By TD Fuego
25-April-2010. I was pottering about in the garden when I heard a female voice call out. I looked up and there she was standing at the gate — a pretty, smart young woman of 25 or thereabouts, dressed to the nines. Her immaculate hairdo and fresh makeup told me she must have come straight from the beautician.
“Bonjour, monsieur,” she said with a charming smile. Responding, I made for the gate.
As soon as I got there, she handed me a glossy card not unlike a wedding invitation, soliciting my presence at the Alliance (sorry I forget which one!) meeting at the local base that evening.
“Sorry, dear. But I never attend political meetings,” I said in all honesty.
The young lady seemed just a little flummoxed. Recovering her beautiful smile, she told me not to mind, but hoped she could count on my bloc vote on 5/5. In passing, have you noticed how, ever since those two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York on 11-Sep-2001 (short-handed to 9/11), it has become common practice to refer to all manner of events in those terms? Very ominous, I thought.
“Of course,” I said, lying through my teeth.
As long as the anomalous 1-man-3-votes is here to stay, only a complete fool will ever give all his 3 votes to the same party. Common sense tells us that Democracy can only thrive when there is an opposition — preferably a strong one — and, it is only by splitting our votes that we can all contribute towards the process of consolidating it.
The Killer Blow
But, if the 1-man-3-votes would seem to be a perversion of democracy (dixit Max, MT 02-Apr-2010), the killer blow to every democratic principle in the book has to be the Best Loser System (BLS). As a consequence of this incredible aberration, a candidate who has been rejected by the electorate — and lost the election — can still find himself sitting in Parliament, representing the very same electorate against its wishes. Some have even held ministerial posts, by getting in through this back door as it were.
Defendants of the BLS tell us that all this has to be done in the name of equity and balance. In practice, however, by doubling the perceived under-representation of any one community, the BLS creates its own disequilibrium. Apart from being totally undemocratic, it also adds a further 8 members to an already overcrowded House.
With 62 MPs for a population of 1.2m, we already have far too many representatives in our Parliament, a large number of whom are mere freeloaders aboard the right bandwagon, thanks to the bloc vote. Thus, we have one representative for every 20k of us — men, women and children. Compare this with 650 MPs for a population of 62m in the UK and you have a measure of the overkill in our system. But, not even a murmur from any of our politicians. Indeed, some talk about increasing their numbers to 100.
The actions of our political masters always seem to be at odds with their words. If the MMM talks of its main vote bank in the Creole community, it is derided for taking it as its “fixed deposit.” On the other hand, no one seems to find it odd that the LP takes it for granted that the rural constituencies, with their Hindu majority, will return a 3-0 in its favour. Maybe, they should call this one a “savings deposit” and ensure that no one ever taxes their interest!
Every party accuses the other of practicing communal tactics. Yet, each one makes sure that it only aligns a candidate who has the right profile; qualification and experience comes a poor second. It is little wonder, then, that we end up with complete novices in charge of important portfolios, often making a right royal hash of things. Year in, year out, we see the disastrous results of their glaring incompetence in the Director of Audit’s damning report. But, who cares?
Even before the elections, each party also makes sure that ministerial posts, the front bench, the back-bench and, even the under-bench are all representative of the famed rainbow. The reader would have noticed that, in all the ethnic, caste and religion based profiling, meritocracy is totally absent and does not even get a rear seat.
Time for change
This time round, out of 60 seats, the LP managed to get 41 and the MMM 18. Another 4 members and the LP would have had the 75 percent majority so wished for by the PM. Given the stranglehold that our PMs tend to have on the body polity of the country, this is the best result for the people because, and without casting any aspersions, it curtails any dictatorial tendencies the leader may nurture.
Unfortunately, the above figures belie the reality of our Pavlovian voting habits. It is mere coincidence that we have ended up with a reasonable opposition of 1-2. Because, out of 20 constituencies, an impressive 14 voted bloc. Had the LP made a coalition with the MMM, it is probable that we would have had a 60-0 result and, with it, the temptation for a dictatorship to emerge. Those who were advocating such a coalition, in the name of national unity (is there a national disunity?), obviously did not take into consideration this aspect of their goading.
To avoid bloc voting that may lead us to a dictatorship one day, it is essential that we review the system imposed on us by our British masters. For a start, we could reduce the number of MPs by a third and divide the country into 40 1-member constituencies. This would encourage a much-needed politics of proximity to emerge and rid us of the pernicious religion-ethnic-caste based politics that poisons our society today. Older readers will surely remember how, in the days of 1-man-1 vote, people voted for the party and not the man, whatever his religion, ethnicity or caste.
Of course, in order to consolidate the process, political parties would need to strengthen their local bureaus and empower them to choose their own candidates and not have one imposed from the Centre. If this were done, non-performing and absentee MPs would find themselves out on their ears next time round. Thus, instead of the mediocre, bootlicking bunch — “thanks to the brilliant vision of our great leader” — that comprises much of the Honourables sitting in the House, we would see the rise of a new generation of politicians, based on competence and selfless service.
Come on 2015!
Whilst I look forward to the changes that are bound to come one day, I can’t wait for the next general elections and the reason is simple. Normally, most youngsters just pass old men by and do not even bother to respond to their courteous bonjour. How wonderful, then, to be greeted by a pretty, smiling young thing for a change. Even if it is only for one’s bloc votes every 5 years!
* Published in print edition on 23 December 2010
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