The past few decades have revealed that it has traditionally been difficult for a third party to gain a foothold within the political context. Although a third force has attempted to elbow its way between two well-funded and established parties for years, the system has always operated in such a manner that encourages the sole existence of two main parties: those who want change, and those who do not.
What has happened recently, however, is the establishment of a new and powerful force on the political scene. What we are faced with this time around is the novel choice between two opposition camps that are touting “change”, and one party offering to maintain the status quo. This has floored opposition voters, who have long been led to believe that their political party is the only one capable of bringing them a change in Government.
This is despite years and years of losses in National elections. Their belief is that any traction that ONE SEYCHELLES is gaining is at the expense of either red or green camps, or in other words that they have “taken” votes from one of the two dominant parties. They are no longer – after all these years – concerned with their party’s plans for effecting change. No, they are more interested in demonizing the competition, as though the 2020 elections have little more significance than a football match. They are happy to preach “freedom of choice” when it suits, but what they really mean is you are only free to choose their political party. It is their version of change, or none at all.
This can be gleaned from the alarming backlash that not only ONE SEYCHELLES members received – and are still receiving – from political extremists, but also the abuse that the two independent candidates running in the upcoming National Assembly elections are withstanding (ironically from parties they once supported). To put it mildly, the “ek nou, pa ek nou” attitude is still permeating society, being kept alive on life support by certain politicians and misguided voters.
The issue with entrenched power – in other words, the existence of two main political parties, to the exclusion of all others – is concentrated wealth, magnified in recent decades by increasing economic inequality. Self enrichment and self entrenchment are the elementary forms of political corruption, and key politicians have been known to resolutely pursue both.
A new balance in institutional power in government -including proportional representation in the National Assembly – would serve to level the playing field, and to destabilize the historical entrenchment of certain political parties. This would bring the government closer into line with the will of the majority of Seychellois, and not just a privileged handful. What has historically occurred in our political scene is that third parties tend to face co-option by one of the two major parties.
And even if the third party does survive, it only supplants one of the existing major parties, leaving us with a two-party system, just one consisting of a different set of two parties. We witnessed a co-option in the 2015 elections, with Mr. Patrick Pillay being co-opted into the hastily rebranded opposition party, namely LDS. We saw it again only this week, with the same Mr. Pillay flinging his support inexplicably this time around behind the US political party.
However, for the purposes of the 2020 elections, the political scene remains, fortunately and refreshingly, unchanged. We still have, notably, three main candidates taking part in the Presidential Election, and three main political parties – as well as two independent candidates – participating in the Legislative Election.
This is a big win for our fragile democracy, and a significant step in the right direction for our Nation. If the duopoly of red and green camps was continuously permitted to exist unchallenged by any third party or third force, Seychelles would face darker possibilities of entrenchment.