained to contest the local elections by the Election Commission of Nepal in partnership with the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) and with technical support from the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy and the UNWomen. Many of them were able to secure nomination as candidates in the elections and have contested the recent elections.

Context

After the restoration of democracy in 1990, Nepal held local elections for the first time in 1992. Once its five-year term got over, the second local elections took place in 1997. However, the next elections could not be held as due in 2002 as a result of the ongoing protracted “People’s War” started by the Maoist party in 1996.

In effect, there has been a vacuum of elected representatives at the local level since 2002. The civil servants had to carry the burden of the responsibilities of the elected representatives. The delivery of public services at the local level was also understandably affected. People at the grass-roots could not experience democracy directly.

In the new Constitution, local elections as mentioned above were stipulated to be held within February 2018. Therefore, local elections are an important part of implementing the new Constitution of Nepal. There were many challenges to holding these elections. The notable one being insistence from the Madhesi-based parties to address their demands for the constitutional amendments before they agree to go for the elections. This was challenging because the second largest party in the Parliament was opposed to the proposal and without its support it was difficult to get a two-third majority required to pass the constitutional amendments as demanded by the Madhesi-based parties.

When the effort to pass the constitutional amendments did not seem likely to get the required votes in the Parliament, the government decided to hold the elections in the two-phases. The first-phase covering provinces 3, 4 and 6 were scheduled for 14 May 2017 and the second-phase covering provinces 1, 2, 5, and 7 are scheduled to be held on 14 June 2017.

On 14 May 2017, the first-phase of the elections have been successfully held, participated by all the major political parties of Nepal. Voters also turned up in large numbers, surpassing the turn-out in the last national elections.

DIPD’s Contribution to the Elections

When the draft of the local election bill stipulated 40 per cent women’s reservation at the local level, political parties felt that they do not have enough women willing to contest elections. Participation of women in politics in Nepal is generally low. Male dominated leadership structures and a lack of gender friendly practices inside political parties of Nepal deter many women from joining politics. Women who join politics are perceived negatively in most places in Nepal which equally discourage women. Hence, it was difficult for political parties in Nepal to find enough women willing to contest elections.

In this context, the platform of Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (DIPD’s partner in Nepal) conceived of a local level orientation programme for women essentially to inspire them to contest local elections and also provide them with necessary technical knowledge related to standing in the elections.

JOMPOPS chose a different modality of implementation for this orientation programme. Instead of implementing directly, it decided to request the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) to implement the programme. The ECN is the constitutionally mandated body to implement such programmes. Equally importantly, ECN has fully functioning local offices in all the 75 districts of Nepal which meant that the local level orientation programmes could be smoothly implemented in all the 75 districts.

Once the ECN agreed to the request, JOMPOPS requested DIPD to provide technical assistance to the planned orientation programme. Following the request from JOMPOPS, DIPD secured the partnership from other relevant international organizations namely the Governance Facility and UNWomen on the project and moved ahead with contributing technical support to the potential women candidates for the elections.

Multi-Party Training for Women at the Local Level

As the first-phase of this programme, the Election Commission of Nepal conducted an Orientation Programme for its district election staff in Kathmandu in January 2017. The main objective of this programme was to sensitize the ECN staff on gender and also to provide them with the necessary training skills so that they are willing and competent to implement training programmes for women at the local level.

Around 30 ECN staff participated in this Orientation Programme with 21 from seven districts representing the seven provinces. In addition to attending sessions on gender and facilitation skills, the district level ECN staff also formulated action plans for the local level training with inputs from the Gender Coordinators of the JOMPOPS platform.

In the run up to the elections, the district election staff trained in Kathmandu implemented multi-party training for women at the local level in the seven districts (Panchthar, Bara, Nuwakot, Palpa, Syangja, Kalikot, and Bajhang) representing all the seven provinces of Nepal. Around 300 potential women candidates were oriented on various crucial information about the local elections such as the local level structure (the legislative and executive branches of the rural  municipality and municipality, and the functions of district assembly and district coordination committee), roles and responsibilities of the elected officials who will be exercise 22 powers at the local level unlike the mandate exercised by previous local bodies, how to file a candidacy;  the training not only provided them with necessary understanding but also all the necessary reference materials that could be used to further enhance their understanding.

What was most remarkable about the programme was that women turned up investing their own money on the logistics costs such as transportation. Equally remarkably, the majority of training participants were from remote villages, not just from the district headquarters, and many of them had to travel long distance, by bus or foot, to reach the training venue. In many cases, the participants had to juggle with their house work and political party work in order to be away for the training for nearly two days. Despite these challenges, local women politicians came for the training and committed themselves to both the days because, as they shared, this was the first training that offered them knowledge about contesting in the upcoming local elections. No such training had been earlier conducted either by the Election Commission or any international or national organization in all the seven districts.

The following conclusions can be made drawing from the evaluation forms, direct interviews with the participants as well as comments from the participants during the training sessions: 1) Most of the  nearly 300 local women trainees felt inspired to contest the upcoming local elections, even to stake their claims over important leadership positions at the local level 2) Almost all of the participants – most of whom were at least a member of the district committee – did not have any knowledge about the crucial information related to the local elections 3) Nearly 300 women got trained to file their candidacy in the local elections and felt confident about tackling all the necessary technical processes related to the local elections.

Currently, the counting of the votes is going on and the preparation for the second-phase elections have started. The Prime Minister of the current government representing the third largest party in Parliament has already announced his plans for resignation to make a way for the new government. This has been part of the agreement among the major political parties before the new elections. Once the new government comes into power, the main challenge would be to conduct the next-phase of the elections with broader participation of all the political forces in the country. DIPD will continue to support multiparty dialogue and promotion of women in politics through JOMPOPS in this given political context.