Monday, 7 February 2011
COALITION GOVERNMENT IS NEW BUSSNES FOR AFRICA
POWER-SHARING or none zero sum politics is rapidly becoming one of the preferred political flavours of the century! It is being widely regarded as an essential ingredient of the good governance paradigm. Many multilateral financial agencies or international peace brokering teams insist on power-sharing as one of their conditional ties for helping to stabilise failing states or resolving critical conflicts in bitterly divided societies such as Afghanistan, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, the Sudan, Yugoslavia etc. The basic argument is that no individual or group should be allowed to hoard power arrogantly and systematically exclude other groups since a sense of ethnic powerlessness or insecurity is one of the most enervating feelings any group can experience.
Powerlessness, whether of the group or the individual, not only reduces feelings of national commitment, but also gives rise to frustration and anxiety which may result in civic withdrawal, poor teamwork, or extremist behaviour which could give rise to organised or anomic violence or aggravate it where it already exists. The basic argument is that power-sharing or co-ruler ship helps to build the sense of ownership which is needed to legitimise regimes, institutions, and the elites who run them. Words such as diversity, inclusivity, equity, and mutual respect have thus become more central to global political discourse in recent years than they have previously been. Zanzibar is not exempt from what is taking place globally, and demands for some sort of political power- sharing have grown louder in the wake of the recent months.
Power-sharing takes many forms, the most familiar being those in which two or more parties agree, either before or after an election, to share in the distribution of ministerial and other critical posts and patronage appointments. This type of power-sharing is routine in the countries of continental Europe such as Italy, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands where politics is more consensual than adversarial. Such agreements to share may involve prior agreement on the policies that would be pursued, as well as on a legislative programme. This is normally the case in the Netherlands, for example, where governments may take weeks or months to be formed.
Executive power-sharing is however only one of the forms that power-sharing might take. Also familiar are pacts between two or more parties in which a minority party or parties enter into a pact to give “critical support” to a dominant party without formally seeking to join the government at the executive level. The famous Lib-Lab pact of 1974 which was arranged between the British Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats provide a good example of this model. The pacts usually last as long as the policies agreed to be honoured or until such time as one of the parties believes that it was time to go back to the polls.
Power-sharing may also take the form of sequential or rotational sharing of the Prime Minister ship. Such an arrangement took place not too long ago in Israel There have been other kinds of complex power-sharing arrangements in Mauritius where it is generally recognised that given the demography of the country, the electoral system, and the number of parties which exist, no political party is strong enough to win an election single-handedly. Pre- or post-election coalitions are thus the norm.
Unless one political party or pre-election alliance wins an absolute majority of the seats in the legislature, a new government is formed only after a bargaining process between the political parties in the post-election phase. Political parties that have not formed pre-election alliances negotiate to form coalitions in order to ensure that the government is supported by a majority of the legislators. During the coalition talks, the parties negotiate about cabinet seats, portfolio allocation, and a common policy programme.
It is not always predictable how the outcome of the elections and the allocation of seats in the new legislature will affect the formation of a government. Which political parties aspire to form the government, what alliances they can form with other parties and independent candidates, and how successful they are in the negotiations will determine the shape of the new government.
Likelihood of forming government together.
• The smaller the ideological distance between political parties, the more likely it is that they will form a coalition government together. They are more likely to be able to agree on policy decisions, and their voters are more likely to accept the coalition.
• The political party occupying a core position in the policy space is able to form a coalition with more parties than any other political party. The party holding the core position has the highest bargaining power of all other actors, because it has the most alternatives to form coalitions with other parties and is therefore most likely to be part of the final government. This can lead to situations where a very small political party can have a very good bargaining situation.
• If political parties at one end of the political spectrum have large ideological differences between them, it will be more difficult for them to form government together. This also means that minority governments are more likely to succeed the larger the ideological divisions are within the opposition they are facing.
These factors are considered the most relevant in government formation:
• The major party in the legislature is most likely a part of the new government, even if it does not have an absolute majority on its own. It is also often the largest party that nominates the Prime Minister.
• Coalitions need support from a majority of the legislators, but parties forming the coalition also want as few competitors as possible for the government posts. The most likely type of coalition to form is therefore a minimal winning coalition where parties try to gain support from as many legislators as possible while involving as few political parties as possible.
• Negotiation processes often lead to situations where the political parties that in the end form the government decide to share the government positions (ministers etc) proportionally according to seats gained in the legislature. (Gamson 1961).
• In contrast to the above assumption, the formatter of the government (usually the party that has received the most votes/seats) would act as the agenda-setter and as the leader in the coalition talks and would use its power to achieve the greatest payoffs.
• Incumbency may have a positive effect on a party’s participation in the formation of a new government. It is more likely for the governing party to re-form government than for a new political party or coalition to take its place, even if the votes for the two sides are equal. This is said to be especially true for cases when the party of the incumbent prime minister obtains most of the seats in the legislature.
Moreover, they may be other determinants that in particular guide political parties in the government formation talks and the bargaining process.
Other power-sharing or co-ruling formulae include self-determination, political federalism, devolution, cultural autonomy (e.g. giving groups responsibility for managing their own religious, linguistic and educational institutions) conventions about multi-channelled elite consultations, co-sharing of important gate-keeper offices (e.g. several deputy presidents or prime ministers,) qualitative majorities, separation of powers, co-speakers, rotating or alternating chairmen of important parliamentary or congressional committees, the right to filibuster in the legislature as a strategy for giving minority groups a veto on matters of fundamental importance, coin tosses, or the integration of cultural icons or symbols in flags, anthems etc. Information sharing is also an important dimension of power-sharing, especially in contemporary society where knowledge is power.
Advocates of these and other arrangements argue that in deeply divided societies, the principle of “winner takes all” with alternating or circulating majorities or pluralities even if reformed, is not an acceptable or equitable way of governing since the system often means that some groups are systematically kept out of the power loop for extended periods. “All hands must be on the tiller. All groups must be on-side.” Mandela acknowledged the principle in 1991 when he said that “it may not be enough to work purely on” one person one vote because every national group would like to see that people of their flesh and blood are in government…The ordinary man must look at our structures and see that as a coloured man, “I am represented.”… And an Indian must also be able to say, “I am represented.” And the whites must say… “I have got representation” especially in the first years of democratic government….. We may have to do something to show that the system has got an inbuilt mechanism which makes it impossible to suppress the other.”
Power-sharing, if it is to work, cannot however be forced or made to depend only on constitutional or electoral engineering or crafted leadership deals. It must be sustained by a political culture and a civil religion which preaches consensus and encourages group and leadership trust. Without these and other facilitating conventions, the system will never work. Gridlock would become entrenched. One must also recognise that governments must not only be representative, but must also enable decisions to be made effectively. The South African interim constitution recognised this when it provided that “the cabinet shall function in a manner which gives consideration to the consensus-seeking spirit underlying the concept of a government of national unity as well as the need for effective government.”
Zanzibar like many other nations today faces a serious question. How do we create a more cohesive Society, a society where multi-culturalism can pursue a common good and thrive within a democratic Environment As the philosopher Jonathan Sacks argues? We know of three models of how to build a Society only one of them is more conducive to building a national identity. Sacks explains in a metaphor that these models can be referred as: the “country house”, the “hotel” and “building a house together”
In the first model, we could think of society as a country house, one that welcomes guests. But since they are treated only as guests they never manage to own the house. We could think of this model as one single Dominant culture, where newcomers if they want to be assimilated need to adapt. The second model is one where society is understood not as a country house but as a hotel in this type of society, you can turn up as long as you do not disturb other guests and pay your bills. That is the Rawlsian liberal model. You don’t run politics by your vision of the common good. All you do is you offer the best public services for the least cost in taxation this vision is economically efficient, but with the problem that it does not generate loyalties or a sense of belonging. It does not develop a national identity, a sense of common good or social solidarity.
The third model is not understood as a country house or as a hotel. Instead, society is understood as the home we build together. It is the home where we belong. It is a shared project. It is a society where the different sub-communities can strive and pursue a collective good. In this model, all share the responsibility of building the nation each person and family has the responsibility of pursuing the wellbeing of the nation, not of just a few this task should be enhanced by the institutions, government public discourse and actions, placing the common goal of the nation above anything else it seems that today some of the ethnic tension that prevails in Zanzibar was directly instigated by political actors and by public institutions. It is important to recognise that the GNU/Coalition carries responsibility that requires stronger institutions in its daily operations. . This will be achieved by strengthens of public services and other institutions so that they sustain democracy and foster prosperity. Public service and other institutions will be expected to operate accordingly to make sure that the process of national unity is not frustrated and they contribute positively towards the expectations of the coalition, failure to do so will lead to recommunalisation of the society.
Also, the government has to redefine the roles of its institutions so that they function according to the established and agreed policies of the coalition.
The GNU/Coalition in its operations has many common mistakes which can frustrate the spirit of national unity. We can identify these mistakes as:-
(a) Problems in managing budgets and setting priorities, this happens because of the limited details in the GNU/Coalition deal. This undermines effectiveness in medium and long term commitments.
(b)The government works on slow pace due to the fact that decisions have to be agreed between the partners before being announced and this may generate pressure in media cycle. International experience suggests that the cabinet is likely to become a rubber stamp, ratifying decisions and agreed elsewhere within the GNU/Coalition machinery.
(c)Policy making becomes characterised by ad hocracy, muddling through crass deal, and the use of the group veto rather than co sensuality.
(d)The presence of “Die Hard” for ideology and self centred leadership attitude.
(e)The governing coalition becomes an “elite cartel” which carves up the political market and the economic resources of the society among its members excluding all those who do not belong to it. Some suggest that inclusion often becomes cosmetic rather than real.
(f)GNU/Coalition inhibits transparency and accountability and serves to marginalise civil society.
(g)In some contexts, power sharing could paradoxically lead to “Loser takes all” instead of “winner takes all” since minorities could come to have real power to block change.
These problems can be eliminated if:-
(1) GNU/Coalition Agreement for Stability Reform ;( sets out how the GNU will be expected to operate in practise and it wii reflect the agreement reached);
(2)All players must fully comply with the agreement;
(3)Fully reliance in consensus politics and parlimentary proceedings;
(4)There should be no “cabinet within the cabinet”.
(5)Inclusion has to be respected and regarded as a foundation of peace and the rule of law;
(6)There should be no provision for a minority veto in the cabinet;
(7)There should be a GNU/Coalition programme which defines the government policies on all sectors;
(8)There should be a high degree of trust among the partners.
Let it be remembered that Zanzibar society has paid its pound of flesh for the current situation and let this be the beginning of anew chapter in its history with new protagonists and new morals.