Simple changes can improve political process
The recent editorial titled “The rationale for kicking party politics to the kerb” as a leading news organ is just more evidence that Bermuda is facing the same political tide prevailing around the world. In America, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders tapped into a population weary of establishment politics. The Brexit vote in Britain to leave the European Union is another example of the electorate being in an entirely different place from the leadership and direction of both political parties.
Perhaps what is adding fuel to the fire is the debacle within the One Bermuda Alliance, which is a bit of déjà vu and reminiscent of the months preceding its formation when it was clear that the split between the United Bermuda Party and the Bermuda Democratic Alliance ensured neither would survive despite the Progressive Labour Party being highly unpopular at the time. Today like then, the pundits sense a crumbling OBA unfit to win an election 17 months from now against a splintered but unreformed PLP.
Like the Brexit vote, people know what they want to leave, but don’t know where to go or how to get to a better place. The old guard will continue in its old ways, doing as it usually does, and will spend lots of money to hire a good magician to manipulate the imagery for the masses, hoping to hoodwink just enough to leverage an electoral victory.
The era for magical tricks ended in 2012; now it will be either clear chaos or a clear path towards a new future. While the odds favour chaos, a clean new future is very possible if we take the right approach.
The cry to return to independents is borne out of a few missing principles under our existing partisan construct. In essence, the problem is not because of the party system, but rather the absence of some fundamental principles from it. Principles that cause the elected official to be more accountable to the electorate and, additionally, principles that connect the electorate systemically as a participant with the legislature. The existing partisan construct is a disconnect and usurps the rights of what otherwise would be a parliament or legislature that is for the people and of the people. We do not need to look for an example to copy; we are part of the world and its experiences. We can look at what works and what doesn’t and add to human growth by creating an example as a model.
With a few simple changes we can begin the process:
1, Increase Parliament to 37 to allow for a seat at-large, which will allow the country’s electorate to elect the leader to sit in Parliament — a premier with similar role and powers.
2, Elected Senate — one per parish and two appointed
3, Open primaries in all constituencies
4, Fixed-term elections
5, MPs to have free vote on all items — their opinions protected by the Human Rights Commission
6, Electorate to have a “bill of rights”
7, Recall of parliamentarians
8, Referendum after propositions have received set percentage
9, The right of individuals to initiate legislation
Those simple positions destroy the present format and give a level of freedom and independence to each MP in spite of their affiliations. The big issue is how to get there because no party will ever propose what appears as its own demise or will they rightly plot the demise of their backroom oligarch.
The first and most important thing is to agree on where we need to go; next is to get a dedicated group of individuals commit to run as independents to bring a legislative reform about.
Their mandate should be to change the methodology of our politics to something more participatory and less divisive.
If winning an election is an item, the OBA would be wiser to disband rather than regroup. The same option is there for the PLP or any Members of Parliament. It would be ideal if a group were to sit as independents and use the rest of this term to make the necessary legislative changes to facilitate a new model for the next election.
This is how to kick three parties to the kerb. I believe the majority would love this; maybe the “people’s movement” can help to facilitate it.