Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Weekly Sneak: The Opposition Proposition

Onwards ho! with the discussion about President The Fifth. Two things I have always had beef with in our modern standardized practice of liberal electoral representative democracy. First: the power of presidency. Second: the opposition proposition.

Really, the power should lie in the Legislature. Of course as African countries we're all still trying to indigenize whichever form of copy-paste government system we adopted after independence, and that's alright except for the part where we transferred the village chief concept straight to the presidency. I don't care what anyone says, there is nothing intrinsic about people in Africa craving a Big Man. It's not a genetic predisposition. This is why we need to teach precolonial history in school... once we've mastered the art of actually teaching literacy and numeracy.

The legislature is where the real power should lie in a republic, and we particularly need it here so that we can put an end to this business of being so overwhelmingly vulnerable to the vagaries of one individual. But until that happens... Presidents are important, which is why we need to discuss this business of voting opposition.

Yeah, yeah- the opposition proposition. Listen: ideology is basically dead in East Africa, the only thing we all adhere to is Pragmatism. This fetish for the miraculous powers of voting in an opposition President is ridiculous. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes the last thing you need is opposition. Sometimes it's because the system isn't ready, sometimes it's because the devil you know is in fact far better than the howling nutjobs at the gates. Voting should be about the judicious selection of representatives based on self-interest and a view to the greater good. It should not be done out of some slavish devotion to an individual or an institution or- even- a narrow ideology that holds no water in your particular circumstances:
" When assessing a potential candidate for Presidency, I suspect most of us ask ourselves the same two questions.

First: could this person handle the beast that is our machine of state... or will it grind them down into an exhausted heap of failure and disengagement, unleashing mayhem and chaos upon us all? Second: will this person serve the interests of the Republic... or are they secretly a power-crazed sociopath who will make Iddi Amin look like a kindergarten teacher in comparison?

The first question is a very tough one for the opposition. The machine of state is hard enough to handle even if you come from within the bowels of the Establishment and were raised by the Green and Gold. An outside man would have to be exceptional to succeed at it in our current circumstances. When we reach a nice saturation point- lots more opposition in parliament, a professional civil service, an independent judiciary- then more voters are likely to gamble on a non-Establishment candidate."


  1. I hear you ... funny to think that Mrema in 1995 had the most credibility precisely because people thought with his inside experience he could handle the "machine of state." Of course this is before people started to him better...

  2. @Dr. Bob- Poor Mrema. He has single-handedly done more to instill a fear of an opposition President in Tanzanians than any other group or event since 1992. But as a lesson in the perils of multi-party democracy go it was rather gentle.


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