What would have been surprising would have been if the results had been otherwise, that is, the MSM-backed or leaning factions had obtained a landslide victory. What these results seem to indicate is that the uncovering of so many irregularities and dysfunctions in the governance of the country have definitely had an impact on a good proportion of the citizenry, sufficient enough for them to show their dissatisfaction by voting for the opposing forces that were aligned. The successful management of the Covid-19 pandemic has not been a strong enough counterweight against the negative image that has been trailing the government to date, and that looks set to endure. Unless…
Unless, that is, the government is more forthcoming in the elucidation and explanation of a number of dark zones that continue to plague several matters of national concern. And these have to be explicited in a clear and convincing communication exercise that has been lacking so far, not least being the cavalier manner in which questions being asked in Parliament are being handled. This compounds the bad image that already prevails, more so since debates are now televised live and people can form their own opinions. After all, they are literate, educated, and able to judge for themselves standards of behaviour and practice by comparison with other, more mature jurisdictions, and are less and less hesitant about expressing their anger and disgust. And since any direct confrontation is likely to be met with uncommon force, they have made judicious use of the ballot to express themselves.
Together with these dysfunctions, there is another perception that has gained ground, and that is that those close to the power nexus are out to make as much for themselves as is possible at the expense of the people. In other words, they are busy enriching themselves in the face of a calamity so widespread – the pandemic – that, as they acknowledge themselves, there is as yet no end in sight for the crisis.
On the other hand, people are also irked by the repeated refusal of the authorities to provide information about the modalities and conditionalities attached to the generous fiscal stimulus packages accorded to various companies and businesses, attempts to do so in Parliament being waived off summarily, or squarely ignored.
Jobs are being lost, salaries are being curtailed, thousands of families – and therefore many more thousands of people – are failing to provide enough for themselves, let alone being able to put aside anything for the future which every sensible family would do. On the contrary they are having to draw upon whatever savings – if any – that they have, and naturally these are dwindling. Savings can only go so far after all. They therefore see the future as bleak, and are not comforted by the official narratives that seek to reassure them that things are going to look up. Especially not in view of the proposed dismantling of the NPF with the money being transferred to the Consolidated Fund which everybody knows is used to fund the Budget, whereas the NPF acts as an autonomous reserve which guarantees that pensions are paid.
Under more favourable circumstances, that is if the economic situation were really better or there were promising prospects of forthcoming significant improvements and restoration of lost employment, etc, this shift at the polls may not have been so much a matter of concern. After all, interim polls everywhere always downgrade the ruling team.
But things are different. Although there are four more years to go before the general elections are held, there is no saying how things will pan out on the economic front. There is therefore much that needs to be done if this shift is to be reversed – but that the people have signalled that they want change so early in the government’s mandate is unmistakable.
* Published in print edition on 24 November 2020