Of parties and their hacks
Editorial from Amandala

BELIZE CITY, Thu, May. 18, 2006

We respect the system of political parties and the qualities one requires in order to function successfully in it. One needs to be disciplined, flexible, intelligent and a team player. Some otherwise talented people find it hard to be team players, for example. Artists like to work alone. Many entrepreneurs are individualistic. Some people do not want to be flexible. They prefer to be straightforward and determined, so they seek areas of activity where they do not have to compromise all the time. Our point is that not everybody was cut out for party politics.

But it is through party politics that individuals acquire the power to make vital, enduring decisions for our society. Since the introduction of the party system in Belize, followed by adult suffrage, more than half a century ago, we have seen that the party system sometimes catapults people into positions of power who are otherwise lightweights. They achieved little before their rise to power, and after they are removed from political power they rapidly return to the obscurity and mediocrity which were their natural level.

The party system also produces what are known as “party hacks.” These are people who are nobodies otherwise, but they use the “backative” of the party to abuse other citizens who are not party-affiliated. So that often we have seen in elections in Belize’s political independence, that incumbent parties are voted out by landslides. This happens when the citizens who are not affiliated with political parties become so enraged with the arrogance, greed and corruption of the party hacks with whom they have contact, that they mark ballots of absolute anger.

There was a time when the two major political parties used to stand for something. The PUP was the party which fought for political independence and destroyed some social biases. The NIP, which was the precursor to the UDP, fought against the Guatemalan claim. Then the UDP fought for the free enterprise system against what they believed were socialist initiatives in the PUP of the 1970’s. But the PUP and the UDP do not really stand for anything anymore. They are really business houses which are in the business of electoral politics, which is about political power by any means necessary.

The cynicism of the non-affiliated electorate, and the size of their numbers, have grown steadily since political independence, which was followed three years later by the first change of government. The recent entry of new political parties into the electoral process, especially the Vision Inspired by the People (VIP), is a good sign. It is a sign that our democracy is attempting to renew itself. The citizens who have nothing to believe in where the two major parties are concerned, are trying to build something they can believe in.

Party politics is an activity which inevitably breeds corruption. The reason is that it is a game without rules, and certain people make themselves so valuable to leaders that they are allowed to get away with behaviour which would normally be considered unacceptable. There are people who rise up from the status of party hacks to the point where they become party power brokers. We have seen instances where these special operators become so important they can hold a party to ransom, especially during off-election crises.

Party hacks who become party power brokers reduce the level of democracy, the power of the people within a party. The nature of our parliamentary democracy is such that the political parties are integral, indispensable parts of that democratic machinery. And since the parties inevitably produce party hacks, who sometimes become party power brokers, then you see that the entrenched political parties are always moving in a direction which is inimical to pure democracy.

At this newspaper we are satisfied that the nature of the democracy within our two major political parties is not pure. That is why we support the concept of other parties, a charge which has been led by the VIP.

Power to the people.