vendredi 22 juillet 2011

Democracy Delayed By Bernard Georges : My Very First Reaction

At last!
Somebody has provided a blunt and frank overview of the sickness in our land!
It would be a grave error for the powers that be to shrug off the disturbing truths about the overall conditions in Seychelles’ electoral system as a mere inevitable inconvenience coming from the other side of the fence.

That it is so, does not make the diagnosis any less valid.

Our Democracy can be likened to a sick patient in hospital.
The patient is gravely ill. Propping him up, dressing him up in nice clothes and proper make up may provide comfort but will not make the sickness go away.

It is time to heed the voice from the other end of the hospital corridor, from the 'Practicien' whom no one wants to hear, but who at least seems more concerned with providing a cure and a discharge than in ensuring comfort before burial.

Perhaps it is true that if democracy is our common way to the future, then multi-party pluralism in its current format may not be the most suitable medium, in that the latter, in all the years since 1964 (bar the 1977-1992 one party rule) has done nothing but to institute and perpetuate a national 55-45 divide of win-or-lose-all.

The question that perhaps need to be put is why does the incumbent government resolutely fails to understand that, in order for democracy to be allowed to take deep root and flourish, winning the majority vote, while it gives legitimate claim to the right to govern and rule, also demands that the woes and merit of the minority vote not be committed to the dustbin. Doing so can be an indication that, in the final analysis, what is sought is not democracy for itself, but to remain in power and using democracy as a convenient tool to achieve this goal.

Can one reasonably argue that only the Parti Lepep has the genuine better interest of the nation and that its leaders and representatives at all levels, the sole advocate for a better Seychelles? That any voice that rises to the contrary is devoid of merit? Or have we already crossed the line and we now find ourselves pitted on either side of the intolerance line, doomed to systematically oppose and ignore the other?

There are sufficient wise voices that arise and speak, in the interest of democracy and ultimately, for a better and vibrant civilised politics in Seychelles. Sadly, the voices are never heeded. Partisan interests are staked too high to allow the mechanisms of democracy to do anything but turn the wheels of power the way it is deemed it must be turned. That’s what the outright media control, imperfect election playing field, chequered political party financial support, polling-day check –points, voter assistance, voter intimidation, vote-buying, outright bribery, etc; are there for, along with blithely ignoring appeals for reforms and electoral corruption to be curtailed.

Perpetuating this mentality of winning election as an end in itself, may prove to be fatal to our democracy. The losing side may despair from their voices raised over flawed electoral laws and outright fraud never getting a fair chance at being heard. It may risk imploding into radicalised cells, eventually forcing necessary change as happened with the 2004 Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” and similar others throughout history , or like the current so-called “Arab Spring”.

We must hope that our country is far removed from this frightful spectre. And yet, violent overthrow of governments was something that, until 1977, was a reality we only related to on a detached level from the radio news bulletins.
And yet, when it actually hit us on the 5th June, it came through also as a result of the then electoral minority having despaired from ever receiving fair representation and attention by continued allegiance to democratic principles of the time. Does History therefore not hold a lesson for us?

M. Georges makes a compelling case. His arguments are fact-based and verifiable. Some reasoning are obviously weighted by virtue of his political stance, the latter deliberately admitted, perhaps in a bid to free us from the petty shackles of partisan politics.

There seems to be broad consensus that reforms are necessary. The new electoral champion has admitted so much through the recent amendments of the Constitution and the proposed other reforms in campaign funding, district authorities, ect.

The way forward from this point may be not so much as complaining, however justified one may be in doing so, that the reforms are so diluted as to be meaningless, as to come to grips with the undeniable fact that a victorious political party will always set about to implement its own wining agenda and that it becomes the losing side to pick itself up to be more forceful and convincing for the inevitable future bouts!

We must work with and in the system to beat it at its own games.

We must cry out loudly for further electoral reforms.

Our elections are held on the basis of electoral areas and voters registered to vote in each area. We must therefore pay particular attention as to how the electoral areas are constituted and how voters are registered in each area.

Consider these:
a) our electoral areas are defined by law.
b) The population of any electoral area is never the object of any legal and binding registration, other that which civil records may purport to show or that the district authorities may aver.

In short, and in the context of our islands where everyone knows everyone, including which party one or the other is likely to vote for, the voting population in any electoral area may be shifted at will ( and often is) to strengthen or weaken one position or the other.

When the Roche Caiman electoral area was created, its new housing estate was filled with known supporters of the incumbent government, with a smattering of known “dissidents” as smoke screen.
The tactic was used again for Perseverans. While the latter still awaits formal set up as an electoral area, it is pinged to the nearby electoral area of Anse Etoile, a coveted Opposition seat. Just before the June 2011 presidential election, enough Parti Lepep supporters were deliberately housed and accepted as being duly registered for the Anse Etoile electoral area. The June 2011 election outcome for that district was as unsurprising as strong winds in Vann Swet.
This shifting of people around through the Housing smoke screen has been well tried. New housing estates not unsurprisingly come up in areas where it becomes easier to weaken the opposition in their strongholds or where they may threaten the Parti Lepep seats. (Les Mamelles, Au Cap, Belombre, Beau Vallon (Beau Belle), St Louis, Glacis, etc.
This is one aspect of the perfidiousness of the current government that M. Georges could have considered. Social Housing as an insidious tool for undetectable vote rigging!
Command and control the district population migration, and you control any electoral vote outcome. Any Electoral Reform that does not address this matter will not be a reform at all!
If we do not move towards formal district population registration, then we should, in the interest of fair elections, do away altogether with the current electoral areas. We are small enough a country to be able to ensure proper local development and government without the hassle of local representatives.

…to be continued/