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Gearing up for national elections!

Gearing up for national elections!

J. Roughan
9 August 2005

In less than six months--probably February, 2006--Solomon Islanders vote in a new parliament. Present day members, however, are anxiously gearing themselves up for re-election. They're using an old fashioned method--create a new party--as usual, in Honiara. A public launching of the new party's manifesto and much tok tok what its candidates will do once elected takes the place of basic grass root, face to face campaigning. This tactic has hardly worked in the past and it won't help much this time around either.

Voters are mostly people back in their villages. They are much more interested in finding out why the member hasn't visited them for years. They're demanding an accurate account of what happened to all their Constituency Development money, more than $1.5 million over a four year period. Starting up a new party, unfortunately, gives the illusion that politicians really care for their people and are doing something positive for them. Starting up a new party, no matter who well intended and fine sounding but not interacting with the people who count the most, misses out on people's deep concerns.

Political talk about, concern for and focus on the rural person is fine if all of this really faces up to people's everyday lives. It must mean that the parliamentarian must be in tune with the typical Solomon Islander's life and make it noticeably better and more rewarding. Solomon Islanders' needs are modest and are easily accomplished if they were actually at the centre of politicians radar screen.

Political parties, if strong, well disciplined and energetic, certainly are a missing ingredient in Solomons' political life. Such parties could instil in members greater discipline and concentrate their efforts to make this nation a better place for its people. But over the past twenty years or so, most political parities mushroomed six months or so before election day, promised great things to come and promptly disappeared within three months after election day.

The trouble is not the political party but individuals who use them for election purposes and have little concern for it once elected into office. Witness the shifting loyalties once a ministerial post is on offer. Parliament has had more than its fare share of Political Cowboys (we have had only one woman MP in 27 years, so there is no case of Political Cowgirls!). Last week's shortened parliamentary session, for instance, came about because it couldn't muster a quorum.

Either the absent members thought their own private business interests more important than their law making work or was it a way of destroying Government's Foreign Business bill? Whatever the case, the cowboy attitude towards duty to the nation comes out clearly.

The high profile political parties are currently gearing themselves up for the 2006 election. In reality they should be setting their sights for the 2010 one, if they are serious about making the Solomons a better place to live. But because they usually die within three or four months after the election, it is hard for them to make a difference to the political life of the nation.

Most voters have already made up their minds who they don't want in next year's parliament. Who they will vote for, however, is still up for grabs. Current parliamentarians--about 35 of the 50 members--won't make it back into office. The reason? Rather simple in fact! Present members have failed in their primary duty to represent their people's best interests.

SIDT's recent Government Report Card No. 7 surfaces the same dismal findings for the ordinary village person and town dweller. According to this Report Card--marks for education patterns, health matters, resource help and availability of money--hasn't changed since the Mamaloni days in late 1989. In other words, the typical Solomon Islander's life hasn't improved much over a 16 year period..

But more importantly today's voters need to see positive change in their lives, in the lives of their family, in their village. The voter is unimpressed by high sounding words or fancy promises . People beg politicians to stick to basics: quality education, working clinics, markets for their products and a chance to gain modest amounts of money. Build on these basics and re-election is assured. Forget them and start looking for a new job!


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