Lecture Series XXV—Mahendra Lawoti: ‘Democracy, Accountability, and a New Nepal’

21 August, 2008

Mahendra Lawoti
on
Democracy, Accountability, and a New Nepal

The culture of impunity has been a permanent feature of the Nepali polity, including during the last democratic period of 1990-2002. In fact, it contributed to Nepali democracy’s erosion and eventual breakdown in the 1990s. Unless effective mechanisms to hold accountable those who abuse power are established, a culture of impunity may continue even in a ‘new’ and democracy may not be consolidated. During democratisation the first challenge is to give power to elected leaders (in the name of the people) while the immediate second challenge is to establish mechanisms that ensure that the leaders who abuse those powers are held accountable. However, the issue has not received the attention it deserves in the discussion of a ‘new’ democratic . This presentation will argue that for democracy to be responsive to the people, various forms of accountability mechanisms have to be established. Free and fair elections are necessary for holding elected leaders accountable but it is not enough to promote good governance as those elected can abuse power in between elections. The presentation will argue that in addition to vertical accountability mechanisms like elections, independent and professional media and civil society, other accountability mechanisms that hold power wielders accountable horizontally (at the centre, regions and localities) in between elections are necessary. Among other things, horizontal accountability mechanisms (strong and autonomous agencies) will also enhance vertical accountability mechanisms. The presentation will further discuss the conditions for horizontal accountability mechanisms to work, such as autonomy, power in specific realms, and second-order accountability mechanisms, which are necessary to ensure that even accountability agencies are held accountable.

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Mahendra Lawoti is Associate Professor of political science at Western Michigan University and president of the Association for and Himalayan Studies. He is the editor and author of Contentious Politics and Democratization in Nepal  (2007); author of Looking Back, Looking Forward: Centralization, Multiple Conflicts, and Democratic State Building in Nepal (2007); and Towards a Democratic Nepal: Inclusive Political Institutions for a Multicultural Society (2005); and co-author of Government and Politics in South Asia (forthcoming).