Over the past decades, the country experienced a tumultuous transition to democracy. The Maoist insurgency and the end of the monarchy established a democratic republic of Nepal. Despite holding several rounds of elections and promulgating a new constitution, Nepal has struggled to establish a stable and functional democratic system.
While corruption is rife, political parties and leaders have been accused of using dirty tactics to gain and maintain power, including vote-buying, intimidation and violence. It means the status of state accountability in Nepal is poor whereas the public can also be held responsible for flagging the avoidance of responsibility.
In general, the state has a responsibility to be accountable to the public and the public has a responsibility to hold the state accountable. This accountability is critical to ensuring that the state is fulfilling its duties and responsibilities. The public response to the state is crucial for the functioning of a healthy democracy, which is the democratic process.
But as the state accountability-public responsibility balance is poor in Nepal, various alternative political forces have now promised to change the scenario. Their logic seems valid as alternative politics can take the country to a new level of state accountability.
State accountability to the public
The state is accountable to the public in various ways such as by providing access to information, ensuring transparency along with being responsive to public needs and concerns. The constitution of Nepal guarantees the right to information and a separate act has been enacted to ensure citizens’ access to information.
However, there is a need to strengthen state accountability. To do so, the following things should be considered:
- Transparency: The state should be transparent in its decision-making processes and disclose relevant information to the public. This includes information about policies, budgets and other matters of public interest.
- Participation: The state should provide opportunities for public participation in decision-making processes. This includes consultation with stakeholders, public hearings and other forms of engagement.
- Responsiveness: The state should be responsive to the needs and concerns of the public. This includes addressing grievances, providing public services and implementing policies that reflect the public interest.
- Oversight: The state should be subject to oversight by independent institutions such as the judiciary, legislature and media. These institutions help ensure state accountability to the public and its operation transparently and fairly.
- Rule of law: The state should uphold the rule of law and ensure that all citizens are treated equally. The state should also ensure that its actions are consistent with the rule of law.
- Service delivery: The state should provide basic services such as health care, education and infrastructure to the public. These services should be of good quality and accessible to all citizens.
In Nepal, corruption and inefficiency in the public sector are significant challenges that prevent state accountability, hence it should be addressed first.
Citizens have a responsibility to participate in the democratic process and contribute to state accountability. This responsibility includes voting in elections, engaging in civic education, participating in public debates and holding elected officials accountable for their actions. The following things should be considered for strengthening the public’s responsibility:
- Participation: The public should participate in the democratic process that includes voting in elections, engaging in dialogue with government officials and participating in public meetings.
- Compliance: The public should comply with the law and respect the authority of the state. This includes paying taxes, obeying traffic rules and following other laws that promote public safety and order. The public should not engage in illegal activities or act in ways that undermine the state’s authority.
- Collaboration: The public should collaborate with the state in efforts to promote the public good. This means that the public should work with the state to address social, economic and political issues that affect the country as a whole.
- Constructive criticism: Citizens have a responsibility to offer constructive criticism of the state. This includes highlighting areas for improvement and proposing alternative policies that promote the public interest.
- Support: Citizens have a responsibility to support the state in times of crisis. This includes volunteering for disaster relief efforts, participating in public health campaigns and supporting the armed forces in times of war.
Alternative politics and state accountability
In Nepal, alternative politics has to play a critical role in advocating for the rights of marginalised communities, promoting transparency and accountability in governance and advocating for democratic reforms.
Alternative politics can play a role in exposing these issues and advocating for reforms to promote transparency, state accountability, responsibility and efficiency in the public sector. It needs to be actively involved in promoting civic engagement and empowering citizens to participate in the democratic process. This can be achieved through grassroots organising, community mobilisation, and advocacy for policy changes that promote citizen participation.
- Advocacy: Alternative political movements can advocate for policies and reforms that promote greater state accountability and responsibility.
- Participation: Alternative political activities can encourage public participation in the democratic process. This can help to increase public engagement with the state and promote greater accountability.
- Innovation: Alternative political actions can bring new ideas and approaches to political issues. This can help to promote innovation and creativity in the political system, which can lead to greater responsiveness.
- Education: Alternative political movements can educate the public about their rights and responsibilities in a democratic system.
- Mobilisation: It can mobilise the public to demand greater state accountability and responsibility from the state.
- Representation: Alternative political movements can offer alternative voices and representation in the democratic process, promoting greater diversity and inclusivity.
Thus, state accountability and public responsibility are critical for the functioning of a healthy democracy. Alternative politics can play a vital role in promoting these concepts by advocating for reforms that promote transparency, accountability and citizen participation. Alternative political parties can provide a platform for citizens to engage in the democratic process, voice their concerns and hold the state accountable. It can also offer new ideas and solutions to the challenges faced by the state and the public. By promoting accountability and responsibility, alternative politics can contribute to the development of a stronger and more effective democracy in Nepal.