Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Meanwhile, Across the Indian Ocean…

After weeks of political squabbling and uncertainty, Andry Rajoelina has succeeded in toppling the duly elected government of President Marc Ravalomanana in Madagascar.

Following the military’s support for Andry having forced the so-called ‘resignation’ of Ravalomanana, it appears that the constitutional court of the country has now endorsed the power grab and recognised Rajeolina as the legitimate head of the country. This, despite the fact that Rajeolina – at age 34 - is, according to the country’s constitution, six years to young to be president!

Here’s a perfect example of how democratic systems are not supposed to function. Indeed, why bother having a constitution if politicians are not going to bother with it. As a matter of fact, it makes a mockery of a constitution when even the so-called constitutional court ignores and tramples over the constitution.

Often, of course there can be genuine differences of views and interpretations about certain clauses or articles in a constitution. Hence, you might find that judges, legal experts and even politicians may have different perspectives on some of the vagaries of constitutions. But it seems difficult to imagine how there could be any dispute and confusion about something as simple as the fact that there is a clear age limit on eligibility to be president of the country.

Well, given our own constitutional crisis in Perak, perhaps many of us can relate to the fact that power grabs are precisely that: efforts to usurp power without much, if any, regard for abiding by the legitimate dictates of due process as mandated by a constitution.

Any game, even politics, must rely on a system of rules. In democratic politics, the rules are ultimately rooted in their legitimacy as prescribed by a legitimately adopted constitution. But we all know this already, right? We try to talk to our children in school about the Rukun Negara and the parliamentary system, and the idea of a constitutional monarchy, and so on…. Following the principles enshrined in these things, of course, is another matter altogether.

Whether in Madagascar, Perak, Zimbabwe or elsewhere, it is easy to see that politicians  can and do have difficulty respecting the will of the people – especially when it does not sit well with their own personal ambitions.   

G. Krishnan