Update: What had previously been wrangling is about to get a whole lot more intense. The Maoists’ coalition has collapsed with allied parties resigning in protest at their sacking of the disobedient general. Masses of protesters from both sides have come onto the streets. What happens next is highly uncertain.
In Nepal, a democratic election hasn’t changed the fact that the now-ruling party has one set of armed forces, and the now-opposition parties/traditional state has another. Both forces have a history of ‘human rights abuse’. In the unstable political climate there, the newly-elected Maoists won’t be secure in power until they’ve integrated their ‘people’s warriors’ into the state armed forces, and decisively asserted control over the same.
But the leaders of the army are refusing to let this happen, and the opposition parties are supporting them in such a stance – quite possibly out of a by-no-means-unreasonable fear that once the army is packed with Maoist guerillas, the Maoists will be able to use it against any and all opponents.
Hence political wrangling. At least that’s how it looks to me. What this, I think, illustrates, is the requirements for representative democracy. Where the extra-governmental parts of the state, especially the armed forces, are divided – i.e., are not sufficiently neutral between parties – there can’t be a proper, constitutional ‘contest’ between those parties. In Nepal, where both sides have a partisan army, they are constantly wrangling to avoid an outbreak of war. Thailand illustrates this in a different way; where the state ‘machinery’ all favours one party, winning a lot of elections won’t get their rivals into power.
To put it another way, for representative democracy to work, there needs to be sufficient consensus among rival parties, and sufficient agreement between those parties and the rest of the state. But in that case what we’re looking at is really undemocratic elite rule based on a certain program, with democratic decision between two versions of that program.