Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Democratisation or Democracy Agenda ... the Same Thing?

Gibraltar's aspiring leaders, Fabian Picardo (GSLP) and Keith Azopardi (PDP), in recent interviews published in the Chronic have supported and espoused the need for greater democracy in the manner in which Gibraltar is governed. Such promises have been made in the past without results. Following the introduction of the 2006 Constitution, which increased the number of members in Parliament and introduced provisions allowing Parliament to increase its own membership, there was talk of having backbenchers. This has not materialised. Instead we have more ministers and so a larger executive that is identical in make up to the legislature, thus providing no separation of powers.

Fabian Picardo in his interview in the Chronic published on the 4th August 2010 said "Now I have a strong pull to be much more democratic and modern in government than we have seen hitherto, either from the GSD, the GSLP first administration or the AACR . I really think that people need to be much more involved in the civic and political life of our community and that government is not the preserve of the 10 ministers. I am keen to see some of the things that were in my early political work, in Joseph Garcia's early political work and in Keith Azopardi's early political work in relation to increased "democratisation" make their way through into the reality of a modern post-GSD Gibraltar political life to make us much, much more accountable to citizens. I will call this the "democratisation agenda" ..."

Keith Azopardi in his interview in the Chronic published on the 16th August 2010 said " ... there is a stream of good people out there who aren't involved in politics. Some because they don't want to, some because the system in Gibraltar does not allow for their participation. For example, if you look at parliament there are plenty of people who could voice opinions and have constructive suggestions to make on legislation, without wanting to be a minister. The current system does not allow that - to have people sit on the backbenches and contribute ideas. One of the main policies we have is our democracy agenda which we would like to implement in government. This includes looking thoroughly at the way we are governed, to improve it, so that we have better participation of the citizen, so that we have more accountability of ministers and the government, so that we have a better way of influencing the way day to day decisions are taken."

So one has a "democratisation agenda" and the other a "democracy agenda" -two politicians in opposing parties in agreement on such a fundamental and important subject as making Gibraltar more democratic. Forgive me for expressing some cynicism. I have been observing politics in Gibraltar for 34 years. I have heard it all before. High sounding principle is no substitute for hard nosed, clear and specific policies fully developed and included in an election manifesto. The party or candidate, who has the courage of conviction to do this, will carry the necessary credibility to gain popularity from the electorate. General statements and platitudes and vague promises will not do it. I suspect strongly that voters share my cynicism of such general promises of democratic reform.

Any system that is developed has to balance two opposing but critical considerations. On the one side, the need for stable and strong government, on the other, the need to ensure democracy and the necessary checks and balances. This is not an easy conundrum to resolve. It is a problem that needs careful thought and specialised expert advice.

These two opposing requirements also need to be balanced with a need for more direct representation of individual voters. Gibraltar's voters have no individual who can be approached and directly represents them. This in itself is a factor that militates in centralising power in a Chief Minister. Voters will continue to perceive (rightly so) the incumbent of that post to be the only person that can help to deliver their very personal needs. This is not a very wholesome situation and is susceptible to corrupt practices.

One thing, at least is certain, if the GSD has not reformed the system to make Gibraltar more democratic in the many years that they have been in Government, it is hardly about to start doing so, even if it so states in its manifesto. So for the GSD, I suggest that it only has one path that it can tread. They either do reform the system in the next few months or voters will know that they do not have any intention of doing it, despite its past references to having an intention to reform the system to provide greater representation.


  1. What came across in the Azopardi interview is that his poltical backside is up for rent. He is willing to do deals with the GSD, the Liberals or the GSLP even with Bossano in the line up. This is the man who left the Liberals to join the GSD and then later to form his own outfit. He is the only man to have stood for election with 3 parties and now he says he does not rule out deals with any party. This democracy agenda is just a rouse to pave the way for a deal probably with the GSLP led by Picardo. What an opportunist. Yuck!

  2. bueno, dont know - the pdp seem to have had a democracy policy since 2006 so maybe thats genuine. as for the other parties thing well....u will find there are many politicians who stood with more than one party bossano with 3, iintegration with britain party, gibraltar democratic movement and gslp, picardo has been in 2, caruana, pag election agent and gsd, montegriffo aacr and gsd, feetham been in gslp and stood with labour party and gsd.....no need to carry on.....time will tell what happens....at least i though both interviews offered something different and a breath of fresh air...just my opinion

  3. Anon 18th August 2010 01:00

    You can not compare these relatively young politicians with Mr.Bossano. They have been in politics less than half the years that Mr.Bossano has, and, they have already changed parties two or three times.
    How many more times are they going to change before they settle?
    Knowing the reasons, why they have changed allegiances is paramount in order to form an opinion of the characters in question, reading interviews is not enough.
    If you look back in history you will find that Mr.Bossano has been consistent in his arguments
    and has never changed to suit the moment or to be everything to all men.

  4. Ah, but will he be consistent with his past statements and step down so that Fabian might take full command of the GSLP come election time I wonder....????

  5. I think Bossano has had his day and it is time for him to step aside and allow new blood to take the leadership. Picardo moved from the Liberals to the Gslp which was a side step not a u-turn like Feetham/Azopardi. I believe Picardo is the only one who can oust theEmperor from Government. I just hope he continues working hard and does not become complacent.


  6. Bossano is likely to be at his best now.

  7. Well it cannot be a side step when the liberals thought two elections against the GSLP and Garcia broke the GSLP manifesto on TV during the 1996 leaders debate.

  8. I think Bossano is the only true Gibraltarian fighting the UK Spain and everyone else necessary trying protects us all. contrary to PC promises who never deliver as far as the locals are concerned but lies and goes out of his way to accommodate the Spanish Workers, spanish companies Spanish sub contractors to the determent of local in the fields, WE NEED CHANGE NOW AND FORCE PC.EU, UK AND ALL OUR SO CALLED SUPPOTORS IN UK TO STOP Spanish Mayor imposing what he finally intends to impose which everyone says is illegal before he starts to implement it. it’s already effecting the community what is PC waiting for the threat to be implemented and hurt Gibraltar further perhaps PC might offer to build their side or the Airport as a good will gesture or loan them the money owed?
    Perhaps he is waiting for things to get worse and then employ a dozen of his Gibraltarian legal team who will instruct their UK EU legal team for not stopping it in time. PC will start throwing away our money, money the locals need. What about our friend in UK who come to Gibraltar every year and what about the UK press, have they been told they at least have the freedom of the press so badly needed in Gibraltar.

    blackballed Gibbo

  9. Where is the new generation of local 'diplomats' and have any doors been opened to them instead of just local party politics?

  10. Bossano again!! No thanks. Undoubted true defender of Gibraltarians that he is he lost the plot once bit time and therefore thank you but no thanks.
    I think it is about the best team the next time round. There are gaps in both as it stands and it will be interesting to see who steps up in both camps.

  11. Has Caruana not lost the plot 14 years on?

  12. I would vote for BOSSANO the true defender of Gibraltarian anytime rather than the so called best team i.e. GSD where Minister cannot act unless Caruana gives the ok and completely ignores the Gibraltarians needs

  13. Participatory democracy is the only real democracy and at the present time we can only participate at election time. We have a system that provides each voter with ten valid votes to elect a Government of nine. In a small town with such an imbued culture of party politics this is an insult to the politically aware elector. “One Man One Vote” should be the cry of an enlightened electorate to achieve a measure of participatory democracy.
    There are a number of ways in which a “One Man One Vote” could be introduced. As things stand at the moment a single vote per person would really show the true value put on each candidate by the electorate. I have little doubt that certain candidates now in Government would not get more than a few hundred votes! Single parties would find it extremely difficult to field the nine most popularly electable candidates and single party governments would be virtually impossible to achieve. Laws could only be enacted by consensus. Dictatorial-like mandates and punitive Draconian laws would be a thing of the past.

  14. It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting...
    Tom Stoppard

  15. We must keep Caruana as our Chief Minister because el Partido Popular will win the next general elections in Spain and Caruana is the only heavy-weight politician that can properly defend us from them and, at the same time, force them to respect the Cordoba agreements and trilateral forum.

  16. How may I ask has Caruana defended us? Over the last 14 years he has bent over backwards and given in to everything Spain and other non locals wanted, he has ignored the local business and population at large, when we can expect Caruana to force Spain to respect the so called Cordoba Agreement and EU Law.in 2704

  17. Bay of Gibraltar21 August 2010 at 19:47

    Caruana heavy-weight politician?!! More like over-weight!
    He seems more pro-spain than pro-Gibraltar... y si no, why so accommodating to spain?

    Caruana has been showing his colours for some time... his true colours are still to be seen.

  18. A decolonising constitution that gives us self-determination

    Cordoba agreement with Spain is sacrosant and cannot be changed, there is no cherry picking by anyone and it's binding

    Autonomous self-government and democracy because the Brits don't rule here anymore

    Saved the finance centre

    Huge public projects and investments that will yield huge profits

    Bunkering, tobacco trade and gambling are on the up and are here to stay permanently

    Since 2006 increased frontier fluidity with minor delays

    Guarantee from British Government that it will not talk or negotiate on sovereignty with Spain behind our backs

    Net public debt of £180M only

    Affordable housing for the Gibraltarians

    State of the art hospital and airport

    There is more police and Gibraltar is safer

    Audience with the Pope

    Near full employment

    The list of successes is endless and as Mr Caruana has said "Things could not be better for Gibraltar"

    Where do you live anon 21 August 2010 14:35?

    Look at all the capital projects and investments

  19. You should all read Mr Caruana's budget speech
    to better understand his success


  20. Synonymous: No politician is ever universally popular so perhaps the debate should not be about how good or bad Caruana is or Bossano was. Even less productive is a discussion about who was in what party when and how many changes they may or may not have made in their political career. What is clear is that both Caruana and Bossano (and indeed Hassan before them) have had a standing vis a vis other countries (UK and Spain)that has allowed Gibraltar to punch well above our weight politically speaking. To my mind the really interesting question is: who among the potential succesors to the Big 3 is likely to be able to fill their shoes? Montegriffo? Feetham? Picardo? Garcia? Azopardi? Who among these could face down the UK and Spanish governments if the need arose? Who has the vision to maintain Gibraltar's economic stability? The 45 year age of Hassan / Bossano / Caruana is going to be a very hard act to follow.

  21. LLanita from Gibraltar said...

    I see the GSD propaganda machine is still working, despite the heat, how amusing!

    I also note how scared the Spanish Government is of the Gibraltar Government - and that's just the PSOE, the PP must also be shaking in their boots!

  22. "Bunkering, tobacco trade and gambling are on the up..."

    You can say that again, Anon. That's why the Opposition are pointing out that these are the three main drivers of the economy; and they are fuelling pollution, widespread lung and cardiovascular disease and gambling addiction.

    Is this what we want our contribution and legacy to the world to be? So much for the Government's desired projected image of Gibraltar being whiter than white. Far from it.

  23. To 22 August 2010 00:00

    I live in Gibraltar together with another 28.000 people and suggest you have a medical check up ASAP, the recent bad weather thunder storm lightning etc must have damaged your memory take a rest break and rewrite your points when you feel better.

  24. Fabio....

    The `whiter than white` bit is reserved for the `audience with the Pope`. LOL

  25. Anonymous 22 August 2010 at 11:06

    Surely cometh the hour cometh the man?

    This is how it has always been. No one is indispensable. Also, consensus cabinet government would avoid deification of individual CM's.

  26. ANON 22 August 2010 20:13

    What's the need to insult?

    Are you saying the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, has not achieved all these things? Why haven't you been listening or paying close attention?

    If you also speak on behalf of 28000 other people, as you imply, why don't you stand for election?

  27. 24 August 2010 20:04

    I never said I spoke on behalf of anyone. I have listened to PC over the last 16 odd years prior to becoming Chief or Prime Minister of Gibraltar and I am terrified for the future of Gibraltar. PC 3 main pillars of his economic plan is based on offshore Bunkering fuelling toxic polluting our air leading to several diseases lung cancer etc not to mention the risk God forbid should an accident take place, the famous Tobacco smuggling trade increasing yearly, and our Gambling setup which will increase converting many in our population into gambling addicts this may be the future you may be looking forward too I and many others don’t.

  28. That's okay ANON 25 August 2010 21:30. You're entitled to your own opinion and it's respected. These 'successes' do sound very hollow even . Good on you for not cowering when they're politically power-hosed in your direction.