Sunday, 14 August 2011

A Further Democratic Deficiency of Parliament

Substantial criticism has been made in Llanito World about the democratic deficit that exists in Gibraltar by reason, in the main, of the lack of any separation of powers and the disregard for the Rule of Law. The deficiencies do not stop there, as a review of the Standing Rules and Orders of the Gibraltar Parliament reveal ("Rules"). The bias of the Rules favours the majority party in Parliament (the Government) and the Chief Minister. All the deficiencies highlighted in Llanito World are magnified further, to the detriment of constituents and good governance, because Gibraltar's Parliament is unicameral and not bicameral. In a unicameral system, democratic safeguards need to be more robust. In Gibraltar not only are they not robust they are virtually non-existent. 

Essentially the only safeguard that exists is an election every 4 years in which the choice is limited to those who stand for election. Many do not stand for a variety of reasons, many of these reasons are peculiar to a small jurisdiction. This lack of volunteering and participation in the political process in turn reduces the effectiveness of the electoral safeguard available every 4 years. The most voiced opinion that I hear at election after election is to the effect that the choice for the electorate is as between the lesser bad of two bad choices, which can in turn be exploited by any incumbent Chief Minister in Mugabesque (sic) manner. This being the the case, there is something drastically wrong with the system In Gibraltar. The system needs to be changed radically. The radical change must include reforms that will eliminate the fear of repercussions that many have that prevents them participating actively and openly in politics. A brief analysis of some of the Rules further reveal that the democratic deficit is rather deeper than a lack of separation of powers. 

One of the fundamentals of Parliamentary democracy is that the Chief Minister is not chosen by direct plebiscite but is chosen by the party or coalition that has a majority in Parliament. It is also true to say that the acts of any Chief Minister fall to be scrutinised by Parliament. It is Parliament alone that can dismiss a Chief Minister, as in order for an electorate to dismiss him/her the electorate has to turn against the incumbent government and elect an opposition party in its place. The power of a Chief Minister is greatly enhanced by this factor. It is further enhanced by his ability to choose the timing of meetings of Parliament.

Under the Rules, it is the Chief Minister, alone, who decides where and when a meeting of Parliament is convened. Admittedly he is forced by the 2006 Constitution to hold at least 3 meetings in any calendar year. The control that his ability to decide the timing of meetings gives the Chief Minister is excessive. Parliament is charged, amongst other duties, to oversee the performance of a government and a Chief Minister. Timing is often of extreme importance in influencing the immediacy and relevance of any issue or incident and delay of embarrassing debates favour the Chief Minister and his Government. It is detrimental to democracy that the Chief Minister can delay a meeting of Parliament when burning issues should be debated close to the occurrence of any subject requiring debate. 

This ability to pick the time to hold a meeting of Parliament is a curb on democracy. Even if the Government has an inbuilt majority, parliamentary debate is of the utmost importance in forming public opinion. If  the Opposition is prevented from debating issues close to a relevant occurrence its ability to form and influence public opinion is curtailed or eliminated altogether on occasions. In turn this reduces the effect of the only democratic safeguard that exists, namely the decision to oust or not to oust a government at a general election. 

Additionally reducing the number of meetings of Parliament to the limited number required by the 2006 Constitution has the effect of concentrating a large amount of business to a limited number of days in a year. Press reports of proceedings become too compressed and detailed. Editorial decisions have to be made to determine the importance of what stories to run with and which to drop. Stories arising from questions or debate about issues or events that are dated take second place and frequently are buried in the morass of issues that have overtaken that event or occurrence. All these factors have the effect of reducing, in  numbers of persons, the reach of important stories and  reports which come to the ears of the public. The importance and impact and pernicious effect on democracy of the Chief Minister's power to decide on timing should not be underestimated. 

Parliament should have a fixed and regular timetable so that the Chief Minister cannot control when important issues are debated in Parliament. Regularity of meetings is also important to ensure currency of debates. The right of the Chief Minister should be limited to recalling Parliament outside those times if he/she considers that to be appropriate. This will mean that important issues can and could be debated at the current, relevant and immediate time, press reports will be easier to follow and more closely connected in time to the issue in debate. Importantly it will force politicians to be what they are, politicians, not administrators. 

34 comments:

  1. Robert

    The one comment that stands out in my mind is:-

    "The radical change must include reforms that will eliminate the fear of repercussions that many have that prevents them participating actively and openly in politics".

    It stands out in mind because nothing that you advocate is possible without a "new blood" transfusion. It is patently obvious that the established politicians are more inclined towards maintaining the status quo.

    When you state fear of "repercussions" I would ask, what are these repercussions other than the sacrifice inherent in serving your country and becoming a public figure?

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  2. Anonymous at 13;24

    Repercussions is fear of the results of one's actions. The sacrifice is more than just that inherent in serving one's country and becoming a public. For many it involves risk in their business, profession or employment without certainty of outcome or consequences of not being elected. There is also fear of wider repercussions, which may well be imagined but these fears still dissuade persons from involvement.

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  3. LW-RV, For how long has it been the practice for Parliament to be called to meet 3 times a year ?

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  4. Anonymous at 00:32

    3 times a year is the minimum number of meetings permitted. The CM can call more but no one else. This is unheard of in a parliamentary democracy in which Parliament is supreme. Prior to the 2006 Constitution meetings of the House of Assembly were held on proclamation by the Governor after consultation with Gibraltar Council. After 2006 the new rule came in as a follow on from the Governor's earlier power. It is wrong. It concentrate undemocratic power in the CM. It should be the other way round. Parliament should be free to oversee the workings of the Executive and the CM. It is a bizarre arrangement.

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  5. Did any party or individual disagree with the 2006 Constitution new rule?

    Lawless

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  6. judging from the way the members of the opposition are personally insulted and ridiculed by the Government when asking a question or questioning a move, which is what they are there to do, I am not surprised there are so few members of the public who take up the challenge of entering into politics.

    Parliament needs less arrogance and more action!

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  7. Wow me thinks we've all been hoodwinked with the 2006 constitution!! Seems like it was all a big ploy for Mr. Caruana to exert even more authority on OUR Gibraltar....remove powers from the Governor, take over the police force etc etc....

    ITS ALL ABOUT POWER!!!

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  8. Robert

    From reading your articles on democracy and reforms I get the feeling, mistaken or otherwise, that what you propose would result in a very democratic parliament where everything is debated thoroughly but nothing ever gets done.

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  9. Anonymous at 12 :18

    That is not the experience of the UK Parliamentary system which is all that I am advocating. I believe an appropriate balance can and should be struck but certainly not one that gives all power to the Chief Minister, otherwise Gibraltar is not a democracy at all.

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  10. Wow me thinks we've all been hoodwinked with the 2006 constitution!! Seems like it was all a big ploy for Mr. Caruana to exert even more authority on OUR Gibraltar....remove powers from the Governor, take over the police force etc etc....

    ITS ALL ABOUT POWER!!!

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  11. Anonymous at 00:16

    Although undoubtedly you are using an excess of sarcasm, you actually miss the point but make one deserving of a reply.

    It is not about Mr Caruana, Mr Picardo, Mr Bosanno or Mr Azopardi. You personalise issues as do all. It is about democracy and its workings. The 2006 Constitution was agreed by BOTH the GSD and the GSLP. It was crafted to what suited both of them. It simply codified a system of "gang" warfare that now dominates party politics in Gibraltar. It is this domination that I am trying to water down. Politics should be about ideals and policies not about power by offering the electorate what it wants individually whilst ignoring the commonweal. Look where Western economies find themselves now for ignoring the commonweal in exchange for short term vote catching ...

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  12. LAST LAND DEAL
    The Foreign Office a couple of weeks ago gave our CM the last chance to comply with their agreement or compromise to deliver some sort of harmony with Spain by handing Gibraltar CM PRC what I believe to be their last land deal.

    There is no question that the UK after all the land and financial aid they have given us over the last 20 years badly handled by PRC would even think of bailing us out on any financial debt we will possibly encounter should any of the offshore licenses of banking, gambling, bunkering, tobacco smuggling, and tourism drop for whatever reason.

    Whoever is voted and takes over government will have to comply with our 2006 democratic rules and laws correct the democratic deficits as pointed out by RV in order to save guard investors and inhabitants and introduce a complete separation of powers.

    Introduce within the financial system, all sorts of guarantees banking, gambling, bunkering, and other licences introduce simply as standard laws like Office of Fair Trading FT, financial ombudsma etc.

    RV should write in basic simple English how an OFFICE OF FARE TRADING could help, how an OFFICE of a FINANCIAL OBUDBSMAN can help investors in our daily lives etc, you have 75% or more of the votes who do not understand your comments and are meaningless.
    We must force the Chamber of Commerce and cooperation of small business to act and offer the same rights employed in other financial centers.

    The day will come when we will be asked by the FO in 5 to 10 years that they can lo longer fiance us and ask Spain to bail us out.

    This will be a repetition of the 1940 evacuation for many Gibraltarians. A tu cass vendran y de tu casa te echaran ., Ellos vendrán a su casa y de su casa le diran largarse o marcharse

    LAWLESS

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  13. LAWLESS

    I am not sure where you get this idea that there is some sort of agreement between the CM and FCO for harmony with Spain or that it is connected to any Lands Deal. This is not something that anyone has said or indicated or that there is any evidence to sustain. The issue of a financial bail out is really not on the cards as there is no need for it ... so again I am not sure where you are coming from on this aspect. The FCO do not finance us at all so again I do not know where you are coming from.

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  14. Tyrone Duarte says:

    I like your analogy of politics in Gibraltar to codified gang warfare; see Charles Tilley on the monopolisation of violence, essentially the state as organised crime.

    All very much in the Machiavellian realist tradition and some would say that it is therefore inapplicable in the analysis of post-modern states.

    However, the situation as regards law and order in dear old England shows us how thin the veneer of civilisation is.

    The veneer can only be kept alive by the pursuit of human rights and the rejection of the exercise of arbitrary power by the Executive arm of government, something that is sorely lacking post-2006 in Gibraltar with the extremely presidential constitution we have.

    The problem is not that nothing would get done if it were debated, the problem is that our politicians and their more demented supporters do not understand the notion of consensus. And, the current Executive does not know how to trust and delegate projects, which leaves the whiff of arrogance, corruption and nepotism in its wake as tasks are distributed.

    Valiente mierda de sistema tenemos. En italia lo llaman tal 'il sistema', that oppressive amalgam of church, mafia and politics.

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  15. RV@00:15

    Robert

    The UK Parliamentary system allowed Tony Blair to take the country to war in Iraq and for
    his style to be criticised as not that of a prime minister and head of government, which he was, but of a president and head of state—which he was not.

    I would not hold the UK Parliamentary system up as an example to follow.

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  16. Anonymous at 12:40

    That is not a flaw of the system ... it is a criticism of the collective of individuals who are MPs and then only having made the subjective value judgment that you have made and is inherent in your comment.

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  17. lost democracy
    Part 1
    Nazi Germany under the leadership of Hitler soon became a dictatorship. A dictatorship requires one person and one party to be in control of a nation and a climate of fear - this was provided by Himmler's SS. Personal freedom disappeared in Nazi Germany.
    When Hitler was appointed chancellor on January 30th 1933, it was at the head of a coalition government. It was very clear in his mind that it would not remain this way for long. By the end of March 1933, he had acquired much greater powers than the former leading politicians of the Weimar Republiccould ever have foreseen when they supported his appointment as chancellor. The death of President Hindenburg in August 1934, allowed him to combine both chancellor's and president's positions into one when Hitler became the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor.
    How did Germany descend so quickly into becoming a dictatorship?
    When Hitler was appointed in January 1933, Germany was a democracy. Germany had fair elections; nobody had their right to vote abused; there were numerous political parties you could vote for etc. To pass a law, the Reichstag had to agree to it after a bill went through the normal processes of discussion, arguments etc. Within the Reichstag of January 1933, over 50% of those who held seats were against the Nazi Party. Therefore it would have been very unlikely for Hitler to have got passed into law what he wanted. Many saw Hitler as a fall-guy politician who would have to shoulder to blame if things got worse under his leadership.
    Hitler had promised a general election for March 1933. This would have been, in his mind, the perfect opportunity for him to show all politicians who opposed him where the true loyalties lay in the German people. In fact, 1932 had shown Hitler that there was a possibility that support for the Nazis had peaked as their showing in the November 1932 election had shown. Anything other than a huge endorsement of Hitler and the Nazi Party would have been a disaster and a gamble which it is possible that Hitler did not want to take.
    One week before the election was due to take place, the Reichstag building burned down. Hitler immediately declared that it was the signal for a communist takeover of the nation. Hitler knew that if he was to convince President Hindenburg to give him emergency powers - as stated in the WeimarConstitution - he had to play on the old president's fear of communism. What better than to convince him that the communists were about to take over the nation by force?
    A known communist - Marianus van der Lubbe - was caught near the Reichstag building immediately after the fire had started. Those that arrested him - Nazi officials - claimed that Lubbe confessed to them that the fire was a signal to other communists to start the revolution to overthrow democracy in the country. Matches were allegedly found on van der Lubbe and those who arrested him claimed that he smelt of petrol.
    Hitler asked Hindenburg to grant him emergency powers in view of the 'communist takeover'. Using the constitution, Hindenburg agreed to pass the Law for the Protection of the People and the State.
    This law gave Hitler what he wanted - a ban on the Communists and Socialists taking part in an election campaign. The leaders from both parties were arrested and their newspapers were shut down. To 'keep the peace' and maintain law and order, the SA (the Brown Shirts) roamed the streets beating up those who openly opposed Hitler.
    The election took place in March - though Hitler was convinced it would be the last. Hitler did not get the number of votes he wanted but he did get enough to get over a 50% majority in the Reichstag:
    Communists 4.8 million votes
    Social Democrats 7.2 million votes
    Centre party 5.5 million votes
    Nationalists 3.1 million votes
    Other parties 1.4 million votes
    Nazis 17.3 million votes
    lawless

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  18. lawless
    Part2
    12 million people voted for what were effectively two outlawed parties is remarkable when the intimidation of voters is taken into account.
    After the burning down of the Reichstag, politicians had nowhere to meet. The Kroll Opera House in Berlin was chosen. This was a relatively small round building - perfect for meetings. On March 23rd, elected officials were due to meet to discuss and vote on Hitler's Enabling Law.
    As politicians neared the building, they found it surrounded by SS and SA thugs who tried to ensure that only Nazi or Nationalist politicians got into the building. The vote for this law was crucial as it gave Hitler a vast amount of power. The law basically stated that any bill only needed Hitler's signature and within 24 hours that bill would become law in Germany. With only Nazis and other right wing politicians inside the Kroll Opera House, the bill was quickly passed into law. The act gave Hitler what he wanted - dictatorial power. What he wanted would become law in Germany within 24 hours of his signature being put on paper.
    On 7th April 1933, Nazi officials were put in charge of all local government in the provinces.
    On May 2nd 1933, trades unions were abolished, their funds taken and their leaders put in prison. The workers were given a May Day holiday in return.
    On July 14th 1933, a law was passed making it illegal to form a new political party. It also made the Nazi Party the only legal political party in Germany.
    Germany became a nation of snoops. People were employed in each street, in each building complex etc. with the sole purpose of keeping an eye on others in their 'area' and reporting them to the authorities if they believed that something was amiss. The reputation of the Nazi police and the secret police lead by Himmler was such that no-one wished to cause offence. People kept their thoughts to themselves unless they wished to invite trouble. In this sense, Nazi Germany was a nation run on fear of the government. Hitler had created a one party state within months of being appointed chancellor.
    His only remaining problem from his point of view was loyalty within his own party ranks. In June 1934, he overcame this with the Night of the Long Knives.

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  19. Robert,

    I am anon @00.16 17th August, except I am not!

    I sent you my post 3 days before you published it. Nevertheless despite your delay, you post it and accuse me of missing the point in a long winded explanation 9 minutes later!

    I would argue that you are guilty of manipulation and acting in an undemocratic fashion within your own blog, and I find this particularly disturbing seeing as you spend so much time and energy debating on the need for democratic reforms!

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  20. Anonymous at 03:06

    You in fact sent it on the 15th August just after midnight and it was published on the 17th August . So, first, your reference to 3 days is totally false. Second the reason it was not published on the 16th is that there was a glitch because I am traveling and I tried to publish from my Iphone. My big fingers were clumsy and I deleted rather than published. Therefore I had to get to somewhere with a computer and cut and paste your email afresh. There you are a simple explanation and you have jumped to conclusions. My "long winded"explanation is all of 13 lines and simply argues, very cogently, why you missed the point.

    What have I manipulated? I do moderate comments. I do edit them. Some I do not publish, if they are defamatory. If you look at my blog on Comments, all of this is made clear. I have to do this as a matter of law, otherwise I could be sued. How is this to act in an undemocratic fashion? I am disturbed by your very warped thought process :)

    All that said, I note that you must agree with my reply as you do not argue against the substance of it. Also at least you konw who I am ... you make a bland and baseless attack on one core of my arguments from the comfort of anonymity.

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  21. Robert

    I am amazed at how misguided Lawless is on local matters, as pointed out by you on 17th@10:25 and how knowledgeable he is on democracy, or lack of, in Nazi Germany.

    Clueless

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  22. Robert I have read the following press release which I have found very alarming: "Leader of the Opposition, Fabian Picardo, has called on the government to carry out an immediate forensic audit on the collapse of the multi-million OHL contract - or he will if he becomes Chief Minister after the election". Am I right in thinking that Mr Picardo suspects that serious acts may have given rise to the failure of the contract? This is could be very, very serious.

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  23. Anonymous at 23:47

    I really do not know what Fabian might be thinking ...

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  24. of course its very very serious, that's why a forensic audit is required... duh!

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  25. Forensic audits should have been carried out of all the multimillions contractors who have failed to deliver, Gibraltarians of all kinds suspects possible serious acts may have given rise to the failure of the contracts.

    FABIAN PICADOR has compromise if elected to do what the majority of the electorate made up of all the classes wanted and have been asking over the years to no avail, perhaps now we will get some clarity and forensic audit disclosure, this to my mind is a step in the right direction and hope other forensic audit will also take place of their agents and consultants.

    10 to 1 it will never happen.

    LAWLESS

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  26. duh@00:32

    A forensic audit is carried out when serious criminal acts such as embezzlement and fraud are suspected.

    Picardo appears to suspects such acts by calling for a forensic audit. I hope that he knows what he is doing for a change.

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  27. Anon@09:35

    I wonder who Mr Picardo would appoint as Forensic Auditors.

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  28. a forensic audit would also determine a breach of contract.

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  29. NEWS
    Selectmen order forensic audit of airport

    By Jason Graziadei
    I&M Senior Writer

    (Aug. 18, 2011) Just a day after the state ATTORNEY GENERAL'S investigation into bidding practices at Nantucket Memorial Airport was revealed, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday to order a forensic audit and full operational review of the airport.

    The town will issue a request for proposals, or RFP, to find and retain an independent firm to conduct the audit and review. The action was requested by the Finance Committee following the release of its subcommittee report in June that questioned a runway paving contract at the airport and recommended a wider probe.

    The selectmen also will demand that the airport, which is owned by the town but functions as a self-sustaining enterprise fund, provide the funds to pay for the audit and operational review.

    "There was initial concern with the phrase 'forensic audit,' but in light of some recent issues, not the least of which is a meeting certain town officials have been requested to attend with the ATTORNEY GENERAL, it might not be inappropriate to use that term," town manager Libby Gibson said.
    The RFP approved by the board Wednesday night specifically calls for audits of the runway paving project as well as three to five other specific airport projects from the last two fiscal years. The language also outlines the town's demand for a review and evaluation of the airport's administrative processes, departmental reporting, and procurement.

    Besides the selectmen's inquiry, the ATTORNEY GENERAL'S investigation is focusing on a number of questionable bidding practices July, according to town counsel John Giorgio.

    Giorgio also informed the Airport Commission Tuesday that it had violated the state's open meeting laws in awarding a generous new contract to airport manager Al Peterson during an executive session.

    Familiar

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  30. Democratic Deficit:
    Critical Citizens Revisited

    Pippa Norris

    Cambridge University Press, 2011 - Political Science - 336 pages
    Many fear that democracies are suffering from a legitimacy crisis. This book focuses on "democratic deficits," reflecting how far the perceived democratic performance of any state diverges from public expectations. Pippa Norris examines the symptoms by comparing system support in more than fifty societies worldwide, challenging the pervasive claim that most established democracies have experienced a steadily rising tide of political disaffection during the third-wave era. The book diagnoses the reasons behind the democratic deficit, including demand (rising public aspirations for democracy), information (negative news about government), and supply (the performance and structure of democratic regimes). Finally, Norris examines the consequences for active citizenship, for governance, and ultimately, for democratization. This book provides fresh insights into major issues at the heart of comparative politics, public opinion, political culture, political behavior, democratic governance, political psychology, political communications, public policymaking, comparative sociology, cross-national survey analysis, and the dynamics of the democratization process.

    Citizen

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  31. Anonymous at 09:35

    You are not correct. Forensic audits are carried out in anticipation and aid of any litigation be it civil or criminal.

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  32. Robert@02:18

    Does that not mean, therefore, that Mr Picardo anticipates illegal acts, whether civil or criminal?

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  33. Anonymous at 13:11

    I do not know what is in Mr Picardo's mind but your conclusion does not follow necessarily. One should not attempt to pre-empt amy enquiry. The likelihood is that he simply wants to know what has gone wrong with that particular contract from an independent source.

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  34. RV@15:20

    Robert

    If what you say is what Mr Picardo wants he would have called for an Independent Inquiry and not a Forensic Audit.

    I think that he has dropped a clanger!

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