A Novel Route to Ministerial Post?

13 February 2020

Democracy is a beautiful thing. It allows you to set up your own political party if you feel like it, even if there are already more than enough cargo vessels around to transport your goods to the people. Some of the political parties that have been formed have withstood the test of time, while others are struggling to survive. One particular political party which was formed sometime during the fourth quarter of 2019 was ‘hijacked’ by its acting President, got its ‘founding members’ angered, and somehow disappeared from the scene the next moment. Our multi-party system of government which was fragmented out of the original two big parties is organised much more along lines of ‘personality politics rather than ideology’, resulting in confusion and uncertainty among illinformed voters.

For instance, at least 3 brand new political parties have now been formed on the volcano-ravaged island of Ambae within a matter of just four years since the 2016 general election. Two of these very recently out of personality clashes with their original big parties. Their policies are no different from what they were used to before. They promise ‘unity’ now when they could have united people behind them all along. So what’s the point about unity in 2020?

Angai Tagaro, the older of the three new political parties, suffers from an identity crisis self-inflicted by the very name it bears, which is strictly limited to only one island in this entire country. The views of many are that the movement will remain a ‘one-island political movement’ as it has no real relationship even with its two neighbouring islands within the Penama provincial grouping. It’s growth potential is therefore hampered by its delimiting cultural reference.

The other two newer parties – fresh from the farm (not really!) – don’t offer much in terms of serious policy changes. Their contributions in the past, if any, appear to have been focused more on a very narrow constituent of their electorate than on the wider population. Key lesson for our time, when you are voted into Parliament, you are no longer just an MP of your electors but of your entire constituency, which also includes those who did not vote for you. If you’re talking about real and impartial leadership, this is it.

So, is it the Political Party or the Person?

The story is told of a former MP who had been MP for some 20 years and who held ministerial portfolios during some of his terms. Came election time one particular year, he went out again to campaign. A former voter asked during question time, ‘Former MP, why are you now standing again? Did you forget something under the red roof that you feel you need to go back for?’ The question needs to be asked again, is it the political party or the person?

A Novel Route to Ministerial Post?

Something that is said to be ‘novel’ is one that is ‘interestingly new or unusual’. The days of one-party rule seem to be over. We will have to continue to survive under unstable coalition Governments.

But those coalitions continue to become increasingly fragmented by splinter groups, the birth of new political parties, and the ever increasing rise of ‘independent’ candidates. Everybody wants to become a state Minister under any Government. That’s what got us into trouble with the creation of Parliamentary Secretary (PS) posts, which are now before the courts ready for initial hearing at 9am on 25th February.

The 12th legislature will most probably not change anything. Now that those PS positions are declared illegal, are we going to plunge ourselves into the same instability we’ve suffered in the past?

The most interesting phenomena and trend to date, albeit being unspoken but pretty obvious from recent trends, is that if you want to be given any chances at all at the negotiation table of being recognised and respected as a potential state Minister in any new Government, you have to at least be a political party ‘President’ or party Secretary General (SG). Eventually that strategy will fail as we witness an increasing number of new political parties being born and more presidents walking onto the political playground. If we go by that unwritten rule, even then, only 13 political party presidents can be given Ministerial portfolios. How about the rest of the hopeful but unfortunate presidents and ordinary MPs? That being the case, what’s the point of creating more political parties?

Should you stand?

A piece of humorous incident might help to conclude this article on a slightly light-hearted note.

This meeting had ended. As I was about to drive off, a familiar official walked over and asked if he could be given a lift back to his office. He hopped in the car and we left. Halfway between the meeting venue and the guy’s office he started an interesting conversation that he somehow thought would impress the driver.

‘Bro’, he starts, ‘this is my final year at work…next year I’m going back to the island’ (this conversation happened back in 2017). I asked why. He replied, ‘the people want me to stand for election in 2020’. ‘Oh really’?, I asked. Story continues into day dreaming and ends on the main road outside his office. When you look at the guy in terms of his performance – zero, yet he wants to go and represent a people.

Some of the political hopefuls running in 2020 are like this poor fellow. Even if they’ve already been in the field before, same story. When you look at their track record you wonder why they’re still eager to stand. Maybe they’ve forgotten something under the red roof that they need to go back for – like the disillusioned voter who questioned his former MP? Only God knows their real motives.

That’s one of the reasons why democracy is a beautiful thing – it also allows day-dreamers to imagine things.

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