Jul 22, 2020 Editorial
In the wake of the now internationally embarrassing tactics taken by the David Granger administration more than four months after it lost an election to the opposition by over 15,000 votes, various individuals and groups have surfaced with theories and propositions on shared governance.
There have been proposals of various dynamics with one interesting ‘communiqué’ suggesting that there be some system of rotating the President and Prime Ministerial positions. As well-meaning as the best of them might sound, these proposals tend to gloss over two very important things.
The very first one is a technical issue – the law. Any proposal for shared governance has to have a legal basis and the Constitution as it currently stands does not provide for any of the measures proposed. Any arrangement that seeks to replace the current zero-sum game that is not built upon actual Constitutional reform is one that cannot get off the ground – even the best configuration would be simply a house of feathers built upon drifting sand. It is the law that gives structure to government, not bullet points in a Power-point presentation. Wishful thinking does not automatically translate to the sanction of executive fiat – only laws, passed by a legitimately installed legislature, can do that, and a legitimate assembly is only installed, under very specific rules, according to votes gained in an election.
Which brings us to the next issue – respect for the law. From its reaction to the No Confidence Vote, which was successfully passed on the basis of the basic constitutional provisions that allow such a vote and the consequences flowing therefrom, the Granger administration has shown an increasingly shameless disregard for the law. It has used litigation to carve out breathing room for unconstitutional actions, and continues to abuse the judicial process to artificially extend his occupation of the seat of executive power. This alone would be bad enough in itself – that it is being undertaken in the middle of a pandemic and subsequent economic downturn is a national lesson in the mindless banality of evil. If there is no respect for existing law, there will not be respect for any good-faith agreement that has no effective legal basis, even if such an agreement were possible.
What David Granger is currently engaged in is not simply antithetical to good governance in general, it is a non-starter for shared governance along the very lines he has previously proposed. Shared governance has to be premised, before anything else, on shared trust, the sort that cannot be afforded to any political leadership that is actively engaged in seeking to overturn the will of the people.
Of all the current proposals being put forward, curiously only after the Coalition decisively lost the election, there is no reference to a very specific document that was distributed a decade ago, one which promised, inter alia:
“* Undertaking constitutional reform to remove the scope for abuses and excesses carried out with impunity by the Executive and by the President, in particular. Part of the solution lies in reform of the National Assembly to ensure checks on the majority in the Legislature and on the Executive so that the interests of the nation as a whole and the interests of substantial minorities are taken into account.
* Ensuring that all citizens and residents are equal under the law and that the institutional requirements intended to facilitate the accountability of all arms of the State are effective.
* Separating and protecting the Judiciary and Constitutional Offices from the Executive reforming and strengthening the Police Force.”
That document was the campaign manifesto for A Partnership for National Unity, headed by David Granger as Presidential Candidate, who trumpeted, if elected, the end to winner-take-all politics and “inviting all eligible and willing parties to participate in the Government on the basis of the seats they acquire.”
Of course, both history and current events have proven that the David Granger as incumbent President in 2020 is a vastly different creature than the David Granger as would-be President in 2011. Someone once said that, “Power doesn’t always corrupt but it always reveals.” In this case, the power-sharing progressive democrat of 2011 has been revealed to be, with his ascension to power, a power-hoarding regressive autocrat.
The talk of power sharing has to be taken out of the realm of convenient and comprised conjecture and into that of principle and practicality. The law allows for practical steps towards Constitutional Reform. After an Executive is sworn in and a Legislature seated on the basis of votes gained in the election, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional Reform – once chaired by Granger himself – needs to be activated. When this is done, the Constitutional Reform Consultative Commission Bill, crafted since 2017 by the Granger administration under pressure from the United Nations but then hidden away, needs to be reconsidered, tabled in Parliament, passed and then signed into law.
That legally established Commission would then be the lawful authority for canvassing the opinions of citizens on what the new contours of a viable system of more inclusive governance is going to look like. After this, a new Constitution is drafted and signed into law either via a two-thirds majority in Parliament or via a referendum. There is no other pathway at present.
As for Executive power sharing in the short term, the current Constitution provides a pathway, one for which precedent has already been set. The Bharrat Jagdeo administrations of 2001 and 2006 did in part what candidate Granger in 2011 committed to do, in that he, Jagdeo, included TUF’s Manzoor Nadir, whose party had gained a single seat in both elections, into the Executive. There is certainly a sound argument to be made that, as a gesture of good will, effective President-Elect, Irfaan Ali, should commit to reaching across the aisle and include, as he is constitutionally allowed to do, credible persons from the Coalition and smaller parties into the Executive. This would go a significant distance towards easing the legitimate fears held by significant sections of the population, still offering their default support to the Granger administration’s desperate grasp on power, that the PPP is not going to return to its brutally hegemonic ways.
That said, no proposal for shared governance can or should come out of any process that is not based on the law. Moreover, no proposal for shared governance must be premised on a lawfully elected executive using unlawful method to bully its way into either retaining or sharing power. Those who are proposing the various configurations of shared governance therefore need to begin by insisting that David Granger concede defeat and allow the current constitutional processes that can eventually lead to shared governance to work.
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