Our Leaders this fortnight: One Party Democracy and Climate Change

Venkat Raman

Venkat Raman

Auckland, October 1, 2020



One-Party majority incompatible with democracy

General Election 2020 made a start in New Zealand on September 30, 2020 with Early Voting.

The final polling date, at which a majority of New Zealanders will exercise their franchise, is set for Saturday, October 17, 2020. We hope that all those eligible to vote, the South Asian communities in particular, will cast their vote and strengthen the tenets of democracy.

Speaking of democracy, a truly representative form of governance and law-making is one that provides for a broad spectrum of political parties that cater to varied segments of the society.

Multi-Party Parliament essential

As our frontpage article enunciates, a multi-party Parliament is essential for democracy to thrive. A fine balance is struck if the government of the day is held to account by a strong opposition.

In Parliamentary democracies, single-party majority governments are powerful beasts, able to wield executive and legislative power without recourse to coalition or compromise with other parties.

Moreover, when the constitutional constraints on the (mis)use of executive authority are pretty feeble, as is the case here, with our dispersed Constitution, limited scope of judicial review and unicameral legislature — such administrations have a propensity to go rogue.

One-party states explain themselves through various methods. Most often, proponents of a one-party state argue that the existence of separate parties runs counter to national unity. Others argue that the one party is the vanguard of the people, and therefore its right to rule cannot be legitimately questioned.

Many Indians, who were euphoric when the Bharatiya Janata Party swept through the elections in 2014 and 2019, crushing the main opposition party into minority in the federal Parliament and making a headway in many other States, are now beginning to feel if a One-Party majority is a good thing.

New Zealanders will decide what they want later this month.

Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay

Joint global action on Climate Change imperative

Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has once again emphasised the urgency with which the world should address the challenge of Climate Change.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly marking its 75th Anniversary last week, he rightly said that the human race is helplessly watching the terrifying challenges and the hard-earned social progress ‘slipping through our collective fingers.’

Mass extinction coming

“Months into economically-devastating lockdowns and border closures, a Covid-19 vaccine is still only guaranteed for those who can afford it. Five years post-Paris, global temperature rise is still projected to rocket past the two, three, or even four-degree mark, our ocean ecosystems are acidifying, and a sixth mass extinction event is already underway,” he said.

That the changing climate touches everything and everyone should be obvious, as it should be that the poor and marginalised have most to lose when the weather turns against them. What is less obvious, but just as important, is that, because the processes that force climate change are built into the foundations of the world economy and of geopolitics, measures to check climate change have to be similarly wide-ranging and all-encompassing.

To decarbonise an economy is not a simple subtraction; it requires a near-complete overhaul.

A dire threat

As the Economist observed, “Climate change is, though, a dire threat to countless people, one that is planetary in scope if not in its absolute stakes.”

It will displace tens of millions, at the very least; it will disrupt farms on which billions rely; it will dry up wells and water mains; it will flood low-lying places, and, as time goes by, higher-standing ones, too. True, it will also provide some opportunities, at least in the near term.

But the longer humanity takes to curb emissions, the greater the dangers and sparser the benefits, and the larger the risk of some truly catastrophic surprises.



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