Democracy in South Asia remains under assault as clouds of democratic dysfunction kept hovering over it. Historically, the region more often displayed a mirror image of profligate governance through establishing noxious autocratic and totalitarian rule but in recent time’s majority of states someway managed to enter in the architecture of democracy.
The current regional political status, specifically democracy is far more ambiguous and problematic than ever before. For instance after commencement of general elections in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan and by-polls in five states of India, the region apparently entered into new phase of democratic transitions but appraisal of electoral process suggests that elections once again subverted primacy of civilian rule and ameliorated interests of ruling elites rather framing liberalized ordering principles to better serve the general masses. Subsequently, in recent year Sri-Lanka and Maldives experienced democratic setbacks through flaring political turmoil and volatility.
Whereas, two Himalayan kingdom’s-Bhutan and Nepal facing unprecedented socio-political challenges under the monarchic rule. At the core, Afghanistan- more often known for its insubstantiality of governance system due to excessive foreign interventions sums up the dismal picture of the regional governance system.
After experiencing years of controlled democracy, crude majornitnisam again exercised in Bangladesh when Awami League party-led alliance outplayed opposition-led alliance by winning 288 seats of the parliament and Sheikh Hasina re-elected Prime Minister for the third consecutive time in general elections. In addition, numerous irregularities in the electoral process and violence upsurge raised apprehensions in its transparency and credibility.
Similarly, War-torn Afghanistan governed through the US-backed National Unitary Government after the fall of Taliban regime into hands of International Security Assistance Force. Nominal Presidential elections held in Afghanistan last year, yet another failed experiment with 35% voter turnout cast bloodshed in deadliest attacks by Taliban and ISIL, indicating that fragile state failed to contemplate the process of democracy.
Pakistan shared an extensive history of mis-governance due to democratic dysfunction and military interventions but it managed to recuperate democracy in the post-Musharraf regime era. Now trajectory of democratic transition after the general elections 2018 entered into another era of civilian rule by undermining and obsoleting wholly undemocratic options exercised in past.
Unlike other nascent regional democracies, apparently, India holds worldwide recognition for anchoring efficacious civilian supremacy through longstanding democratic colossus. However, its nuance of democracy preluded with scepticism that how far it prevailed to ensure the fundamental principle of “Democracy for the people”. For instance, the country still wedged in the clout of multifaceted secessionist movements in the state of Kashmir, Khalistan, Assam, Tripura, and Nagaland. Under the shadow of a democratic regime, the history of flagrant violence and human right violations in IOK tattered its claims of profound secular state and largest democracy of the world.
In Sri-Lanka prolonged military rule and civil warfare came to a stalemate in the year 2009 but hardly having a decade of stability caught into another turmoil when a power struggle between ruling political elites erupted countrywide strikes and protests. Nevertheless, the intervention of the Supreme Court resolved the deadlock and it reduced the danger of derailing democracy.
Adding further, similar circumstances sufficed in the Maldives at the beginning of the year 2018 when a simmering political crisis occurred after arrest order of Chief justice of Supreme Court by President Abdullah Yamen who generally accused of seeking power through rigged elections back in the year 2013. However, that circumstantial evidence unfolded manifold factors-temptation of majoritarianism, ethnonationalism and political leadership deficit that sunk democracy into enduring crisis.
Taking recent patterns of governance and political developments in the account, the triumph of ruled based democracy is obsolescing whereas seemingly nominal democratic culture is on the rise in South Asia. History also indicates that the vicious nature of governance system in the region aggrandize multifaceted challenges in nourishing consolidated democratic architecture and fortifying perpetual peace. In most cases, regional governance trends are rooted in autocracy, plutocracy, oligarchy, and democracy substantially confined to electoral practices only most of the cases. Military hardliners overwhelmingly intervened the institutional structures due to the power vacuum created by institutional disharmony and failure of political leadership. Amid of contemporary geopolitical intrigues and intensifying protracted conflicts with fewer economic accomplishment, states entangled in a web of persistent traditional and non-traditional security challenges, thus the establishment of democratic governance never remained in prime focus.
Furthermore, deleterious situation catalyzed conundrums of illiberal totalitarian regimes which sowed anarchist mindset in the majority of regional countries. The fragility of regional security architecture due to menace of terrorism, ethnic and religious polarization, intra and interstate conflicts, cross borders’ strains and above all Afghanistan quagmire jeopardized possibilities of shaping regional governance patterns in aligned with western democratic culture.
Retrospect of Asian governance culture suggests that flourishment of democracy is nescient, nominal and sporadic in nature rather consolidated. For instance, Central Asian region shares an extensive history of communist dominance prior to the disintegration of USSR and newly born states more or less facing similar challenges like South Asian countries. Likewise, South East Asian region experienced multifarious governance systems-nonaligned to the democratic stability. Henceforth, a trait of democratic diffusion becomes redundant due to unfavourable democratic culture for countries of South Asia in their surroundings.
Sluggish Economies has a major role to play in South Asian democratic process. The financial and economic crisis has overturned the ability of nascent democratic governments to deal gigantic structural deficits. Consequently ignoring the essence of long term investment, countries opt loans from allies and international financial institutions as short term measures to facilitate general population that created an imbalance between finances and budget leads to floundering of debt-finance democratic architecture. If the current democratic status prolongs further, there is the possibility of reverting of few states back to authoritarian or autocratic rule. Thus it is imperative to consolidate democracy through reinforcing structural reforms much aligned with the democratic values to ensure civil supremacy.