Early last week was dominated by the high drama coming out of Washington DC on the issue of Congress voting for a higher debt ceiling and the whole ideological split between the Republican and Democratic Party representatives.
Personally, I could not see what the fuss was all about because it was clear that none of the parties, let alone the individual representatives, would like to get stuck with the tag of being the one responsible for the Federal Government failing to pay for many of its programs or defaulting on its interest payments on its own bonds.
Not in the current economic climate. Still the whole episode of intransigence and the resultant deal led to Standard & Poor downgrading the US’s credit rating for the first time in its history.
In layman’s terms, America will now have to pay larger interest rates to holders of its debt.
If there is one good thing that came out of the political showdown in America, it is that markets worldwide spent the rest of the week in freefall including the commodities markets.
So perhaps there may be some relief in the pump prices back home.
One can always hope. The nail-biting drama of whether the US Congress would do the unthinkable and not vote for a raise in the debt ceiling got me thinking about our very own Rwandan politics.
Parliamentary politics are not nearly as noisy as the US Congress and the inter-party ideological divides in Rwanda are not nearly as sharp.
Naturally this has led to our deputies and senators being given the unfortunate label of ‘stooges’ presenting a ‘facade’ of plurality.
I think it’s an unfair label because it presumes a number of things; one of them being that all debate on any issue has to be adversarial and that any debater necessarily has to come into any discussion with a fixed position whether s/he knows what the subject is or not.
As Rwanda’s constitution, institutions and general legislative body are still nascent and still catching up on the country’s rapidly changing socio-economic, and even political, scene [often in a rather awkward fashion, the whole change from Electrogaz to RECO/RWASCO to EWSA comes to mind] the debate is often consensual as the country’s challenges are self-evident.
Another factor is the way Parliamentary elections are set up by the constitution. Of the 80 seats in the House of Deputies, nearly a third are the apolitical positions or representatives for the women, youth and disabled.
In the Senate, only 12 of the 26 senators receive some form of popular mandate through the administrative councils of local government [start lobbying your mayors and governors on your candidate’s behalf, the next round of elections for the senate are to be held in September].
Additional as Rwanda’s parliament follows the principle of Proportional Representation where parties appoint representatives according to the proportion of the vote that they have received, candidates are not tied down to any constituency, ideological group or major interest other than their own party.
It reduces on the need for theatrics although one could also argue that our Parliamentarians are alienated from the electorate [in a few cases, this accusation rings true.
As an example, the current discussions on the penal code often reveal an unhealthy love of penitentiary retribution]. When it counts, our Parliament has passed crucial legislation with a minimum of fuss.
In the end, I think there’s something to be said for unconfrontational politics. It may create few useful newspaper selling headlines but rather like one’s lungs, it should be efficient in a way that you stop being aware of its presence despite its importance.
Oh, and in case you missed it – the Parliament passed legislation on freedom of information last week.
In theory, it should be possible to go to any government body and demand for information on anything fully expecting a response within 48-hours unless such information is classified as a matter of public safety or national security.
Give me dull over exciting politics any day even if we only rank a humble B according to the Fitch Ratings unlike the US’s Triple-A.