Egypt, Elegy On Democracy And Nepal – OpEd


Of late, events in Egypt have attracted profuse attention from all over the globe. Democratically elected government back in 2011/12 has been ousted by moderate, secular opposition with the help from Egyptian military, thus culminating in pivotal role of military. Some have expressed extreme disappointment calling it a ‘military coup’ of democracy but others are more in celebratory euphoria calling it the victory of rationality and common sense. Whatever might be the interpretations, Egypt is once again tossed into throes of political change rife with uncertainty, disruption, and disorder with far reaching implications not only for the Egyptian and the adjacent region but also to the world.

Political developments in bi-continental Egypt astoundingly strike a chord with the tiny landlocked country Nepal. Chief justice, the judiciary head of country is leading the government as an executive head in both countries in blatant defilement of principles of power separation in a democracy. Military is frequently invoked onto political forefront either in crumbling or in resignation of the democratically elected government setting up a pernicious precedent for the future. And according to Transparency International Agency report 2013, political parties and political institutions are the most corrupted institution in Nepal with disapproval rate staggeringly high at 90 percentage while in Egypt they are one of the most corrupted if not the most.

Moreover, the saga of ascendency to power of the biggest party in election both countries remains strikingly similar. Maoist having strong rural base and enjoying parallel governance most of the country and influencing urban centres, came victorious after the CA Polls 2008 leaving national and international analysts stunned. Muslim Brotherhood repeated the same feat from equivalent situation (they were banned by Mubarak) with similar functioning network base in rural Egypt. Right from the start Morsi government was at wrangle with the opposition, undermining democratic culture of consensus building, trying to evade public opinion and passing controversial bills and laws, curtailing individual freedom, and consequently losing public trust and confidence. It acted as if it was poised only to bring justice for Muslim Brotherhood, not to moderate Muslims, Coptic Christians, secular liberals, Jews, etc. And, in most cases, same thing goes here in Nepal.

It is most opportune here to evoke elixir of political wisdom embedded in the adage of Saint Kabir who said: ‘Nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chawai, bin paani sabun bina nirmal kare subhaiy’ (Keep critics close to you as without any effort, they can cleanse your thoughts). It is the soul of democracy. While autocratic/authoritarian/tyrannical government boots out critics/opposition/adversary; beauty of democracy remains that it embraces difference only to get refined, revitalized, and rejuvenated.

Both Egypt and Nepal are nascent democracies (though it started early and got hijacked in the middle and re-emerged lately in both countries) devoid of mature political culture, propensity towards skirting dialogue, lack of tolerance and respect towards diverging views, and off course, minimal inclusion or no inclusion at all of the opposition or minority. On the other part of coin, ripe democracy means accepting defeat too and aligning with rather than aliening the other side to accept the majority people’s mandate. Defeat gives opportunity of self-reflection, self-assessment, and bestows learning curve only to re-surge.

While resorting to street politics is the constitution warranted right and valid avenue to mobilise common people to alert government against the wrongdoing, it has to be exploited wisely for it is a double-edged sword. It has to honour non-violent aspiration of people and at the same time be cognizant of the debilitating impact it bears on economy- the fact that one of the major cause behind widespread frustration and indignation in youth towards state stems from fragile economic health culminating in stale opportunities and skyrocketing unemployment.

Equally, in the aftermath of the regime change, we lack rational pragmatic mind and courage to extract positive legacy of previous regime and rather create a winner-loser/hero-villain scenario; vilifying the old ones and indulge in excessive lust for self-adulation disregarding the inherent deficiencies. This tendency by the way contradicts the basic tenet of democracy which is conducive to a win-win situation for all. This chronic ‘Politics of Revenge and Self-aggrandizement’- as late Bhuwan Lal Joshi and late Leo E. Rose once tersely termed- that cavalierly exclude some people and sow the seeds of schism in society, needs to put an end if we want to ditch this vicious culture for truly inclusive political process.

Another vital aspect, election while being engine of democracy, it alone cannot guarantee the dynamism, vibrancy, permanence and success of it. Ballot centred democracy overlooking the other pillars of democracy like human rights, rule of law, dialogue, pluralism, collectivity, accountability, tolerance and respect is not a democracy in real sense; it is ‘democrashy’ ill-fated with inevitable implosion.

Both Egypt and Nepal are suffering from adolescent democracy syndrome where nation either can metamorphose into, if collective enthusiasm and energy channelled into right direction with a broader vision, a lively, pro-justice, multi-identity bearing full-fledged democracy or it risks getting squandered through attrition resulting from inconsiderate, short-sighted policies that only promote parochial partisan interests to the expense of ‘others’. Most importantly, building of strong, accountable, transparent and representative democratic institutions and robust civil society create conducive environment in consolidation and sustenance of the democracy.

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