My first research question is: How does a formerly violent group incorporate themselves in the civilian democratic politics?
Earlier I chose the research question as I could not find any previous article on this issue on Nepal context. There is a lot out there on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. So it was easy for me to pick the question and justify why I chose this topic. I specifically focused on reintegration since this is the last and stage for integrating ex-combatants to the mainstream society. However, once I started writing on it, I found there is rarely any updated information about reintegration of ex-combats of Nepal! So, I had to write the argument based on whatever information I found. I used McMullin’s three challenges – political, ideational, and structural aspects to analyze the reintegration of Nepalese ex-rebels.
My overall conclusion of the paper is Nepal lacks legitimacy in political arena. The ex-rebels made the decade long violent movement as a response. However, even they got the ticket to represent their agenda in parliament, the power still concentrated among the elites. On a grass-root level, the ex-combatants are being marginalized and excluded from the politicized reintegration process.
To answer my second research question (To what extent historically turbulent Nepal have been enduring democratic practices in the country?), I crafted the definition of democracy from Lipset and Schumpeter. I emphasized on the legitimacy of the government and reciprocity between citizen and government. Applying the definition, I argued that historically Nepal has never been able to adopt democratic practices. The reasons are ethnic conflict (not inherited, rather infused), elite dominance and lack of legitimacy in government’s actions.
I am almost done with the literature review on the Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. I have found a very useful book on challenges of reintegration in post-conflict states by McMullin (Thanks to Fatma!). He identified five sets of challenges of reintegration – programmatic, security, political, structural, and ideational. I am going to finish the paper by analyzing which challenge(s) triggered for Nepal.
This was my second political science course and first on democracy. My initial aim was to learn how the political scientists view and analyze any matter. I had the preconceived notion about democracy is that it is the rule by the majority.
The first interesting (but not surprising) lesson I learned that democracy has different versions and practices in different contexts and there has always been a tension between your perception versus mine. This difference in perception came into the table during the Group Project on Democracy Index. It was fascinating to experience how the critical definitions and thick ideas could be narrowed down to measurement scale. As the course moved forward, I learned the messy history of U.S. democracy. There has always been specific reasons why democracy emerged in a certain way and then why changed routes over the time periods. After watching the video titled ‘Please vote for me’, I started to think, if people are given with this choice, is democracy something like a natural instinct to grow among themselves?
Being said that, the main contribution of this course to me is to teach students how to ask questions about a system. There were certain questions that we analyzed and reviewed based on scholars’ opinion and country context. These questions do not end with the course. These events do not stop. I believe this intension to ask specific questions is an enduring soft skill to learn from this course.
Snyder and Pepinsky offered apparently different situations under authoritarian regime. In first case, the authoritarianism further turned into dictatorship. On the other hand, in the second case, the governance and administration have a ‘democratic-wash’. Given the geo-political differences, it is really a tricky question to answer which version of the authoritarian rule have higher possibility to emerge in U.S. I would argue this country’s situation is more leaning towards Pepinsky’s version of authoritarianism.
In Snyder’s case, there was a question of authority/responsibility among different actors in the society, “Among much of the ordinary citizenry there was a certain faith that the political elite had matters under control. Among the elite there was a certain faith that state institutions would somehow protect themselves, that the rule of law and administrative habit would somehow maintain themselves”. As an outsider here in the States and an observer of the recent political changes, executive orders and fight back from the judges convinced me that the abovementioned scenario might not take place here. I would also refer to case of Chile presented by Bermeo where she argued, the performance of the government was weakly linked to the fall of democracy. She also showed the political elites had a significant role in changing the dynamics. This is where I would like to propose my second point. Pepinsky also mentioned about limited ability of mass people to change the system, “the elections in which you are participating no longer can yield political change”. However, my understanding is, elites still can change the dynamics. Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, who had the longest tenure as Prime Minister recently decided to form a new political party to fight against his previous party leader. (Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/mahathir-plans-new-political-party ). He was quoted in Pepensky’s article regarding his confidence on his method and popularity. Therefore, it is assumable there might be a change in the Malaysian political system in coming future, initiated by a political elite. As per my understanding, U.S. also has multiple elites and strong institutions which have vested interests in any decision taken by the government. They would move forward to protect their interest. All these things convinced me to believe, U.S. is going to adopt Pepinsky’s version, not the other one.
I am reading about the program approach and stages of DDR:
The first two components of DDR, are Disarmament and demobilization. take place before the reintegration phase in order to create the security and trust necessary for implementing peace agreements and starting reconstruction Gilligan (2012). Following disarmament and demobilization, the goal is for ex-combatants to find a livelihood and submit to laws and norms that govern civilian society. The risk is that demobilized combatants may have difficulty finding a productive position in the legal civilian economy and may maintain an oppositional stance toward society and government. Such marginalization may increase the propensity to engage in crime or renewed violence. By providing economic benefits, reintegration programs try to make civilian life more attractive to ex-combatants and thus reduce the risk of political disorder Gilligan (2012).
Poorly conceived and executed programs can themselves also become a factor in the creation of future conflicts (knight and Ozerdem, 2005). This paper includes a theoretical model for DDDR. I will continue to delve into the idea of DDR during this weekend.
I got the feedback on how to move forward from where I am now. The good news is I have articulated my research question. The bad news is, I spent too much time in reading Nepal’s history (I must say this is getting really interesting though). Now I need to develop the conceptual framework in order to analyze the challenges of democratization in Nepal.
I am reading the articles on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) approach. From my initial search, there are a lot of scholarly article out there on Africa, some on Columbia, Ireland and some other on Afghanistan.
The discourses say, the end of a war does not necessarily guarantee a country about stability. The introduction of a ceasefire, peace agreement or even discrete interventions seeking to disarm warring parties, does not necessarily guarantee improvements in the safety of either civilians or former combatants. Many so-called ‘post-conflict’ environments yield even more direct and indirect threats to civilians than the armed conflicts that preceded them (Muggah, 2007). For next few days, I will continue reading about the basic argument, challenges, and factors for DDR. I will also look for case studies on which triggered the success and failure of DDR.
Reading about the sharp Chinese contrasts about definition of Democracy reminds me of the childhood fable ‘Elephant and the Blind Men’. It is a story of a group of blind men (or men in the dark) who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one were able to touch a different part of the body. They then compare their experience and realize that they are in complete disagreement. Likewise, there is difference in views and understanding about the definition of democracy in China between elites and the rest.
Chinese synonym ‘Minzhu’ of democracy changed its meaning in line with the western concept. Dickson writes, the word has shifted its meaning from ‘chief of the people’ to ‘people are the chief’. How one defines a democracy has an impact on whether s/he is satisfied with the current practice. I have discussed Dickson’s argument on this at the conclusion. Now let’s move on to the elite understanding of democracy. The dominant ideology that rules China sees state and society in a harmony and the state would always promote the interest of the society. based on this, the elites upheld the idea that the country needs strong state in order to avoid threats from Western world. Thus the uncertainties in relation to election and individual opinion do not suit to the culture and situation of China. The elites rather promoted consultative forms of democracy and inner party democracy. There were other liberal views on democracy among Chinese elites, but they were heavily repressed by CCP in late 1990s.
The popular perception on the other hand have a varied perception of democracy. Ranges of definition came from the public survey. It covers from good government to institutions. Importantly, more than one-third of the respondents did not know what democracy actually means. These people mostly (70% of who don’t know the definition) reported they are satisfied and things are improving in the political arena. It seems that, if majority of the Chinese believe that the country has become more democratic (no matter whether they understand it or not), apparently there will be no major change in recent future in terms of how Westerns define democracy. If we combine the carrot-and-stick approach by the CCP along with these ideological differences, it illustrates how different Chinese groups have only been touching different parts of the Elephant (democracy) at DARK and remaining at peace as they are never seating together to discuss their experiences. The seating together does not even seem necessary in Chinese context!
I got some good constructive feedback from peer review. I am now reading about the ‘Panchayet system’ of Nepal which Riaz and Basu (2007) defines as ‘Quasi-Democracy’. There are multiple players and stakes throughout the political history of Nepal, which I am struggling to figure out how to incorporate in my research paper – the king with constitutional power, the Maoist rebels, the elected political party at the parliament, multiple ethnic groups with their agenda. There is India as well, a powerful neighbor which has the power to influence national politics and economics as well. To add more complexity, none of the parties of the game played as a unified force. They had dissents and conflicts within the group which led to further political insurgency and instability.
Like any Authoritarian Government, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has the ultimate goal of staying in the power. To fulfill this goal, they have been successfully applying the ‘carrots and sticks’ combination. CCP emphasized more on economic growth through modernization. By doing this, the party improved the living standard of the citizens. However, the living standard did not improve for all. CCP mostly allowed the people who would be a support for the party. This is one way they have been managing their affiliates or social elites. On the other hand, the party is rigorously repressing the dissent opinions and restricting information. Even after having the total control over everything, the party is gaining the popular support through promoting nationalism. CCP has been able to establish that the party has an international influence based on traditional Chinese values.
Seth in his blog correctly articulated the strategy that, CCP has been able to adapt with the change allowing just the right amount needed to stay in power. CCP brought many ‘reforms’ that are not intended to make China democratic, rather the changes altered the state-society relationship. Dickson mentioned the strategy as ‘combination of legitimation, co-optation and repression’. The long term weakness also lies in the combination as well. The inclusion of social elites has potential to lose the party cohesion and the economic growth may lead to public expectation for more openness.