Monday, August 11, 2008

Yet another U-turn for govt

Yet another U-turn for govt
Source: New Age Editorial
August 11, 2008

IT IS our sense of history that denies us the luxury to be pleasantly surprised with the military-controlled interim government’s revelation that it is abandoning one more item (administrative reforms this time) on its ambitious ‘reforms’ agenda to concentrate on holding elections. ‘We have no time to embark on any reform work not directly related to the polls,’ Sunday’s New Age reported one of the advisers to the interim government as saying. Over the past 19 months we have time and again reminded the government that tall talk about radical democratic reforms in society, politics and the state is easy, but to deliver on these promises is difficult. These are not events but processes, and the job of a democratically elected government. Almost two years since it came to power the incumbents are showing the first signs of this realisation. Even if we dismiss all the conspiracy theories, this slow realisation is proof that it was romantic adventurism that formed the bedrock of this government’s assumption of power and agenda.

It is a lack of understanding of the political process and a poor sense of history that allowed this government to bask in the belief that it could stray beyond the ambit of its capacity and duty to democratise politics and governance overnight. The government finds itself painted into a corner because it was never qualified for the work that it took upon itself to do. And it is only fair to point out that they were not meant to be qualified for this work either. As envisioned by the constitution, the job of a caretaker regime is to carry on a government’s routine work while assisting the Election Commission in holding elections within a specified timeframe.

Since January 2007, an overzealous anti-corruption drive has gone so awry that the government is having to operate an undemocratic Truth and Accountability Commission to now let the accused avoid prosecution. The electoral reforms aimed at bringing ‘honest and capable candidates’ into leadership have largely failed, as the chief election commissioner himself has recently admitted. Attempts to institute democracy into the political parties have made even less headway. And now the administrative reforms that sought to make the bureaucracy more accountable and transparent are also being abandoned. These are all predictable outcomes, in our view.

Against this backdrop, the reality emerges that the government seems to have devoted almost all its energy on political engineering, attempting to derail the two major parties by jettisoning major political leaders. We predict that this agenda too will likely fail to be realised. And if this is so, who will answer for the 19 months that democracy and the people’s fundamental rights have been kept suspended while the incumbents wait for a reality check on their naive beliefs?

We suggest, therefore, that the government abandon its faltering political engineering and instead restore the democratic process by holding elections at the earliest possible time. If they do, history may still not forgive them, but at least some of their sins will be atoned for.

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