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Deepened political consciousness or deeper in ignorance?

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On Tuesday, Justice Esco Henry delivered the latest ruling in the elections petitions matter, filed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) in December 2015. Nearly halfway into the term of office of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) Government, we are no nearer to a resolution of the court cases.

Unfortunate though this is, it is even sadder that for many supporters on both sides of the political divide, the larger issues of the conduct of elections, the role of the court and constitutional provisions are lost in the battle for partisan political supremacy. Each court ruling is either hailed or assailed, according to which political party one supports and how it is sold to us by the political leadership. Crowds are mobilized to come to the Court House with expectation of a ruling in this or that favour. Disappointment is clouded in the coating of the political parties, each insisting that, in spite of how the court has ruled, their side is right.

Is it not time that we, devoid of the partisan politics involved, take a more sober look at where we are heading and the implications for the rest of society? What is at stake here is the nature of our political system and in particular the conduct of elections. These are too important to the “democracy” in which we profess to believe, for them to be subjected to political opportunism. Do we really understand where we are heading, or are we so driven by the pursuit of political power that we lose every sense of objectivity?

Side by side with electoral challenges before the court, which the Opposition has every right to pursue if it feels aggrieved, must be serious attempts, on both sides, to use the disagreements to broaden the discussion, to uplift the level of understanding of our people. Ask the average supporter on either side to explain the facts being argued before the court and he or she would be hard pressed so to do. That notwithstanding, the same supporter would not be satisfied unless there is a ruling in favour of his or her party, regardless of the merits of the case.

We cannot continue along this path. We have now far greater access to information, but that does not mean that we have a better grasp of politics, our constitution and electoral conduct. Our political consciousness needs to be deepened. If the political parties will not do it, then it is the responsibility of the media and civil society to lead the way.

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