Rumours were doing the rounds in political circles earlier this year about a proposal to bring together the LP, the PMSD and the MMM into a political alliance after their debacle at the last elections. What gave some substance to that rumour was the proposal then made by the leader of the Labour Party, who had canvassed the idea of a common boycott of the Presidential Address by the opposition parties in Parliament, namely the MMM, the PMSD and the Labour Party. And, with a view to remaining “consistent” with the LP-PMSD-MMM opposition’s challenge of the November 2019 general elections, he had also suggested that the Opposition should refrain from participating in the parliamentary debates on the Government Programme.
A common stand could not be reached due to the divergent views of the MMM and the PMSD. The PMSD leader had ruled out the LP leader’s suggestion for non-participation in the parliamentary debates, but decided that it would instead go for a “symbolic boycott” of the Presidential Address – thus giving rise to speculation that there would be more behind the words of the PMSD leader. It would seem that the new dynamics operating at the level of the electorate, coupled with its own electoral weight, might have prompted the PMSD to rethink its positioning on the political spectrum. The new dynamics that have developed on the political stage are in large part due to the doings, rather mis-doings of the current government. A number of controversies around the appointment of highly remunerated persons close to politicians in power to positions in public bodies has become a major preoccupation for the country. The government has just done exactly or even worse than what the public had been reproaching previous governments of doing: being over-generous towards cronies by drawing from the public purse, i.e. taxpayer money.
In spite of knowing about the daunting economic issues that were facing it and that demanded urgent solution, it began to shoot itself in the foot during the rather short time in office with a long trail of scandals – from the power plant re-development project to the highly controversial procurement of medicines and equipments during the confinement period. To catch up from the harm it has done is not easy. Moreover, it is hemmed in by numerous potential risks. These might arise from the various challenges from the opposition parties as regards the conduct of the last general elections as well as the unfavourable international economic climate which is made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As we have argued many a time in this paper, a vibrant democracy requires a credible opposition. This has been lacking since the coming to power of the current government. The opportunity exists, and the circumstances demand that this lacuna be filled promptly. It is too early in the day to speak in terms of an alliance of the Labour Party-MMM-PMSD proper, with the next elections four long years away. Jean-Claude de L’Estrac in his interview to this paper last week poses as a determining issue the question of who will lead this ‘alliance’ at the next election, and thinks it is not too early to answer it.
However, we take a slight different view, though we also concur that this issue must be resolved at the earliest possible, despite the fact that the election is still a few years away. We feel that while working towards a formal alliance, if ever that were to materialize, making their presence felt as a solid common front in the meantime should send a strong signal to the government that they mean business, especially if their stands on the various matters of national concern are coordinated with the Parliamentary Opposition’s.
This will definitely send another signal that there is a unity of concern and approach towards the problems that the country is facing. However, we should add that besides criticizing government actions or policies as well as unraveling the irregularities that we are being bombarded with, they should also come up with concrete, positive and actionable solutions to the problems. Even if government should spurn these, the common front will thereby beef up its credibility, and these solutions can be debated and further refined as they go along.
What happens next may not lie within the control of the opposition parties themselves for a lot of water will certainly flow under the bridge, but it would not do any harm if they could also start with rebuilding and reinventing themselves through internal reordering and democratization. By taking such a call they will be ensuring their future relevance on the political landscape.
* Published in print edition on 28 July 2020