The Population Factor
With very large populations the citizens are far removed from the seat of government and cannot participate directly in the process of forming a government. It became necessary, therefore, to adopt a mechanism whereby this gap could be bridged.
The solution was found in the principle of representation. 'Parties' became the vehicle through which popular opinion could be expressed. Parties are essentially groups of people sharing similar political philosophies on how the country should be managed. This mechanism ensured that every citizen's view would be automatically assumed through party membership. Thus the Party System served to bridge the gap between the citizen and the National Government. The party which gained the majority votes in an election formed the Government.
The Party System is therefore the result of population size. Today, large nations divide their populations into administrative hierarchies ranging from the largest to the smallest mamageable. Thus, in Britain there are regions, counties, cities, boroughs, etc. The small population of Dominica, and similar developing island nations, is roughly equivalent to an English borough. Such boroughs are in reality very large cities managed by Councils at the municipal level of Government. Their focus is the immediate community, much like our village and town councils. They leave matters of National Defence and Foreign Relations to the Central Government. Yet, their annual operating budgets are far in excess of those in small nations like Dominica. And, they are managed efficiently and effectively.
Clearly, it is superfluous to impose on Dominica and similar small nation states in the Caribbean, the size of British boroughs, the full superstructure of the British Parliamentary system. The need for 'party' representation has never existed as it is in Britain. Citizens in Dominica are virtual neighbours to one another. Dominica is three hundred(300) square miles in area, twenty-nine miles long, fifteen miles wide with a dwindling population of seventy-five thousand. There can be no justification for any organisation or group to represent citizens' political opinions which they do, in any event, by the ballot. The party system is, therefore, a relic of former colonial masters left behind because this was the system in force at the time.
The Resources Factor
Those who have witnessed the deliberations in the Dominica House of Assemblly are somtimes appalled at the unbecoming manner in which members of both sides are engaged in word games that inhibit rather than promote the resolution of the nation's business. Most times one gets the impression that the Opposition's business is to oppose, literally, whatever the Government proposes, while the Government adopts a 'God-given' right to silence the Opposition. What a waste of human talent, not to mention a waste of tax payers' hard-earned dollars. What a disgraceful way to govern a country! This is the product of the party system - a divided House.
It has been said, if it were possible to elect honest, dedicated men and women, serious about the business of the nation, the House would rise above petty party differences to engage in productive deliberaton. They would place the nation before self and party and vote according to their consciences without fear of reprisals. It is reasonable to assume, all things being equal, that two heads working together will more likely solve a problem or achieve a desired goal quicker and more efficiently than two heads working separately and, most times, in opposition to each other. This is the expectation of the non-party system - a united House.
Outside the House, the party system divides the society into warring factions in all areas of life - the family, job and education opportunities, social relations, etc. Which ever party is in power its members and supporters become the favourite sons and daughters of the land. This state of affairs has been going on for decades causing untold deterioration in the socio-economic conditions of Dominica. A divided society cannot prosper. Only in unity can we, in Dominica, ever hope to become truly independent. But we can do that only by removing the cancer that colonial masters left behind - the party.
© Raglan E. Riviere, B.Sc.(Soc), M.H.A.