Persisting Uncertainty

It is really too bad that the visit of Shrimati Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs and Overseas Indians Affairs, Republic of India, came to a close so soon. Though short, it was a moving and inspiring visit, marked by the decorum and dignity displayed by the Indian Minister and which came like a breath of fresh air in the suffocating pre-electoral atmosphere currently hanging over the Island. The visit was indeed a welcome reprieve from the trash that is being bandied about on political platforms these days and that, out of respect for our readers, we dare not reproduce in the columns of this paper. Some may say that this phenomenon is inevitable, given the high political stakes involved, but they are certainly avoidable and thus can be shunned altogether. But that seems too much to expect from the local tribe.

A number of distractions have made their way into the political harangues during these last weeks; They have to do with issues such as old-age pensions, voting age, tax exemptions, etc – issues that are not likely to impact on the long- term stability of this country. What have been conveniently swept under the carpet to date are the terms and conditions underlying the foundation of the Labour-Party electoral alliance. Those that relate to the Alliance Lepep are not likely to cause any upset to our constitutional framework: the framework will not be modified, and the rules of the game insofar as the electoral system and political governance are concerned will thus be preserved, which therefore makes it clear and predictable.

On the other hand, the Labour Party-MMM combine have built their ‘partnership’ on the strength of three underlying principles: equal sharing of electoral tickets between the two parties on a 50/50basis; electoral reform, namely the introduction of 20 Party List seats “so as to ensure party and gender fairness and to subsume the current BLS into a new dispensation for rainbow representation”; sharing of power by the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister in the context of a Second Republic – it is proposed that the Constitution will be amended to provide for effective additional powers and substantive responsibilities to be exercised by the President of the Republic. What we are talking about here looks very much like a three-legged stool political agreement that its advocates profess would take the country forward.

A parliamentary majority of ¾ is required to achieve this political agenda, and it is not clear at this point in time whether this majority will be achieved by the Labour-MMM alliance. But that is beside the fundamental point that needs to be addressed and thrashed out by the electorate, which has every right to know what it’s in for before it mandates the political leadership to push forward with this agenda. The devil lies in the details, it is said, so let the people get to read the fine print for it to decide whether the LP-MMM proposals are in the best interests of the country and of their respective parties. Strictly speaking, therefore, the projets de loi should be made public and debated before the general elections, otherwise these elections would be made to serve as a referendum to achieve what looks like a political subterfuge. As has been said before, an independent body, or a Commission, must be given the responsibility of preparing a draft of the proposed changes and their full implications in both the short and long terms. This must then be widely discussed, modified suitably according to the prevailing views and then only be presented on an electoral platform. The failure to do this makes the project suspect.

On the other hand, the people have every right to know whether simulations have been made as to what would be the likely electoral outcomes, should the electoral reform proposals be passed, in the case of different electoral scenarios – LP vs MMM-MSM; LP-MSM vs MMM – in future elections, and what are the potential implications in these scenarios. What do we stand to gain, what do we stand to lose?

All these doubts, with no willing clarifications coming forth from the Alliance partners, arise from this three-legged stool arrangement that, as the points ventilated above have shown, carries inherently the seeds of permanent instability. It can therefore topple over any time.

 

* Published in print edition on 7  November 2014

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