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Holding coalition together amid rifts
The coalition People’s Partnership is celebrating its second anniversary amidst the clangour of unresolved conflict within the five-party Government. The apparent rifts have raised questions about whether the Government is falling apart, but that may not be the case.
It’s inevitable that the grouping is finding it challenging to cohere, given the differing ideologies of the partners, and the individual structures of the parties not being in sync with each other. Add to those difficulties the reality that at least two of the partners, the Congress of the People and most recently the Movement for Social Justice, have articulated what they consider to be very serious concerns about the governance process and the focus of the Government in office.
The contentions have happened very publicly and with serious allegations being made by one party against another. It has gone further with open falling-out within the COP and inside the MSJ. For instance, the original political leader of the labour party, Minister Errol Mc Leod, chose to opt out of the leadership of the party last year as it became clear that the labour movement was becoming agitated that its issues were not being attended to in government.
Within the COP, party member Minister Anil Roberts has not put water in his mouth to say what he thinks of certain actions by his leader, Prakash Ramadhar. Whatever the public face being shown by UNC ministers, even they cannot be comfortable that at the anniversary celebrations tomorrow, the MSJ will not be heard and its presence not felt.
Added to that reality is the stated position of the COP leadership that it will be putting in what can only be considered a token appearance with the leader possibly sounding something of a discordant note on the platform.
Maybe in addition to the expected boasts of achievements to be made on the anniversary platform tomorrow, the leaders can outline to the nation how they plan to place the coalition on a structurally sound platform. This would require an honest appreciation of the deep-seated difficulties being experienced and how they are to build structures to hold the coalition together both as party and as Government.
And this is needed, given the fact that the adopted and adjusted Westminster system was not one constructed to accommodate a coalition-type government. The debate among the coalition partners as their relationship develops is necessary and perhaps healthy. This country has no benchmarks set in the past against which to measure current pro-gress.
The pattern has been that monolithic parties have held power and have achieved or pretended to achieve perfect harmony among their ranks. In the current administration, however, the balance of power is being tested as each of the partners tries its own strength. Even the fundamental principle of collective Cabinet responsibility is being challenged.
Questions raised by the proposed draft gender policy on issues of conscience such as same-sex relationships and abortion may yet lead to free votes in Parliament, when MPs for once are not required to toe the party line. Two years ago, such a thing would have been unimaginable. Though unintentionally, in this respect, the Government is blazing a trail and demonstrating, willy-nilly, a new politics.
There are many coalition governments in place around the world; in some countries they are the norm, and the political system has adapted to accommodate them. As the PP prepares to celebrate its second anniversary tomorrow, perhaps it is time for the key players to reflect on their own position and examine examples of failed and successful coalition governments around the world. The current method of progress, by trial and error, may not always be the swiftest, least painful or the best.
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