By T.P. Saran
After their defeat at the polls recently, which was preceded by the bleeding of the MMM as several of its stalwarts left the party for greener horizons, not much has been heard about what’s happening to them except for the cases lodged in Court to contest results of the general election in certain constituencies.
It is true that the irregularities that have surfaced, such as the finding of vote bulletins dans la nature, are very concerning indeed and have rattled the Electoral Commissioner’s Office and the Electoral Supervisory Commission, whose credibility as institutions have suffered a knock. But they will no doubt be ready with solid defences to explain these anomalies when they appear in Court, as cases have already been entered to contest the results in a few constituencies. We have to await the outcome and it would be premature at this stage to make any speculation, although there is a broad view that there is unlikely to be any major change in the overall political or governmental configuration.
This means to say that the MSM-led government that emerged out of the general election with a strong majority might continue to be in the saddle, assured of its mandate for the next five years. With the nomination of party faithfuls, such as the President and Vice-President and probably others yet to come, the MSM will further consolidate its hold on power and the institutions. But as is known, it is the autonomy of institutions that undergirds the strength of a country and beefs up the image of a government. Taken together, this lays the ground for the possible or potential renewal of mandate of the incumbent.
One of the major political responsibilities of the power regime is therefore to ensure and demonstrate the strength of its institutions, and in a democracy this means also allowing an equally strong opposition to function. Together, government and opposition must then commit to serving the people by means of the transparent frameworks that will provide both the governance structures and also the answers to the queries raised on behalf of the people by its representatives.
When the National Assembly resumes its work after the New Year, the Opposition under the leadership of Hon Arvind Boolell must therefore be ready for the sparring and ask the probing parliamentary questions that will challenge the government to come up with its best foot forward. After all, it is solidly in command and in control. It can afford to play the game honourably as it has a track record to show and to build upon.
That is one aspect of the challenge which the opposition parties face. On the other hand, in parallel, perhaps the more important development that must take place is the internal reorganization of the defeated parties, with a serious rethink about their leadership, as well as not only more strongly anchoring their presence at local level but also cogitate about their revival for long-term survival – precisely because of the need to keep consolidating democracy at the national level.
By the same token, this democratic pulse must also inform the parties. For any political party which allows its fortunes to be hitched to the personal political ideologies and private conveniences of its leadership, which are usually of a short term nature, is bound to stagnate and ultimately most likely to flounder on the rocks. For it is not always the case that the interests of the leadership should or do coincide with those of the Party. When they do not, both get inevitably censured by the electorate, as it did in the case of Labour Party (LP) in December 2014. The LP failed to appreciate this principle again, and as a result it paid the price for a second time this year.
As for the bigger picture, one cannot fail to acknowledge that the foundations of a just, caring and democratic society through the establishment of the welfare state, free education, appropriate constitutional safeguards for all irrespective of class or creed, among other such critical fundamentals, were laid down by the Labour Party, then manned by a forward looking leadership committed to the national interest. Does the result of the 2019 election – contested or not — demonstrate that the people who were decisive in tilting the balance of power in favour of the MSM felt that it is that party which now represents that forward looking leadership? The LP leadership and its apparatchiks would do well to ponder that question.
On another note, on the principle that a democracy needs a strong opposition to function properly through a system of checks and balances, the need for a party or parties that can play this role effectively is paramount. And since the electorate has shunned any ‘third force’ – despite the clamour for it – it is alas the traditional parties that the people must fall back on.
However, given the changed times and higher expectations in terms of proper and adequate methods of going about to lead a party, it is important that a solid structure and process be put in place to ensure that any party thereby becomes self-sustaining for the future, continuing through the selection of leadership based on merit rather than personality cult.
That is assuredly the most desirable way forward for parties which aspire to be the architects of our political future. This mean to continue giving the labouring masses their true dignity and allowing them to improve their lot. For historical reasons LP on its own now deserves such a dignity too, and it is only through a genuinely and similarly democratic system within the party that this will come about – and also enhance the dignity of the eventual leader as well as his credibility both in the party and vis-à-vis the country. It is not too early to begin the process of internal change that will prepare for the future.
* Published in print edition on 6 December 2019