Opinion: Manufacturing a scandal (influencing the elections)

POSTED: 08/1/14 11:10 PM

Sometimes political scandals are genuine scandals. They are what they appear on the surface: wrongdoing by people in influential positions who have overstepped their bounds or behaved inappropriately. But the world is rarely so clear cut, rarely so black and white. Sometimes you can manufacture scandal by laying the right trap for your opponent, hoping to catch them off guard; all part of the wicked game that is politics.

More often than not, we pick and choose which political decisions to criticize and which ones not to, depending on our personal bias and which Minister the decree comes from. We are all human, and humans are pathetically flawed creatures, full of motives they themselves don’t even realize at times.

A good example is the recent hullabaloo over the Justice Minister’s rather arbitrary and ill-conceived campaign rules that went beyond the norm. I say ill conceived because they don’t hold water when exposed to logical thinking, and I will show how.

I think some in the media and public are missing the point. The attention should not be on who is or isn’t following these new campaign rules but rather on their nature; rules that suddenly appeared 2 days before postulation day, in what appears to be attempt to tip the political balance one way; an example of the executive branch directly meddling in an election and hoping to catch the target off guard. Naturally the affected group will look like they did something wrong. This is how you can manufacture scandal and it sets a bad precedent that everyone should be concerned about in case the tables are turned one day on any political group. Free citizens should not be afraid to question the motives of ministers in powerful positions, especially in an election where future top jobs are at stake.

On to some examples of why these rules make no sense and how fickle some people can be. When the permit was first issued it forbade the hanging of campaign materials from street furniture, a rather nice way of saying lampposts and guardrails, etc., presumably for safety. But that, of course, makes no sense as the photo shows. The Rotary’s tourism awareness campaign included banners attached to light poles yet political parties were forbidden to hang their material from them. Why? What is the objective difference between the two? No difference. The Minister later softened his conditions under the weight of its silliness.

Another case in point, for 365 days a year when you come down Cole Bay hill and reach the roundabout you are bombarded with liquor or concert advertisements that are barely 10 feet away from the road. For the Heineken Regatta the Simpson Bay Bridge is sometimes decorated with a huge banner. No problem there, of course. It’s only beer.

And on the roundabout just before you get to Indigo Bay there is a huge billboard with advertisements year round that towers over everything else, including traffic, but of course that’s fine too.

Let’s not even talk about Carnival time…

St. Maarten has had colorful and, more noteworthy, peaceful elections since the creation of the Netherlands Antilles in 1954. We talk about heritage as if it’s only a gingerbread house, or a pond full of birds, but the colorful display of flags, posters, and personalities, regardless of political party, is also part of our heritage and culture. Why destroy that?

And has anyone thought of how tourists view this spectacle? I guarantee you they love it, because from where they’re from our electoral process seems charming and entertaining compared to the dull, colorless politics of most Western countries.

That no one is alarmed by the decision for the state to monitor political rallies is the real disturbing part. Apparently a flag flapping in the wind for a month is more cause for concern than the fact that a Minister wants police to monitor what you say at a public rally.

As citizens we have a responsibility to question the motives behind a Ministerial decree, not just blindly defend it because it may suit our personal agenda at the time. Today it may suit you, but tomorrow that kind of executive power may turn on you.

As to what the motives behind the Minister’s decision are, who’s to say? But the executive branch should refrain from unduly influencing an election. Rules regulating a campaign should come from the people’s representatives in Parliament.

Jason Lista

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Manufacturing a scandal (influencing the elections) by

Comments are closed.