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The hybrid system of Nepal

A hybrid system is a mixed type of political regime that emerges from an authoritarian regime due to an incomplete democratic transition. Hybrid systems combine autocratic features with democratic ones, that is, they can simultaneously conduct political repression and legal political struggle. The term “hybrid system” owes its existence to a polymorphous view of political regimes that opposes the dichotomy of autocracy or democracy. Hybrid systems are characteristic of resource countries (petro-states). Such regimes are stable and enduring.

Mountain Landscape in Himalaya. Piramid of stones. Annapurna South peak, Hiun Chuli, Nepal, Mardi Himal track.

Western researchers analyzing hybrid systems focus mainly on the decorative nature of democratic institutions (elections do not lead to a change of power, different media broadcast the same thing, the “opposition” in parliament votes the same way as the ruling party, etc.), which leads to the conclusion that hybrid systems are based on authoritarianism, but hybrid systems also imitate dictatorship, while having a relatively lower (punctual) level of violence.

According to Thomas Karozers, hybrid political systems are typical of some countries, including the state of Nepal. This article reveals what attributes make Nepal one of the countries with a hybrid system and how it affects the country’s economy.

Signs of a hybrid system

Signs of a hybrid system according to G. O’Donnell, F. Schmitter, L. Diamond (researched the differences from polyarchy), T. Karozers:

  • Presence of external attributes of democracy (elections, multiparty, legal opposition);
  • Low degree of representation of citizens’ interests in political decision-making (incompetence of citizens’ associations, for instance, trade unions, or their controllability to the state);
  • Low level of political participation of the population;
  • Declarativeness of political rights and freedoms (formally, they exist, but it is actually difficult to implement them);
  • Low level of citizens’ trust in political institutions.

Since the restoration of multi-party democracy in the country in 1990, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal guarantees human rights and fundamental freedoms to all its citizens. In practice, however, laws do not always take effect and sometimes contradict each other.

According to the current constitution, Nepal is a constitutional monarchy. The form of government is a parliamentary democracy. Executive power was vested in the prime minister and his cabinet, who are accountable to the lower house of parliament, which is elected by direct vote.

The constitution could be amended or repealed by a two-thirds majority of each house of parliament. The preamble of the constitution, which recognizes the Nepalese people as the source of supreme power, is not subject to any amendment. After passing in both houses of parliament, an amended constitutional bill must receive royal assent.

The first political parties in Nepal were established in the 1930s. For a long time they operated illegally and were persecuted. After Ran was ousted from power in 1951, most parties were allowed to operate. During this period, dozens of organizations emerged to serve the ambitions of their leaders. 

After political parties were banned in 1961, various factions of the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party continued their illegal activities. The success of the democratic movement in 1990 led to significant changes in the social life of the country. The activities of political parties were legalized. In 1991 alone the Electoral Commission registered 47 parties, of which 19 took part in the parliamentary elections.

By the parliamentary elections of 1994 the number of registered parties was increased to 65. Twenty-four parties nominated their candidates. The main parties participated in several coalition governments. The rather complicated ethnic situation in the country determines the existence of many regional parties reflecting the interests of national and religious minorities.

The significance of a hybrid system for a country

Full-fledged (liberal) democracies are built on key things such as universal suffrage, free and fair elections held on a regular basis, more than one ruling political party, multiple independent media, support for human rights, and unhindered decision-making by elites or outside influential figures. 

The absence of any key element of democracy allows the regime to be classified as a problem democracy, the most common type of problem democracy is illiberal democracy, a term proposed by Farid Zakaria and similar to delegative democracy, but differs from it in its lack of constitutionalism and public competition.


The example of Nepal shows that innovation in a hybrid system is often characterized by the complexity – at least seemingly – of the contradictory elements and layers of the legal system. There may be a tendency to choose the dominant or most readily available solution. This paper assumes that the hybrid nature of the legal system offers opportunities that can be used to achieve effective change and appropriate solutions.