We could do with less chatter and more action, but old habits die hard. Which is why there is microscopic analysis about which Madhesi faction has the upper hand in the Tarai, what the Maoist split means in the far-west for the NC and how the UML can regain lost grassroots support. There is speculation about how issues of federalism and ethnicity will play out, and how identity politics could upset all calculations.
Guessing the outcome of elections is an international past-time, and we can't do much to change the way politicians and political parties approach elections, either. Universally, the run-up to polls is a time of populist policies, whipping up paranoia about immigrants, accusing rivals of selling out on natural resources to foreign investors, or postponing urgent decisions on the economy because of what it might mean for a party's standing in the polls. Whether in recent elections in Greece or France, the forthcoming elections in the United States, or the next polls in Nepal, politicians are hard-wired to behave with short-term time horizons and be single-minded in their pursuit of power.
What is different about Nepal compared to more mature democracies is that fatal flaws in our electoral process lead more directly to governance failure. Elections should be the mechanism through which citizens select the most efficient and honest managers to make laws and run the country for four years. But the way they are actually run, elections embed corruption into the body politic so that the rot spreads right through society.
Political parties have to raise money from businesses to finance elections either to buy votes or buy goons. When they get to power they have to repay their benefactors in contracts. There has been so little investment and businesses are so cash-strapped, however, that political parties have to make sure they amass as much resources as possible while in government so they can finance future campaigns. Incumbent politicians today don't
even try to hide the plunder of the exchequer while in office because it has become standard operating procedure.
Nepal's multi-party democracy started decaying almost as soon as it was restored in 1990. It wasn't for any inherent flaw in the system, but the way it was mishandled by those with electoral mandates. Freedom fighters from the 1960s who suffered long years in jail and exile showed very early on that they couldn't handle power. Suffering incarceration and persecution for the cause of democracy doesn't, it seems, necessarily guarantee leadership qualities.
Neither, it seems does taking up arms: the Maoists in power have proved to be just as greedy and selfish as the other fellows. The only difference is that they have honed ransacking the treasury into a fine art, and combined with past and on-going extortion, this gives them a formidable war-chest. You can be sure the current Maoist-Madhesi coalition will step down when it has had its fill, and there is nothing left to steal from the state.
They say Nepal is not poor, only poorly-governed. And it will stay that way unless we reform the electoral process with strong laws to regulate campaign financing. Until then, all intellectual navel gazing about the relative standing of the parties is pointless.