Political observers may not always agree on the answers, but there is need to at least agree on the questions. All general elections come with their bundle of folklore, mudslinging, dream-peddling, juicy news and salacious allegations. However, what lies beyond the dead often gets deadlier in that the 2019 general elections have shattered acceptable standards of decorum and propriety. They have dwarfed all previous debacles: truth has been twisted and tortured, fake news massaged into believable narratives and the sacredness of facts has been aptly and happily distorted through a wide web of warped lies. In the process, nimble-tongued gossip-peddlers have all along been enjoying a field day. The underbelly of politics has thus been reduced to its most greedy essence without remorse, and those responsible should be brought to account. Some orators cannot afford a good crowd go waste. In their haste to impress, they get carried away, cross all limits of guaranteed freedom of speech and vitriolically lampoon opponents through a spate of tasteless, reckless and malicious accusations. Others invent new ways to humiliate themselves through callous behaviour, unsolicited and disparaging comments likely to pull them into a mess they have worked hard to avoid. Many politicians, including some experienced ones, are simply unable to respond to a challenge, let alone bracing up for a catastrophe, and end up functioning in a fractured relationship with their agents/supporters. They become whistling teapots: if they do not blow up steam, they can turn up into a pressure cooker and explode, leaving others to manage their outbursts. They are, thus, unable to exude their sunny side because the shade eclipses the shine. In other cases, there are candidates who entertain exorbitant dreams which by far exceed their talent. Once elected, their body and psyche are unable to function harmoniously. They start living lives in fairyland, and the relationship with their constituents becomes foggy. Those are the very ones who should have been deprived of the opportunity of even reaching the starting line of the political race because they are simply not temperamentally suited to the task. We do, however, have a few veteran politicians who bring honour to their task. They are well schooled in the art of playing their role properly and gracefully and at the right time, like a well-rehearsed orchestra.
The Enigma of the Docile and Well-behaved Tiger of No. 14
One politician, commonly referred to as the well-behaved Tiger of No. 14, appears shockingly at odds with the prevailing perception of politicians being cunning, loud-mouthed and honouring one’s promises more in the breach than in the observance. He is a standing testimony to appearances being deceptive in that his perceived pussy-cat nature can also accommodate tiger-like reflexes when the situation so demands, as evidenced during his stint as Leader of the Opposition. His criticisms, though sharply expressed, and never bereft of solutions, are always cushioned by grace and respect, uttered in elegant modulations. It is a matter of no surprise that he is the pet of the elderly, the darling of the young, and the envy of his opponents in his eternal No. 14, where he has been reigning supreme for over 36 years, irrespective of the Party he chooses to adhere to through his impeccable political instincts. When Maradona’s Coach was once asked the names of players he intended to field, the answer was ‘Maradona and 10 others.’ For No. 14, an equally fitting reply would be ‘Docile Tiger and 2 others.’
The Rift Within the Mouvement Patriotique (MP) — the right to know.
The MP, though a relatively new and small party, enjoyed a high level of credibility by virtue of its impeccable contributions in the Legislative Assembly through its two Parliamentarians and its activities on the ground. However, the uneasiness within the Party kept rising in crescendo when Labour, as usual, continued to slow-dance on negotiations. Pressure and uncertainty reached a boiling point, specially among MP supporters on the ground where the absence of any tangible decision was the biggest presence. There are situations that attract attention for the mere reason they are not happening, specially in the face of a welter of expectations. Worse, when negotiations ultimately did start, there emerged an apparent feeling of callous disregard vis-à-vis the two veteran MP Parliamentarians who were asked to first negotiate with somebody who has been an eternal fugitive candidate with no political base, absolutely no political instinct, who gets everyone confused through his verbal fog, and yet, who fancies himself God’s gift to humanity. Not surprisingly, no decision could be reached. With the promised limited number of tickets finally agreed upon, pressure and expectations within the MP started bursting at the seams, presumably because of the large number of ticketables. Discussions and arguments flew fast and furious, often reaching deafening heights and, ultimately, a point of no return. Political moves have to be seen in the context of shifting political equations for politics has its own logic inasmuch as political roles have a lesser reality than facts. With eyelids drooping through dejection, despair, disappointment, and in a move to preserve the unity of MP, Tiger of No. 14 decided to opt out, fully conscious of the uncertainty of the yet untested, untried, unexplored and unfamiliar political waters of the constituency. By taking such a challenge, which resulted in a thundering victory, the Tiger ended up, not forecasting the future, but inventing it, to everyone’s surprise. The supposed minefield he was treading on turned out to be a lush green pasture. Unfortunately, as is the case on election eves generally, rumours sail from lip to lip, retold for the umpteenth time with a personal bent and remixed region to region. Very few politicians, however, can remain stoically unphased and unbowed by gossip, finding it more expedient neither to complain nor to explain, preferring their silence to speak for them on the premise that only those able to comprehend their silence are able to understand their words.
The Labour Party
With regard to the Labour Party, its descent into political chaos has translated its traditional strength into a collective inferiority complex. Its Leader has the vice of his own virtues, and the Party’s present agony and uncertainty render any early bounce back a not-so-easy possibility. Equally to blame are the numerous sycophants always ready to salute the Captain even while the ship is sinking. Like Odysseus’ sailors plugging their ears with bee-wax to resist the call of the Sirens, the present cohort of Labour Parliamentarians need to prepare secret signals to better resist their Leader’s charms.
Breathing Fresh Life into the Legislative Assembly
Given the improved number of fresh faces in the Assembly, the designated Speaker would be well-advised to arrange for a well-stuffed induction programme in a move to smoothen the transition and shorten the teething period. Inputs could be sought from experts in the field, including veteran Members of the Assembly from both sides of the political divide. That would also help restore a healthier and more conducive atmosphere and considerably reduce, if not eliminate, missteps. More importantly, the induction programme would help shed the caricatural impression some ex-Hon. Members have been working so hard to portray as a steady diet.