Monday, April 9, 2007

The Covenant

Let us not deceive ourselves. Politicians are in the business of obtaining votes. Few admit to it but, to his credit, Basdeo Panday has made it clear on many occasions that his business in politics is simply in obtaining power. It was, after all, the motivation behind the now infamous Crowne Plaza Agreement of 2001 which failed so miserably that one must wonder what more it must take for supposedly experienced politicians to get their act together for the good of the country. And it is only then that you realize, or more accurately, it is consciously imposed on you that our politicians hardly ever have the interest of the country at heart in devising their political shenanigans.

As things stand currently, there will be a massive splitting of votes in the upcoming General Elections that will see the incumbent PNM win a majority of House seats quite comfortably. The population stands on the cusp of some serious decision making. No election in the history of this country has ever been more important. It is truly damning that Patrick Manning’s approval rating in Trinidad and Tobago is worse than George W. Bush’s in the USA, yet the major polls predict a landslide win for his party.

This is an overwhelming indication of the potential that vote splitting has in the First Past the Post system of elections. There can be no doubt that there is a desire for change. There is also no doubt that the population has become increasingly apathetic, fed up of 51 years of the same type of politics. There is a leadership vacuum with no clear heir to assume the position. In Medieval England, this would be solved by war, with the ascension to the throne of a new Royal Line. Our democracy, however, places us in the quagmire of returning spent forces to our legislative chambers and creating political dinosaurs.

Perhaps what is needed is a benevolent dictator to pull us out of our current predicament and set this country back onto a solid footing with a relatively efficiently functioning judicial, financial, health and education systems. But that is not even a viable option at this stage.

The solution lies not in Panday’s call for unity or Winston Dookeran’s rejection of any form of dialogue. Even though they may possess dichotomous personalities, their respective decisions and strategies simply culminate in a recipe for a PNM victory in the upcoming polls. One can be Machiavellian and adopt Panday’s pragmatic approach or settle for the inevitably futile method of Dookeran. Or one can compromise.

A compromise is not an alliance or an unification. It is not a repeat of 1986 or 1995. It lies in this middle aged Republic taking yet another step toward political maturity. We must come to embrace politics as if it were run like a corporate entity. If the Opposition forces are serious about unseating the incumbent, then they must negotiate a method by which they themselves contest the election against a single party rather than against each other as well as the incumbent.

The only verdict is that the warring factions must come to the table, not in an attempt to merge their parties or compromise their principles. There is a reason that the two parties are now separate, and it is no coincidence that much of that has to do on differing views on principles and integrity. However, an agreement concerning the contesting of seats in such a manner that no constituency proffers more than two viable candidates, the incumbent and the negotiated opposition candidate is perhaps the most vital of any in the hope of mounting a serious challenge. Following this agreement, and prior to the election, agreements must also be made on which party nominates the positions of Prime Minister, Attorney General, Minister of Finance, Minister of National Security and Minister of Foreign Affairs, subject to success at the polls.

This method seeks to bring bout some semblance of respectability to the process while allowing for the will of the people to be expressed in such a way that people are not felt cheated in the final outcome. It also allows the parties to maintain their identities without being drowned in a soup of conundrums if a merger were to take place. It also allows a simmering of suspicions between the organizations since there will be no attempt to dissolve one or both, in the name of forming a new entity.

Our only hope for a change of government at this point is a coalition, a covenant if you will, of the separate parties of the UNC and COP, not an alliance or unification.
The people will unite on their own volition, not on the manipulations of politicians. The politicians’ jobs are simply to ensure that the will of the people is manifest adequately at the highest levels of administration in the country, whilst maintaining integrity, accountability, transparency, decency and honesty.

It is perhaps the best solution to a situation that has no good solutions.

‘Don't sacrifice your political convictions for the convenience of the hour’- Edward Kennedy.

Sun Apr 08, 2007
03:16 A.M.

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