Role of smaller parties may change but they won’t become irrelevant
February 17, 2018 12:15 AM NPT
With implementation of threshold provision in election laws for political parties to be qualified to secure seats in parliament under Proportional Representation (PR) category, the chances of fringe parties of becoming kingmaker have been literally restricted. How will the smaller parties contribute to national politics? Ek Nath Dhakal, former minister and chairman of Nepal Family Party, shared his views with Republica.
You have always been in the political scene. But now small parties like yours don’t seem to have much role to play. What will you do?
I will remain in political scene but in a different capacity. Smaller parties like mine played a crucial role in promulgating the new constitution. They raised the voice of the voiceless in the parliament and advocated the rights of the marginalized. With promulgation of new constitution, we are heading towards political stability and economic development. Smaller parties now have options to forge alliance with bigger parties. In the past we did not have a law to limit the role of smaller parties. They existed independently. In the new context, the role of smaller parties might change but they won’t become irrelevant. I will support and work together with new government to achieve economic development. I will work to support Nepali youth who are the future of this country.
But what will be the status of small parties? Will they merge with big parties?
The smaller parties now have three options. They may form political alliance with likeminded bigger parties in accordance with the Political Parties Act. Second, they can work for strengthening party base to grow big by increasing members and participating in the future elections on their own. Third option is to merge with bigger parties.
What will your party do?
Nepal Family Party will go for the first option but we will also not leave any stone unturned to strengthen and consolidate our base across the country. Our status is well deserved and we have shown the unity for the benefit of the nation, peace and prosperity. Smaller parties did not only think about their interests. They contributed to the nation in their own way. Our aim is to contribute toward nation building through socio-economic development.
Is it necessary for democracies like ours to have many smaller parties?
Economic standard, political stability and geo-cultural conditions of the country determine the number of political parties. It would not be right to say only big parties contribute for national welfare and smaller parties do nothing. Both bigger and smaller parties have their own role to play in a democracy. In fact, smaller parties are the beauty of a democracy. They come to fill the gaps created by bigger parties. Often bigger parties overlook crucial issues of the society because they think they are not important. Power blinds them and at times even corrupts them. In such a situation, smaller parties raise voice to draw the attention of the government about such issues. Smaller parties become the alternatives when the bigger parties fail to deliver.
If so, why did your party decide to support left alliance during the election?
As a democratic force, Nepal Family Party believes in the highest ideals. We advocate for value system in politics. We believe that healthy family lays the foundation for nation building and lasting peace. We have no problem in working together with any political parties if they respect the constitution of Nepal.
We worked together both with left-wing and right-wing parties in the past. We treat everyone as friends. Our electoral alliance with CPN-UML was for the sake of nation, development, constitution implementation, peace and democracy. Our party decided to join left alliance because it has clear agenda for economic transformation of the country. We must give them a chance. Democracy without economic prosperity of the general public becomes the source of great illusion. I have all good wishes for the left alliance but we have not thought about merging with CPN-UML at the moment.
You have been a direct witness of constitution making process. What challenges do you foresee in constitution implementation?
Constitution promulgation from one of the most diverse and inclusive Constituent Assemblies is a miracle of our time. This is a great achievement of our age. Every single party, big or small, contributed to this cause. I am proud of the new constitution. However, there is still room for improvement. Looking back, I feel that CA became more idealistic than realistic during constitution writing process. Inclusiveness is good but it sometimes excludes competent people. We have virtually listed every right in the constitution. But how will we be able to implement them? We will need huge resources to let people enjoy all the benefits enshrined in the constitution. Even the poorest of the poor should be able to enjoy the rights but how will we do that? Constitution envisions a peaceful, prosperous and socialist society. We must work hard to achieve this goal. The road ahead is bumpy. This is why every political actor should work with full dedication and honesty.
What role will you play in this challenging situation?
I will work to bring consensus among different parties for political stability and economic development. My contribution during peace process and constitution making process has proven my sincerity for nation and people. I will continue to serve people and nation selflessly in every situation.
Nepali youth are not very interested in politics these days. How can we engage young people in our political process?
Older generation leaders made politics dirty in Nepal. This is why politics came to be associated with dirty game and this led to our young generation’s distaste for politics. This is not good for our political future. When good people become silent then they will be ruled by bad people. At times it also feels like our young people have become too individualistic. They care more about themselves than for the greater good of the country. Who will think about the country? Nepali youth should seriously consider joining politics. Otherwise they will be ruled by those they don’t like.
What do you think should be the priorities of KP Oli’s government?
Let me first express my best wishes for the newly appointed prime minister K P Oli. The tasks of this government are cut out. Its first priority should be constitution implementation. Then it should work to boost economic growth by increasing domestic production, generating employment, attracting foreign investment and thereby alleviating poverty. Third, it must work to ensure good governance through transparency, accountability and proven competency. Fourth, it should work for building infrastructures, increasing connectivity, attracting tourists and upgrading public facilities. Besides, it should boost the morale of our security forces and civil servants. It is equally important to balance our relations with two neighboring countries to achieve economic development.
Cases of family separation, divorce and violence against women are becoming rampant. The government should bring projects to strengthen family values. Putting too much emphasis on welfare projects will take us nowhere. I hope Prime Minister Oli will help redefine Nepali dream. That dream can be achieved only through a paradigm shift in aspects such as economy, governance, development, welfare and social harmony.
You served as a minister for two times in the past. What’s your experience in running a ministry? Why and where do our ministers fail to perform?
I had an opportunity to serve as Minister for Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation in 2011/2012. I served as Minister for Peace and Reconstruction in 2015/16. Political instability, unnecessary interference by various power centers, incompetent human resources in bureaucracy, lack of resources, lack of inter-ministry coordination and low salary of civil servants are major hindrance to effectively running a ministry. Ministers fail to perform as per the public expectation also because they get to serve only for a short period. In some cases, ministers put their interests before the public good. When the officials below know that the minister lacks integrity and commitment, they also do not work efficiently. If we have good intention we can deliver effectively. Sincerity is the best policy in politics.
There have been reports of your organization leaving Nepali people stranded in South Korea. What is the truth?
I am affiliated with the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) which has Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations. UPF supports and promotes United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is an international and interreligious network of individuals and organizations, including representatives from different religion, government, parliament, civil society and private sector dedicated to achieving world peace. Our members travel all over the world for this cause. I have always worked for justice, rights, peace, equality and virtues.
These allegations made against me are false and baseless.