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Party Politics-Undemocratic

July 26, 2010

Democracy, as expressed by Abraham Lincoln, has three tenets; government for the people, government of the people and government by the people (the order isn’t material).

This expression of democracy has been accepted by many politicians including our own Maurice Bishop.

It accords with the general spirit evoked with the concept of democracy as it is understood by the civilizations that first expressed it. The expression is also manifest by the truly beautiful and crafty regimes and constructions that have evolved from, and purport to represent the concept. I use purport as a safeguard because the systemic beauty is contingent upon the systems operation by people of principle, which is hardly ever the case.

Taking the last tenet of democracy, as stated above, for instance- ‘government by the people’- this tenet finds expression in the constitutional ideal that parliament is elected by ballot of an electorate majority. One could hardly argue that the last tenet of democracy isn’t compromised by party politics, in the following manner.

Under the system of party politics-beyond the elected and selected governmental officials- parliamentary, ministerial and otherwise- there is a shadow entity, that isn’t co-extensive with parliament and cabinet, not necessarily elected by the electorate. This shadow entity usually is the ideological engine of the government and ultimately drives its policy. As such policy that the electorate would ultimately be subject to, for better or worse, would emanate from a body that was not necessarily elected by them. Consequently, the ‘government by the people’ ideal isn’t given proper effect to and as suggested earlier, compromises the last tenet of, and by extension, democracy.

Would that not be remedied, if we had a system where the parliament exclusively is the ideological engine and policy driver of the government?

We already do not have a strict separation of powers constitutionally. So much so, that Caribbean judges have said that separation of powers in the Caribbean context, means a separation of the judiciary from a semi-amalgam of the executive and the legislative ( and not necessarily in those words.)

I believe that’s something we should consider.

  • Separation of powers refers to a constitutional notion  whereby the executive, which is the policy making arm of the government, the legislative which is the law making arm, and the judiciary,  the body that interprets and applies the law remain separate and distinct in order for each to act as a check for and balance to, the other.
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