Nepali Democracy

October 22nd, 2018

In the article Why Is Nepal’s New Constitution Controversial, Charles Haviland explains the shortcomings of Nepal’s drafted constitution, in specific explaining what ethnic and minorities groups are unhappy about the contents of the constitution. According to the article, the constitution declares Nepal to adopt federalism with power divided by the caste system and proposed boundaries, which causes unhappiness in many communities. There are other communities who remain discontent about the Constitution, while groups such as “women, indigenous communities and low-caste Dalits” are provided better quotas. Haviland also mentions that the constitution is subject to change in the near future.

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Although the article is quite dated, the political climate and constitutional uncertainty about Nepal’s federalism still exists. The Nepali Times addresses these issues in the article “Federalism’s birth pangs or death rattle?” The author notes that there has been a lot of progress made by the federal government to essentially devoluting the power since May 2017, with the landmark of an elected representative of the Communist party, including redistribution of the federal budget. However, the process of democratic consolidation is still slow because “mechanism designed to settle disputes between layers of government have not yet been fully utilized, leaving room for bitter contestation.”

With the Communist party in power and their interest primarily being the centralization of power, how will Nepal consolidate their democracy?

It is clear from both the readings that the power is still highly centralized. The coalition of regional governments might help devoluting power from the federal government, as well as the pressure from the public on the democratization process. It is also important that the public is getting informed about their political state (the Nepali Times is quite critical about their politics), as well as getting more voting experience. This will help with the electoral process.

Sources

Charles Haviland, “Why Is Nepal’s New Constitution Controversial?,” in Current Debates in Comparative Politics, ed. J. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 93-95.

Ashray Bikram Pande and Namit Wagley, “Federalism’s Birth Pangs or Death Rattle,” Nepali Time, (Sep. 21, 2018), https://www.nepalitimes.com/here-now/federalisms-birth-pangs-or-death-rattle/. 

Putin’s Little Board Game

February 7, 2019

In her article, Julia Ioffe examines Putin’s motivation and intent behind the manipulation of the U.S. elections. She cites the Putin administration’s fear of losing legitimacy and power in the domestic as well as the international scheme as the main reason, stating the failure of Putin to revamp the economy and maintain the sustainable trust from his people. His resistance from the Westernization and privatization of economy is challenged as Ukraine is leaning towards the EU. Putin also feels threatened by Navalny, the only political opposition force that has recently emerged in Russia.

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Last week, the U.S. pulled out of the INF Treaty signed in 1983 by both Russia and the U.S., banning short and medium-range missiles from both countries in an effort to ease the Cold War tensions. Russia followed earlier this week, planning to create land-based missiles in the next two years. Both sides accused each other of violating this treaty multiple times before officially ending the treaty. According to the article, the U.S. fears threats from multiple forces, especially China, as the main reason to prepare militarily.

Is this a new arms race a source of confidence and legitimacy for the Putin administration? Do Putin’s worries about his longevity and legitimacy motivate this action for Russia?

According to Ioffe, Russia is preparing a new generation of techies and hackers, people with highly trained computer science skills in preparations of advanced espionage and vandalization of international politics. This restores a sense of pride and a feel of “world power” in the administration and in the people who are fervent nationalists. Therefore, the increase in military force and advanced weapons will reasonably act as the same factor, but in a different sense. They all show Putin’s insecurity about his remaining in power and his shaky legitimacy.

Sources:

Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Game,” The Atlantic, February 2018.

“INF Nuclear Treaty: Russia Plans Out New Missile Systems After Pullout,” BBC, 5 February 2019,

Where Do The Women Go?

January 28th, 2019

In her article, Mala Htun investigates the disparities in policies aiming to bridge the gap of genders and ethnicities in politics. She notices that there is a pattern across the world, that reserved seats are mostly for minority ethnic groups, while policies only require party candidates quota for women members. This is due to, according to Htun, the definition of gender and ethnicities. Gender is a cross-cutting social cleavage, which divides across other social and political cleavages. They suffer from discrimination within the group, and because so benefit from the quota system. Ethnic groups are, on the other hand, coinciding cleavages, and will be severely underrepresented if not given reserved seats.

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Last week, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker resigns after periods of struggling in the UK. The party has been offering unprecedented support for women candidates, namely childcare provided for all party members. However, the resignation, according to Walker, does not signify a step back in empowerment or movement for women’s rights. She is taking a break and inviting other women to join her in a high position, after a series of success as well as expected failures.

Does a separate party for women worsen or enhance women’s rights? How will the UK’s first-past-the-post system affect the longevity of this party?

Mala Htun would likely not encourage the existence of a women’s party, since she believes that using cross-cutting social cleavages, providing women opportunities within the party will be more beneficial to women’s representation. However, this kind of party formation has never been seen before. There have been many steps that the government has taken to increase the representation of women, and other kinds of efforts in other countries have been used to raise women’s equality, but not a separate party. The effect of this party will have to be examined in the near future.

Sources:

Mala Htun, “Is Gender like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups,” Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 49-50.

Eva Wiseman, ” ‘Democracy is broken’: Women’s Equality party leader tells why she quit,” The Guardians (January 2019).

“It’s Election Season in Nigeria, But Where Are The Women?,” UN Women (February 6, 2019).