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Lift the campaign – Final part

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The election campaign continues via public meetings and rallies, the daily talk-shows on radio and the ever-present social media. Sadly there has also been a road accident affecting some travelling supporters, an unfortunate but seemingly not unexpected feature of election campaigns. Gladly, although a serious injury occurred, there was no loss of life and from reports, both political leaders have identified with and expressed willingness to assist the victim.{{more}}

One positive feature so far (knock on wood), has been the absence of any major incident of violence. At a time when crime, murder and delinquency in the society as a whole are causes for concern, this is a most welcome development. We can only hope that aspiring candidates continue to lift this aspect of their game and encourage supporters not to go down that route.

Inevitably there is the usual election atmosphere – the cheerleading, rabble-rousing, personal attacks and, of course wild promises, the sort of “vote for me and I’ll set you free” type. This year the promises relate to the economy, jobs, the banana industry and even roads. Has there ever been an election campaign where the state of the roads has not been an issue? What’s new?

There has so far been no indication of plans by any civic organisation to organize a debate at leadership level where the contenders can set out their analyses and plans in a less-charged and more sober atmosphere. Such engagements are more than useful and can assist those who prefer such approaches in helping to make up their minds as to where to put their precious Xs. In any such initiative, the potential organisers would have to deal with the issue of the so-called “minority parties”.

Already there has been a complaint from a leader of one of the “parties” about unfair treatment being handed out to those outside the two Parliamentary parties. In countries like ours, based on the traditional Westminster-type system, tailor-made for the traditional Government and Opposition, this can become a big issue with the emergence of a genuine “third force”.

I was fortunate enough to have gained some experience in this regard in the seventies and eighties and it is useful for political aspirants to look back at that period when there were genuine multi-party contests. Of course, those outside the Parliamentary frame had a much harder time to gain public recognition. This was not granted as a right but had to be earned, the hard way in the case of my colleagues and I in the then YULIMO and later the UPM.

One cannot expect to grandly announce the formation of a political “party”, but fail to demonstrate active support, yet expect to be treated as a genuine contender. That is a route tailor-made for all kinds of opportunists and attention-seekers, so how do we separate the proverbial “sheep from the goats”? But there must be provision for the emergence of new political entities which, if genuine, can make a valuable contribution to our multi-party democracy and aid in broadening perspectives.

What a pity that so many persons did not listen or engage intelligently during the 2003/9 constitutional reform discussion and dialogue. Those were issues ventilated but not given sufficient attention including by some who now are crying foul. It was an opportunity to look down the road at our political system in its entirety but too many of us chose to take the route of cheap political partisanship or to raise issues which in legal fields would have been termed “an abuse of the courts”. We are now paying the price for those errors.

We must learn from those experiences, intensify our efforts to prevent the campaign to be dragged down the murky ditches and raise the debate to a level which enriches our civilisation and informs our choices.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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