Two weeks ago the Coalition for Reform's proposed Core Principles were published. A week ago the proposal to establish an Anti-Corruption Authority was explained more fully. The reaction from the GSD governing party and the GSLP opposition has been silence, why? My intention over the next weeks is to carry on publishing explanations of each principle. I would suggest that it would be very telling if they are all met with silence from these two parties. Alternatively, it would be a complement if, in their respective manifestos, the issues were adopted with adaptations. This raises another question would including such references in their manifestos be enough?
One of the central philosophies of the Coalition for Reform's proposed Core Principles is to strive to make them so reasonable that any argument against introducing them becomes weak and spurious. The corollary of this is that any person or party aspiring to be elected should be clamouring to agree to the principles or an adaptation of them. If they do not agree to them or to some of them, surely they would be quick to show how mistaken and misconceived they are and that their own policies are so much better?
None of the main parties have spoken, other than for the PDP. It has re-emphasised their own proposals for democracy, transparency and accountability, good for them, at least there is some hope that the issues are being taken seriously by some. The opposite seems to be true for the other parties. The GSD government have been conspicuous throughout 2011 for one thing, virtually absolute silence not just on this issue but on most issue. Its silence generally is conspicuous but certainly it is so on the subject of the cessation of works in one of the main infrastructure projects in Gibraltar, the airport tunnel; no explanation of any depth has been forthcoming. It is the rumours, once again, that are flying and being fueled by lack of information.
It may be that silence on core issues like democratic and electoral reforms and the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Authority (can anyone seriously oppose this suggestion?) is down to the GSD and GSLP not wanting to elevate and give credibility to the Coalition for Reform (CIR). If that is the reason shame on both of them.
This reason would be palpable evidence that they do not believe in democratic debate, accountability or transparency. It is evidence that that their main concern is to maintain their selfish electoral advantage to the detriment of what their true objective should be, namely working to improve Gibraltar. This is one more reason why I fervently believe that voters should vote for people and not parties at the next election, even if their ballot papers are a mishmash of candidates from different parties. Let the elected members argue afterwards how they will form government, from amongst themselves, to deliver what is best for Gibraltar.
Let us briefly analyse where we stand on electoral and parliamentary reform.
The PDP set out its stall as long ago as 2006. One can argue about and disagree on details but, to this party's credit, it does have a programme. Unfortunately it has not had the opportunity to implement it due to its electoral failures but neither has it acted in any way in an effort to push the Government and Opposition to take the issue up. Beyond publishing their policies, it seems to jealously and selfishly guard it as a policy that they have to distinguish them from the others. Is this the right attitude?
I would say not. I take the view that a political party, that has beneficial policies, has a duty to push the incumbent Government to take them up and implement them. It is for this reason that I have made clear from the very beginning that my ambition is not selfish but that, if there is credible evidence that such reforms will be implemented by the existing parties, then I would go away and not stand for election. My ambition is simple, to achieve democratic reforms for Gibraltar.
What we now know, thanks to that recent illuminating article by Brian Reyes in the Chronic, that a cross party Parliamentary Committee was set up to look at such reforms. It met once and no more. It seems that the Opposition GSLP did not consider that any reforms are needed. In turn this gave the GSD an excuse not to pursue its own promised (in its manifesto) agenda to undertake any democratic reforms. These events are critical of both the GSD and the GSLP but more of the GSD.
More critical of the GSD because it is in Government and so it has the legislative power to give effect to the reforms that it promised in its manifesto. It has not delivered them. It is cynical for the GSD, which has never been stopped from implementing any policy by the views of the Opposition, to rely on the lack of cooperation from the GSLP Opposition as an excuse for not giving effect to one of its own promised policies. It is not enough for the GSD to, again, make the same promise in its manifesto for the next election. If the GSD is to be trusted it must take active and positive steps to implement democratic reforms prior to the next election.
The GSLP are in a slightly better place. Although it may be accused by the GSD of not having helped to advance democracy by cooperating on reforms, it has not had any ability to implement reforms, in any event, because it has not been in Government. The GSLP's problem is one of credibility, if it now promises reforms in its manifesto how will it convince the electorate that it will give effect to them? The change in leadership may help them achieve the credibility and trust they need but this is not the best way.
The best chance of promoting democratic reform, by either the GSD or the GSLP, is to vote for people (as opposed to parties) who are committed to improving democracy by reform. In each and every party there are such people, I know, they have individually told me so and the PDP has made its position public. I challenge them to make their individual positions known to the voting public and not to be held hostages by their respective parties in the belief that their individual electoral chances are enhanced by towing party lines. If none will "come out", well, then give some votes to the Coalition for Reform (CIR). It has at its core the desire and ambition to reform and improve democracy for the commonweal. If it gets a few candidates into Parliament, not only does their election give out a strong message but they can use their position as MPs to further this cause.