After finalizing their appraisal in the spring of 2016, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has entered in to partnership with The Network of Social Democracy in Asia (SocDem Asia) as per July 2016. In partnership with this regional organisation, the SDP is working with parties in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Japan, Korea, Timor Leste, Nepal, Pakistan, Mongolia and India. Three countries are in particular focus: The Philippines, Nepal and Myanmar.
SocDem Asia is constituted by parties from Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Japan, Korea, Timor Leste, Nepal, Pakistan, Mongolia and India, thus covering countries that are highly varied in terms of economic level and political system, ranging from full democracies on one end of the spectrum, to authoriatarian regimes with barely any freedoms on the other. It is constituted as a group of political parties, pre-party formations, progressive politicians, scholars and activists in the region, who share social democratic values and perspectives. It aims to build social democratic alternatives by deepening and broadening Asian discourse, offering and developing future-oriented policies and showcasing best practices of Social Democratic Parties, movements and politicians from around the world.
The three countries engaged in this first partnership phase – Myanmar, Nepal and the Philippines – also represent three different political realities and the three political parties vary greatly in size and capacity. Below are short presentations of the three members of SocDem Asia.
Democratic Party for a New Society
In a country that has experienced an explosion in the number of new political parties during its ongoing transition to democracy (see http://dipd.dk/partnerships/myanmar for more info), DPNS is a fairly old organisation. The party is associated with several organizations formed in aftermath of the August 8, 1988 uprising in Burma – the so-called “88 generation” – but has been largely dormant in the years leading up to the beginning of the democratic transition, as the party worked in exile. Since being legalized by the military governemt in 2014, the party has begun restructuring its organisation and reengaging its lost membership.
DPNS did not manage to win any seats during the November 2015 parliamentary elections, but have close relationships with both the NLD and several of the ethnic parties in the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA).
Nepali Congress Party
As one of the newer democracies in Asia, Nepal made the transition from monarchy to republic in 2008 (see dipd.dk/partnerships/nepal for more info).
Formed as a merger between the Nepali National Congress and Nepal Democratic Congress in 1949, Nepali Congress led the 1950 democratic movement, which succesfully ended the Rana Dynasty and allowed commoners to take part in politics. Likewise, they also led democratic movements in 1990 and 2006 respectively, in partnership with leftist forces, which resulted in the end of absolute monarchy and the return to parliamentary democracy.
Nepali Congress is currently the largest party in the Nepali Constituent Assembly, holding 196 out of 575 seats. Furthermore, they are present in 70 out of Nepal’s 77 national districts. Despite their dominant position, Nepali Congress is currently in opposition, as the Marxist-Leninist and Maoist Communist Parties have banded together to achieve majority. Thus, Nepali Congress’ situation somewhat resembles The Social Democratic Party’s, as they too stand as the largest party in parliament but remain in political opposition.
Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party
After the end of Marcos’ dictatorship in 1986, the Philippines’ political space began to open up, as a multiparty democracy with a presidential government was introduced. Relatively free and fair elections also made a welcomed comeback, though democratic challanges remain in battling the institutionalized corruption of the political and juridical system.
Akbayan was one of the parties that participated in the first post-Marcos elections, which allowed party lists to run. The party was formed prior to the elections as a unification of several CSO’s, NGO’s, labor unions, peasant organizations and pre-party formations. Since 1998, Akbayan has succeeded in winning seats in parliament and was part of the ruling coalition prior to the May 2016 elections, which saw Rodrigo Duerte (PDP-Laban) take over the presidential office.
SDP and SocDem Asia
In this first phase, SDP and SocDem Asia venture in to what is a new type of partnership in DIPD, namely a partnership with a regional organisation. During the 1.5-year project, the focus is on generating discussions in SocDem Asia on social democratic values, processes and themes to the national discourses, thus increasing the involvement and commitment of the partner parties to draft progressive policy proposals in partnership with local constituencies and communities. The project will work on two different levels, regional and national, and look to create an inspirational interplay between national, context-sensitive policy development and regional inspiration and sparring, utilizing SocDem Asia’s position as a regional platform to facilitate discussions on relevant issues related to the policy development.