Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Election or Consensus?

This whole issue of consensus just drives me nuts. On one hand, we talk about democracy and democratic culture, institutions etc. etc. And on the other hand we always seem to be bogged down by this whole idea of “consensus decision.”

Now don’t get me wrong. Consensus is not necessarily a bad thing. Understanding and accounting for everyone’s voices is important. But in a democracy, the voice of the ballot is far stronger than the voice of consent. And when we are consistently pursuing consensus, we lose the vibrancy and active participation that democracy guarantees.

I won’t even talk about the pre-2001 days when consensus was used as a means to postpone serious discussions rather than to genuinely arrive at a unified decision.

Let’s take the election of the speaker for instance. The seven party alliance apparently tried very hard to make Subash Nemwang the “consensus choice.” Fine. But that effort simply delayed Nemwang’s assumption of office. With the Nepali Congress and the UML supposedly behind Nemwang, why not simply have an election and elect him? If nobody decides to run against him, then fine, he’s the unanimous selection.

We’ve seen a similar culture within party-politics where the leaders are so bent on presenting a “consensus candidate” that what the party members really want is usually suppressed under the opinions of “senior” leaders.

Democracy is based on the electorate choosing their representatives—no matter how big or small the destination is—parliament, city council, school board etc. There should be a consensus on only one issue and that is the election schedule. And if there is only one candidate, so be it. We have an unopposed winner!

Shying away from elections can very well mean ignoring the will of the people, be it the general population, party cadres, or any given group. Consent is good only up to a certain point. Serious issues require serious steps and there no action more serious or inclusive than an election.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. How can election be better than consensus ? Elections are so costly and cumbersome. If things can be settled through mutual understanding, why go for elections?

NR

2:34 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nepali Blogger said...

Right, as far as a genuine attempt to garner understanding, harmony and cooperation is concerned, consensus is always welcome. But what we’ve seen in Nepal is that consensus is generally used as a tool to stifle serious discussions. This is most notably prevalent in internal party politics. So much so that we see party leaders threatening their colleagues of having an election.

Note that only the weak fear elections. Confident and capable leaders are not and nor should be afraid of going to the electorate.

Take the recent NC(D) controversy. There too, some senior leaders are threatening Deuba with the “election” card. If Deuba has erred, as these other leaders suggest, then let the party decide his fate in the form of an election. Why bury the discussion in the guise of consensus building when it is clear that such burials only come back later to bite you?

blogdai said...

We may also want to look at the idea of consensus being used as a tool to avoid elections.

This and former Deuba/Koirala congresses shun the ballot like a plague. Consensus is a means to maintain control via delay and obfuscation. Heaven forbid these guys actually give the people their right to form a REAL consensus through ballot majority.

-=blogdai

Nepali Blogger said...

I agree. When ultimatums like "if you don't do this, then we will hold an election" is used as an intimidation tool, it only says two things. That the person(s) issuing the ultimatum are not sure about their fate in the election and that the person receiving the ultimatum is forced to cut a deal to keep his position. Is that how things are supposed to be? From what I know about democracy, elections are good because it involves the one part of the equation that is important than anyone else—the people.

Anonymous said...

Everyone,

Please look at the following report. Now SPAM is going against it's own principles. It came to power with MOBilisation. We have to write regarding this to US, UK, EU, India, UN and others.
I really mean it.

Government to prohibit rallies
Kantipur Report

KATHMANDU, 2006-05-17 - Government on Wednesday has decided to prohibit protest rallies and gatherings around the Royal Palace and Singh Durbar.

The order, effective from Wednesday, prohibits all kinds of political gatherings, protests and rallies, according to Kathmandu district administration.

Many people have been staging protests against the delay in ambitious House Proclamation by the government. Earlier in one of many such incidents of protest, at least four vehicles were burnt by the angry protestors.

Posted on: 2006-05-17 22:46:46 (Server Time)

Anonymous said...

If people speak of democracy then "election" is a must but in Nepal each & every other has his or her own take on this. Its quite bewildering, honestly more than half do not know what democracy is anyway. This is the scary part.

Now, lets look at what happened yesterday at the national assembly. There is a question of "legality," If they are what they call themselves to be " loktrantric" then how can they justify what they did yesterday. It was in a sense an exercise for the day to come when Maoist heads the government " one party rule" where any dissent is a crime.

The proclamation they have made has technical faults and if enacted it will be more of dictatorial in nature then Loktantra- It is basically a tenet drafted by Maoist.

So in the question of Election versus Consensus- I see both of them being null and void in case of Nepal. If election takes place without Maoist laying down their arms, parties which are acing as their mouthpiece will be wiped out and as for Consensus which is working now between SPA and Maoist will run its course till the interim government is formed and then it well be broken. Rule of Maoist will dawn in Nepal.

Sansar

Anonymous said...

Has Maoist inflitrated all ranks and files of political party? The way I saw it yesterday, all are shit scared to speak of, about and against them. Now, this is getting dangerous.

I know they all spoke their language but not even thank you or lay down your arms was heard from any member of the assembly. It gives me chill or am I just the only one. Speak up people.

Sansar

Nepali Blogger said...

Sansar,

Yes the situation in Nepal is precarious indeed. What was passed by the parliament in name of the people may or may not be good for Nepal, but the way it was passed was flawed. The “representatives” that haven’t faced the ballot in 8 years are deciding for the people of Nepal. Shouldn’t something as serious as this be put forward on a referendum?

So far, all the moves seem to be benefiting only one party—the Maoists. The voice of reason seems to have drowned under the voices of protests. One thing that might be good, though, is that now that the vendetta is complete, it is time for the politicians to actually start working instead of talking. So, let us see what happens next!

NB

Anonymous said...

NB,

Your comment on "politicians sitting down and working," Hope that's the case but I still say that they are fractious and internally weak to do anything. Hence, the Maoist are gaining hold of all the parties and agenda. There is rumor surfacing that Makune and Gautam at odds inside UML, and this party is supposed to be one of the tightest and disciplined.

To tell you the truth- political parties will be increasingly at the mercy of the Maoist. It is purely because of their inaptitude and handshake with the devil.

It sounds harsh but the reality is unless you take a hard-line with what is happening in Nepal, I see no way out. And my fear is, this is what our northern neighbor had planned in advance. Cripple the state and get mandate from the international bodies to intervene inside Nepal.

Sansar

Nepali Blogger said...

Sansar, you are right. Events in the last decade and a half tells us that there isn't much to expect out of these politicians. However, for the sake of Nepal and Nepalis, all we can do now is hope that things will turn for the better. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But it doesn't hurt to be optimistic.

Maoists do seem to be controlling the buttons, but one can still hope some level of balancing act from the army. Let's see what happens...

NB