Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Compromise or fade into irrelevance

If you're rigid, unbending, incapable to adapting to your environment, it is unlikely that the snakepit that is the National Assembly will serve you or your constituent's ends. The essence of politics, especially elective politics, is that the elected representative must adapt to the politicking that occurs after one is elected. By all means, one may stand by his core principles, such as integrity, honesty, probity, accountability and transparency, but a refusal to consider the context of every political choice will only lead to great disappointment, utter failure or a complete betrayal of ones principles.

The men and women who are represented in the National Assembly have specific demands that must be addressed and specific needs that must be met.  Back in the day when the Constituency Development Fund was the MP's most potent tool to meet the needs of the people and address some of their more outlandish acts, the MP was the one who brought home the pork. In the here and now, the courts have essentially decreed that elected representatives have absolutely no role to play in the execution of functions reserved for the executive branch - except that of oversight to ensure that public funds are not wasted, stolen, misspent or underspent.

Politics, indeed, makes for strange bedfellows because even despite the divergent interests of many politicians, enough common ground can be found to ensure that the needs of the people are met. What defines a good politician isn't his fidelity to his principles in the face of "challenges" but his ability to persuade his colleagues that it is in both their constituents' interests that a particular proposal is seen to the end. If one insists on being the moralising scourge of the National Assembly, cavilling against the avarice of his colleagues and calling on their downfall at the hands of their constituents, he is likely to create enemies whose sole mission is to embarass and humiliate him at every turn by shooting down every single proposal he makes in the assembly. Puritanism and fundamentalism are unattractive qualities in elected representatives though they are perfect for the activist looking to hold the State to account for its acts of omission or commission.

Unless you can persuade voters to elect like-minded puritanical fundamentalists, the National Assembly is bound to be a very lonely place for the inflexible. Parliament is a big tent encompassing the best, the worst and the indifferent among the voting public. The matters it deals with will never satisfy the needs of the minority who are ideologically pure because some needs can only be satisfied by denying others their just dues. Compromise is the only way that things get done in Parliament and this requires shaking hands with the devil every now and then.

If you are elected to Parliament and you remain inflexibly the same for five years, history will record you as a crackpot fundamentalist who did little to make the lives of the people who elected him better. You will remain an obscure footnote in the history books. In all regards, you will be a failure.

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