Sunday, December 15, 2002

In today's Express, both Kirk Meighoo & Selwyn Ryan take on the issue of party politics in T&T (on the Express website Ryan's column mistakenly appears with Martin Daly's byline). Meighoo revives Allan Harris's idea of a "one-&-a-half party system"; Ryan examines the UNC's current succession crisis. Both end with the same diagnosis: political underdevelopment. In Ryan's words:

"One of the better known definitions of political party was scripted by the British political thinker and activist Edmund Burke. For Burke, 'a party is a body of men united for promoting, by their joint endeavour, the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed'. If we use that classic definition, few of the organisations which make claims to being a party [in T&T] will qualify.

"Parties are now little more than electoral outfits created by political picaroons, conmen, and entrepreneurs who regard parties as a business, and politics as an investment opportunity which is no different in principle from any other investment, except perhaps that the returns in the high risk 'winner take all system' are substantial for those who win, and close to zero for those who lose."

Meighoo hints at the necessary solution: a constitutional structure in which the people are genuinely represented, which will eventually force the parties to enact internal reforms in order to achieve & maintain power. It's a chicken-&-egg case, if you will: a meaningfully democratic legislature must come first. Meaningfully democratic parties, & meaningful politics, will follow.

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