Elections and under-representation in democratizing Nepal: Electoral laws, party system and patronage, and weak mobilization of marginalized groups
This study examines why under-representation of marginalized groups continued in Nepal during the 1990s even after repeated competitive elections. Democratization is supposed to include more people and groups progressively when polities become more competitive (Dahl 1971). Periodic competitive elections are said to increase representation of previously under-represented groups as electoral competition pushes political parties to recruit more groups for support and votes, or new political parties emerge to represent the previously under-represented groups. Recent studies have pointed out that repetitive periodic elections have led to democratization in Africa (Lindberg 2009; Gyimah-Boadi 1999) and elsewhere (Eisenstadt 1999; Schedler 2002). Countries like India went through further democratization through increased representation of formerly under-represented ethnic/caste groups after repeated elections (Yadav 1999; Jaffrelot 2003). However despite universal adult franchise and three competitive parliamentary elections during the 1990s, marginalized groups continued to be under-represented in Nepal (Lawoti 2005), depriving them from having effective participation in political decision-making processes, which, many argue, is a necessary condition for a polity to be truly democratic (Dahl 1989). While relative powerlessness of elections for further democratization in Latin American countries where democracy was introduced before the Second World War has been pointed out (McCoy and Hartlyn 2009), the Nepali case will shed light on why and how under-representation of marginalization group can continue despite periodic elections. The Nepali case is interesting methodically because representation of marginalized groups increased after a regime change in 2006 brought about by the decade long Maoist civil war and a subsequent popular movement in 2006 against the monarchy. Representation of marginalized groups increased after the country became a secular republic and introduced electoral reform, and the marginalized groups’ mobilization sharply increased. Thus, Nepal allows reflexive comparison to arrive at more robust findings. Different representation level in the two epochs with different electoral methods (plurality versus mixed proportional), different party systems (two versus multi-party), and different level of mobilization of marginalized groups (weak versus heightened) will allow us to examine whether electoral method, mobilization level, and party system contributed in the under-representation during the 1990s. The paper will examine the role of ethnic patronage (Chandra 2004) by examining if higher level of control of major political parties by the dominant caste group (indicated by control over leadership) led to lower representation of marginalized groups by comparing the status of major parties as well as individual party over time. Likewise, I will also compare internal democracy (high or low level of local influence in parliamentary candidate selection, in a context where many national minority groups are dominant and more influential at local levels) across the major political parties over time to see if under-representation of marginalized groups is starker in parties with lower internal democracy. I collected electoral data of five elections to analyze ethnic/caste representation and conducted archival search, interviews, and secondary literature review to analyze leadership structure and internal democracy of major political parties, mobilization level of marginalized groups and the evolving party system across the years.