Ibrahim M Mead
Date: October 6, 2018
An overview of the Roles, Rights and Responsibilities of the Opposition and the governing body in a democratic system of government
What is a governing body?
Governing body is the group of people given the power and authority to form the policy and steer the overall direction of a government. It is the executive branch of the structure of a government. The body can be elected to their position of power
Once this process takes places, the individuals on the governing body are said to act as the ‘representatives’ of the people who selected or elected them.
When a governing body is mixed it is said to be ‘inclusive’ and its members must reflect the broad range of rights and interests of the people in whose behalf the government is working. This inclusiveness was what the author Mr. Ibrahim Mead advocated and advised to the Kulmiye 2 administration but it felt on deaf eyers!
Roles and responsibilities of the Governing body
It is the governing body as a collective unit that makes and implements decisions given to them by a president or executive director.
The primary job of the governing body is to protect the rights, interests and wellbeing of all the people on whose behalf the government is working.
The governing body as a whole does this by making sure the organization runs on the principles, policies directed to achieve the goals and objectives it has promised to deliver to the people.
What is opposition party?
In politics the opposition encompasses a party or parties or other organized groups that are opposed the government and the party or group in political control of a state or region or city. The degree of opposition varies according to political conditions i.e. authoritarian and democratic systems where opposition may be repressed or tolerated and welcomed accordingly. Where does Somaliland fit in these political conditions? Are the opposition repressed or are they tolerated and welcomed? In one hand they are tolerated while on the other hand they are repressed. The government refusal of UCID party to go and access their offices in Gabiley Region during K1regime is an example of not tolerated. It is repressed.
In Parliamentary Democracy the principle of political opposition is one of the most fundamental components of any democratic system of government.
As Ian Shapiro has contended, “democracy is an ideology of opposition as much as it is one of government”
In a functioning constitutional democratic system, there must be a constant reminder to the populace that there is a viable better alternative to the incumbent political regime. This alternative plan will move the country onto a qualitatively better place.
The institutions and bodies that play this role are generally referred to as loyal opposition.
a) In many democratic systems, the opposition has often been described as a party or parties that do not exercise executive power.
b) They are also referred as the party or parties that act as a check on the governments.
Role of the Opposition:
To understand what the opposition is, it is imperative to look at the role it plays in democratic governance. The traditional role of the opposition can be classified under three broad headings:
1- The voice of the voiceless
2- Alternative to the ruling government
3- Partner in nation building.
As the voice of the voiceless, the opposition expresses the view of a significant section of the electorate and helps to ensure that concerns of the various groups and other interests not represented in government are not forgotten or squashed upon.
4- It also serves as a vent for those whose grievances and voices that would otherwise go unheard. This role builds the confidence of the people and reassures them that their concerns and interests are ably expressed and protected.
As properly functioning democratic systems are about Choice, there must therefore be a constant reminder to the electorate that there is a viable alternative to the incumbent government.
a- One that has a real potential to improve the quality of life of the people
b- The opposition presents itself as a viable alternative to the ruling government.
C- By presenting an alternative ideological platform or simply show that it has a greater competence to govern than the ruling regime.
d- The opposition must show that it could have done things better by offering convincing reasons for its criticism of the ruling government or by presenting policy alternatives.
The Rights of the Opposition
To effectively perform the roles as stated above, the political system must confer on the opposition some rights and responsibilities.
1- The Opposition must have the right to operate in a free and democratic atmosphere.
2- Freedom of association, speech, movement, assembly, manifestations and demonstrations are inimical to the existence of the opposition.
3- The opposition must have access to state media. There must be equity in the coverage and reportage of opposition activities in relation to the coverage of activities of government and government institutions.
4- All state owned media should afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions to both the government and the opposition.
5- The Opposition must also have the right to own media so that its views on any issue could be clearly articulated without undue interference.
6- The Opposition must have the right to freely access materials from official sources to enhance its ability to meaningfully understand the government policies to enable it make informed position statements on the policies. A prerequisite for the enjoyment of this right is the existence of laws on freedom of information.
7- The Opposition also has the right to have free access to the people.
Laws that ban gatherings, rallies and durbars by opposition elements have no place in multi party democracy and must be outlawed.
The Responsibilities of the Opposition
a- The opposition has the duty to oppose the government in power, in doing so, The ultimate purpose must be to persuade the electorate to vote out the incumbent government and put the opposition in power so that it may pursue the policies it believes are best for the nation.
b-For this purpose the opposition may highlight and expose those aspects of the ruling government’s policies and nature, which it believes not to be in the national interest.
c- The opposition must expose the other side of the coin that is not shiny which government otherwise prefers to hide from the public view. This role is vital for protecting the society from the excesses and corruption of power that innately exist
Wherever executive power resides
In carrying out this duty, the opposition endeavours to challenge every abuse of executive power; bureaucracy and red tapes; issues of breaches of human rights; waste of public funds; and exposes all these for public or parliamentary criticism and control
This is essentially a watchdog role and is vital to check executive excesses and stimulate democratic debate.
It is from the performance of this role that a negative perception of the opposition arises. But as stated by John Diefenbaker, a former member of the Canadian Parliament, “the reading of history proves that freedom always dies when criticism dies”.
The Opposition has certain responsibilities and obligations to discharge to the state and the people.
1- The opposition has the responsibility to be fair in the criticism of Government policies. In all cases alternative proposals, as to the best way forward must be laid on the table by the opposition.
2- The Opposition also has the responsibility to uphold and defend the sovereignty, unity and the national integrity of the country. It should therefore not engage in activities that could undermine the unity and stability of the state.
3- In matters of real national disaster or misfortune, the opposition has a responsibility to join hands with the government to tackle the misfortune.
4- In moments of national pride and glory the opposition also has the responsibility to come together with government to celebrate and show national solidarity.
5- In conclusion, the opposition has an equal responsibility as the government to protect, defend and uphold the constitutional order, the rule of law and the peace and stability of the nation. [Ref: Hon. Alban S. K. Bagbin-Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Ghana]
The opposition is very essentially helpful in where people are talking to each other and not at each other.
A great leader learns more from his opponents then from his avid supporters in other words from his ‘Guulwadayaal. ‘His ‘yes crowd’ will push him to disaster unless his opponents show him where the dangers are. When a leader is wise he doesn’t simply disregard the opponents’ point of view, he embraces them even when it hurts according to him. In fact he ought to pray never to be left with out opponents for they keep him on track, on the right path, on the path of reason and rationale. Compromise when disagreements shadow major national issue is the right place to be. It is also the responsibilities of both the government and the opposition to find solution. Without that both entities abandon their sworn solemn national duties. On the other hand, the less wise leaders and crooks even hate to read this paragraph let alone embrace it!
How ever peace and prayers
Ibrahim M Mead