Social Science Baha

Democracy in Trouble? Political Elite’s Attitude and Behaviour and Regime Instability in Nepal

Mahendra Lawoti

This paper investigates the attitudes of Nepali parliamentarians toward democratic values during Nepal’s second democratic interregnum (1990-2002). Was the elite attitude favourable for the consolidation of democracy in Nepal? Elites play significant roles in democratization of a country. Investigations of elite attitude becomes important when democracy does not consolidate, and even more so when the general public and scholars blame the elite for it. Empirical study of democratic values elite hold not only help us determine whether they are responsible for the lack of consolidation, but can identify variables that can be targeted for addressing the problems.

The study is based on structured interviews of 101 (out of 265) legislators in 2000. The random sample was stratified based on political party, ethnicity/caste, gender, and regions. The survey employed standard questionnaires used in many studies around the world with relevant modifications for sensitizing to the particular context of Nepali culture and politics.

The paper presents perceptions of regime legitimacy/support of political institutions and political tolerance to examine whether the Nepali parliamentarians supported the democratic regime and demonstrated democratic values (tolerance). The parliamentarians’ attitude toward different aspects of democracy demonstrates values that may be problematic for sustenance and/or consolidation of democracy.

The paper also identifies variables that are responsible for such attitudes. For instance, political ideology, religion, region, age, former profession, and years as a legislator have significant impact on political support/alienation. Likewise, gender and former professions have significant impact on tolerance. Interestingly, education does not have significant impact on both the dependent variables. Such analysis can identify areas and groups that need to be targeted for remedial policies for promoting democratic consolidation in the future.