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Democracy still taking root in Bhutan July 24, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bhutan, Guest authors , comments closed

Mark Turner

Bhutan was a latecomer to democracy. The small Himalayan kingdom joined the ranks of democratic nations only in 2008 when the first national elections were held and its constitution approved. But since then, how is democracy developing in the country?

Elections are the most visible symbols of democratic rule. There have been two national elections — in 2008 and 2013 — to choose the members of the partisan National Assembly and the non-partisan National Council. The system seems to be working well. The 2013 election saw greater political competition with two new parties running alongside the two original parties for the National Assembly. And there were more candidates for positions in the National Council. This non-partisan body acts as the house of review in the Bhutanese parliament.

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Seeking accountability and failing to find it September 25, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Rosita Armytage

It started off fun. The Azadi (freedom) March led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and former cricketer Imran Khan, and the Inquilab March (Revolution March) led by Tahir Ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party have created a festival atmosphere in the nation’s capital of Islamabad. Both Khan and Qadri are demanding that elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif resign and have stated that they and their supporters will not leave the protest site until he does. Protest is an important part of democracy. But demanding the resignation of an elected leader, rather than a return to the ballot or a recount of the votes, is not democratic.

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Hypocrisy, ignorance or ‘the intellect beyond comprehension’ June 4, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Awasthy, Richa, India , comments closed

Richa Awasthy

An open letter to the dissectors of Verdict 2014:

On the 16 May 2014 India ushered in a new era with the BJP winning the historic mandate of a clear majority for a single non-Congress party. Narendra Modi (NaMo)-led NDA alliance scaled new heights with 336 seats, something not predicted by anyone apart from one exit poll by Chanakya.

Never in the history of elections in India have I seen the kind of post-mortem that is circulating these days. I have seen analysis of why a particular party won or lost, but this is the first time I have seen such an effort to prove that the winner has actually not got a mandate. The verdict seems too hard to swallow for some of the elite class of intellectuals and they are trying to bring in all sorts of intriguing parameters to prove that the mandate is not for the winning party/coalition. The flood of posts in this direction inspired me to write this blog.

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A Modi landslide? May 29, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Babak Moussavi

Narendra Modi’s victory is less impressive than it appears

When the results of the Indian election rolled in, the surprise was not over who was winning, but over the size of the victory margin. No single party had won a majority of the seats in the lower house since Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress victory in 1984, soon after the assassination of his mother, Indira. 30 years on, Narendra Modi has achieved this. He is now set to lead a majority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government with 282 seats, but is likely to retain his pre-election coalition grouping, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), giving him 336 seats in a 543-seat parliament.

The scale of the victory is unprecedented in recent decades, and the power that incoming Prime Minister Modi is likely to command is more than most expected. Not only are the anticipated checks of coalition politics largely loosened by his single party majority, but the opposition is so fragmented that a divide and rule policy could allow for total domination of the political agenda. If he can muster a two-thirds majority, the government could even change India’s sacrosanct constitution. The 44 MPs of the Indian National Congress, the country’s oldest and once-dominant party, would barely muster a whimper. And if it continues to be led by the notoriously self-restrained Rahul Gandhi, even that might be something.

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Constituent Assembly Election II in Nepal: Will it end the prolonged political transition? December 16, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

After 10 years of Maoist insurgency, Nepal faced two elections for the Constituent Assembly (CA) – one in 2008 (CA I) and the other in 2013 (CA II) to craft a new constitution by peoples’ representatives. Since the CA I was dissolved in 2012 for failing to deliver a new constitution, a CA II election was conducted to get the fresh mandate of the people on 19 November 2013. However, the recent election has produced landslide gains for some political parties and massive setbacks for some other parties, leading to a dramatic change in key players in national politics.  In particular, the Communist Party (Maoist), which had become the largest party in CA I, along with other Madhesi regional parties, has suffered a great loss in the recent election. The party has been advocating for a transformative agenda for Nepalese polity and society. Now, a critical question arises: have the people rejected the agenda for change? In this paper, we look at reasons behind the rise and fall of political parties in the contexts of CA I and CA II, and examine the implications for the political future of the country.

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Pakistan’s hopes rest with third-chance prime minister July 12, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Mollaun, Alicia, Pakistan , comments closed

Alicia Mollaun

On 11 May, Pakistan achieved a historic milestone: for the first time, a democratically elected government was replaced by another democratically elected government. In a country ruled for over half of its existence by the military, this was a notable outcome.

The lead-up to the election, and election day itself, was marred by violence. Over 120 people were killed in the weeks before the election. On election day, more than 600 000 security personnel were deployed to protect 70 000 polling stations, half of which were considered to be in sensitive locations and vulnerable to attack.

Despite heightened security, voting was tainted by violence: at least 38 people were killed and over 130 were injured. The Election Commission of Pakistan had to defer elections for three National Assembly seats and six seats of the provincial assemblies because candidates had died – some of natural causes; others were killed. Many candidates were kidnapped, including former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s son, who was taken by militants while campaigning for a seat in Multan.

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Pakistan’s transition to substantive democracy April 17, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Rosita Armytage

When Pakistan holds elections on 11 May 2013 it will be the first time in Pakistan’s history that an elected government hands over power to another elected government.

Though this is a positive development, most Pakistani and international observers are not optimistic that the elections form part of a broader transition from procedural to substantive democracy — a system of government where civil and political liberties are protected.

There are many reasons for this lack of optimism. Ongoing attacks on the minority Shia population have significantly increased, with hundreds killed already this year. Political leaders and candidates are routinely targeted, and there have been regular attacks on development workers seen to be promoting ‘liberal values’. These political and social fault lines have been exacerbated by the worsening economic crisis. Economic growth has averaged just under 3 per cent over the last three years — a level that is insufficient to either substantially improve the population’s living standards or absorb the growing workforce. Prices are rising at around 11 per cent per year, and the price increases on fuel, together with severe electricity shortages, have prompted a growing number of mass protests across the country.

Politically, socially and economically, Pakistanis face deep insecurity.

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The rise of Maoists in Nepali politics: from ‘people’s war’ to democratic politics March 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Ramesh Sunam and Keshab Goutam

Since its formation in 1994, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) has gone through a number of radical transformations, shifting from a guerrilla warfare unit to a key democratising force within Nepali politics.

The party’s early history is defined by its role in launching the ‘people’s war’ of 1996, a decade-long civil war that resulted in the loss of some 16,000 lives and halted the country’s economic development. The Maoists’ original aim was to benefit the poor and marginalised sectors of Nepali society by uprooting the monarchy and feudalism.

Today, many people question the necessity of the war. But the conflict did succeed in providing marginalised populations – particularly dalits (the so-called untouchables), women, the landless and ethnic and indigenous people – with a wider political space to articulate their grievances. The result was a series of protests and rights movements across the country by the Madhesi (people from the Tarai lowland) and ethnic populations. Such incidents have in turn facilitated the democratisation of Nepali politics. In the first Constituent Assembly election of April 2008, minorities gained substantial representation for the first time in Nepali history, with dalits receiving over 8.17 per cent of seats, women 33.22 per cent, ethnic and indigenous people 33.39 per cent, and Madhesis 34.09 per cent.

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Indian citizenship and the resilience of democracy July 17, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Ornit Shani

India’s founding leaders were determined to create a democratic state when the country became independent in 1947, but becoming and remaining a democracy was by no means inevitable.

The difficulties were daunting: the mass killings and violence unleashed by the subcontinent’s partition, widespread illiteracy, dire poverty, and the country’s profound religious, ethnic and social diversity. How, in such adverse circumstances, were democratic citizenship and practices institutionalised in India? And how has India’s emerging framework for membership in the nation, the essence of citizenship, enabled the endurance of its democratic polity?

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Reviving local level democracy in India July 13, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar, Alok Tiwari and Ragupathy Venkatachalam

India is suffering from policy paralysis due to a crisis of credibility across the political system. The world’s largest democracy is threatened by a growing disconnect between the electorate and elected representatives, which is expressed as distrust and a general sense of a lack of accountability of the latter. Money and power are partly to blame for this disconnect, as is the first-past-the-post electoral system. This is evident at the local level where India’s democracy tends to degenerate into ethnocracies that disenfranchise smaller groups.

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