May 1, 2012

If we want parties, let’s be serious about them

In Maldives, our inter-party dynamics is like a game of jumping ship. Very appropriate because we know a lot about boats and ships and how seaworthy they can be – both in its structure and its ability to weather the onslaught of storms. Changing political party allegiance seems illogically easy and also unquestioningly acceptable in our local democracy. Given the party being an entity that shares a common ideology or belief, it’s hard to understand how such beliefs change like the weather. Indeed it must be the weather of another kind and the nature of strong winds that must be impelling these moves and migrations.

In the scheme of governance, what is often believed is that parties emerged in the governance of democratic nations to give voice to a constituency that otherwise would not have had the clout of voice. Often this is seen in sectarian communities that have the type of diverse views of social, religious, economic, environmental or similar beliefs that make for such needs. A party gives the constituency the assurance that their views be counted in the scheme of electing those who would govern them. Thus, such beliefs often cement the fabric of the party together and keep alive a basic philosophy that will direct the party to the goal they want to reach.

In the democracy we practice in Maldives, we see parties, but don’t see any such philosophy guiding them, and so it appears that there is really no binding force that keeps the party together, thus raising the question whether there indeed is any need for parties in our context of governance. We seem to feel that because parties are prevalent in other larger and more sectarian communities of the world, we in Maldives too must have parties, as if the party was an absolutely necessary ingredient for implementing a democracy. The essence of democracy is governance in consultation with the people, and the tools we use for consultation to bridge the diversities among sectarian communities has been the party mechanism. However, some thinkers even question the validity of the party in its present decadent form as a sound mechanism to elect their leaders even in those countries. But in Maldives, with the homogeneity of religion, language, and culture, it appears that the party has become more of a disruptive force than a harmonizing one. And surely, in a divided society there can only be conflict. Division without a purpose is perhaps criminal. Our religion of Islam certainly advocates social equity and brotherhood, with strict calling for not dividing up society.

Given this inherent harmony, why we are dividing our society, bringing regretful chaos in our small population, which can otherwise live a good and satisfying life if our resources were shared equitably, and many of us would relinquish our selfish ways, is hard to fathom. Accepted, divide and rule was fashionable in days gone by, but when democracy dawns, this is like society shooting itself in the foot.

The party member jumping ship we see is the manifestation of a lack of a guiding party philosophy, and greed or personal gain being the reasons for party allegiance. Why there are no discernible party philosophies is because Maldivian society actually has no attributes of significant diversity to flag about. Would it be wrong to say then, that the only reason for the existence of our parties in Maldives is the ego-calling of powerful individuals who aspire to the top post of the country, and it is those rallying round these personalities for the benefits they can capture, that make the party so seem so necessary. And it is also the equally powerful emotions that accompany these allegiances that make the case of our parties in Maldives so internecine?

Even after 4 years of multi-party democracy, no party still has a guiding philosophy that its constituency can latch onto. How viable can the allegiance to this type of a party be? That it is not, is amply demonstrated by the blatant inter-party crossovers we observe and the equally blatant attitude of indulgence by those receiving these deserters with little question to their integrity. And many of these are supposed to be our legislators; how ashamed can we be as a nation – to put our trust in those who are untrustworthy? In fact, this blatancy is what demonstrates the fallacy of the governance we practice. Our nation is our home. Why would we allow our home be destroyed by such hypocrisy and deviousness that our beloved Islam so disapproves of. Our shameful party dynamics cannot be condoned in the name of democracy. The people of Maldives deserve better.


Anonymous said...

I would agree with the opinion in the article and would say Maldivian public requires educating on the important concepts of multiparty democracy and how it works because people had been accustomed to very different system of governance.The future of democracy in our country depend on success such efforts.Unfortunately many of the politicians who have this knowledge seem to misguide public and take advantage of the way public is used to.

Abdul Sattar Yoosuf said...

Dear Anonymous, that seems to be the present nature of politics. It's often not in their interest to have an aware public who may question. It is also a curious contradiction, for the essence of democracy lies in consultation and discussion. Prevailing community naivete of democracy cannot even generate the questions to be asked. I would think this role has to be taken up in seriousness by the civil society community. I wonder what other views are on this? We do need dialogue and not silence!