We have seen how democracy has been able to provide the breathing space for the existence, growth and survival of multiparty systems, a level playing field for political and public office aspirations. This same system promotes a moving notion which is “a government of the people and for the people and by the people.” In this sense, democracy ensures the achievement of the collective aspirations as well as the full participation of the citizenry in all aspects of the things which concern them.
Political opponents also have a place to participate in the governance of the people. In the presence of political opposition, any authentic and well-meaning government of the day treads with calculated caution and is always careful not to make avoidable mistakes. On the other hand, treading cautiously by a sitting government, keeps the opposition responsible.
Therefore, opposition parties must focus on how best national development could be attained for the common good of the people.
Gone are the days when opposition parties existed merely as ‘opposition’ in the right sense of the word. The traditional purpose of serving as watchdogs must never be relegated to the background but must remain in the forefront of engaging in constructive criticisms.
Notwithstanding the desire to exist in order to clinch on to political power, all political parties must align themselves with a political ideology which is deemed fit. In the absence of this, there will be no guiding principles to make their manifestos a workable document and a reality worth its salt.
With this in place, and serving as a driving force and working machinery, the result will be the generation of national development. One will agree even if not absolutely, that there are better dividends which come to people as a result of democracy. Opposition parties must re-surface after elections not just to campaign in pursuit of partisan politics but to complement government efforts at nation building.
It is worth admitting that sometimes, resources are very much limited at the disposal of opposition parties in comparison with the ruling party. For this reason, campaign methods will neither be the same nor proportional. Directly or indirectly, the government of the day will have the advantage of the continuous use of state resources ranging from state-owned media (television, radio, information services), to state institutions directly under the Executive arm of government. In addition, the power of incumbency coupled with good governance gains the support of the people.
Logically, it is possible for opposition parties to use their resources, however limited, to foster development if they truly engage in responsible and credible opposition. This will go a long way to speak volumes to the electorates. In doing so, we shall see the essence and importance of opposition. I end here with the popular saying: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Anybody or group interested in politics must be ready to contribute effectively to society, the people from whom power originates. If society expects much from politicians, one should never forget that society is actually demanding what it has already given out to them, namely, the power to govern.
Zindi Anthony Levi
Political Science Student,
University of The Gambia