Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Untimely inaction will be worse than untimely action

Untimely inaction will be worse than untimely action
By The Post
Wed 14 July 2010, 04:00 CAT

The starting point for developing a framework within which to approach some large questions in the PF-UPND pact is to answer the question: why are we trying to create a pact?

We think that the PF and the UPND are trying to create this pact because they have come to the conclusion that there is need to ensure that the MMD does not win next year’s elections.

At the same time, we believe there is a realization on their part, that they are clearly not dealing with a totally discredited and defeated MMD, and as such an electoral victory for them if they don’t consolidate their support in a pact could not realistically be posed.

Otherwise, there would be no need for a pact if they cared less whether the MMD wins or loses next year’s elections, or if, as individual political parties, they feel they can defeat the MMD with ease.

We think this is what the UPND leadership had in mind when they approached their colleagues in the PF for a pact. It must have been a realisation that on their own as UPND, they were not in a position to singlehandedly defeat the MMD and indeed the PF and form government.

This is understandable given the UPND’s performance in the 2006 and 2008 elections where they trailed the MMD and PF in a distant third. We also believe that the UPND leadership also believed that the PF, which has trailed the MMD in the last two elections by the narrowest of margins, could not also on its own defeat the MMD in next year’s elections and form government. Hence their conclusion that it was necessary for the two opposition political parties to join hands in the belief that those who are ready to join hands can overcome the greatest challenges.

This is our view of the background to this pact. Others may have their own and different interpretations.

Clearly, and as we have stated before, this is nothing but a pact to win an election or elections. There is nothing strategic about it; it is simply a happenstance pact. And this being the case, there will be a lot of negotiations on everything because this pact is not anchored much on principles but on expediency. It is about grabbing power from the MMD and sharing it among themselves. But unfortunately for them, the process of sharing power through elections and by-elections seems to have started before they are in government.

Theirs seems to be a competition for each party to grab the largest number of council and parliamentary seats and as far as possible to have their party leader adopted as the presidential candidate for the Pact in next year’s elections. This is bound to be problematic depending on the criteria they agreed to use.

This will call for honest and sincere negotiations where each party has a clear understanding of what it is bringing to the Pact and accordingly get its equivalent due. But there are times when people try to get more than is due to them. And when this happens, problems start. And this seems to be where the PF-UPND pact is at the moment; if it is not there, then it’s about to get there; hence the problems we see today.

Of course, these problems will be attributed to many people – the ruling MMD and even The Post itself – because those involved in this pact will not always be willing to take responsibility for the their words and actions. It’s easier to blame others for the problems one has created for oneself. But this may not help to solve the problems that lie elsewhere, that lie within one’s own actions.

There will always be a problem if both the PF and the UPND want the same thing, the same seats, the same positions. We say this because wards and constituencies are indivisible. And there will only be one presidential candidate for the Pact. Today the presidents of PF and UPND can be rotating the chairmanship of their meetings, but they won’t be able to do so with the presidential candidature in next year’s elections as a pact.

The Pact can only have one presidential candidate in next year’s election and one pact parliamentary and ward candidate in each area. If the Pact ends up with more than one candidate for any ward, parliamentary or presidential election, then the Pact in that ward, constituency or for that presidential election has failed, has crumbled and is no more.

Today the Pact has two presidents – one for PF and the other for UPND – and both are going round basking in the honour and glory of being called Mr president. But if tomorrow the Pact adopts a presidential candidate, one of them will have to face and live with a reduced status of being a lesser Mr president and with probably fewer people coming to pay homage and kneel before them. But this is the reality that has to be faced in a pact.

Each party in the Pact has been preparing a ward or parliamentary candidate for each seat. But if the Pact works, only one of these will be adopted and others will have to be disappointed. Again, problems can arise here, hence the need for honest and sincere negotiations accompanied by appropriate compromises.

Clearly, the settlement of all these pact issues will require a very high level of honesty and sincerity because the very nature of compromising calls for big sacrifices; compromises have to be made on fundamental issues. Insignificant things, peripheral issues don’t need any compromise. And the biggest issue that the Pact will need to resolve soon is that of the presidential candidate.

Much delay in resolving this issue, as others have already pointed out, will cause them a lot of headaches and may threaten to break the Pact completely. And everything should start with a resolution of which party between the PF and UPND will field the presidential candidate for the Pact. After that, it may be slightly easier to deal with the other issues of the Pact.

Again, if one is not prepared to compromise, then they must not enter into or think about creating a pact at all. Of course, we are not in any way saying PF and UPND as independent political parties should just give away everything anyhow for the sake of the Pact. No. This will not be correct because a pact and the compromises that accompany it must not undermine any of the political parties involved.

But concessions will always be inherent in any association – pact or otherwise – that require a negotiated settlement. And we firmly believe that negotiated solutions can be found even to situations that have come to seem intractable and that such solutions emerge when those involved reach out to find the common ground. But if you negotiate, you must be prepared to compromise and you have to accept the integrity of the other person or organisation you are dealing with.

If one thinks with his little he can go into a pact and grab an unjustified big portion from those holding more than him through all sorts of schemes, then they are mistaken. And if those holding more think they can go into a pact and negotiate to take away the little that the other side is holding for nothing because they are weak, then, again, they are mistaken because it won’t do.

What will work is only a solution where each party comes out feeling they have gained something – they have something more than they started with. If they come out feeling the Pact is robbing them of something, they will abandon it. Only a just and fair approach will save the Pact and make it work.

It is therefore very important if the PF and UPND want to save their pact from crumbling to immediately start addressing the principal issues of this pact and not duck them.

They must immediately start addressing the pact presidential candidate issue. And no true pact will be built on the shifting sands of evasions, illusions and opportunism on this score. Clearing the Pact presidential candidate as soon as possible may help cure the stress.

Time for small thinking is over, and there is no need for posturing and trying to make virtue out of inadequacies.

The Pact has reached a point, a moment in which – to use Lenin’s words – untimely inaction will be worse than untimely action. In this situation, there can be no indiscreet questions, but only indiscreet answers.



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