Lack Of Democratic Protocol Marks The End Of GSLP Term

By Orlando Yeats 

As we enter the final days before Gibraltar goes to the polls, I would like to draw attention to an aspect of the election campaign that has passed by virtually unnoticed to media and political commentators alike. It is an issue of great significance especially to those who attach importance to the democratic credentials and conduct of an administration. I am referring to the GSLP-Liberal caretaker Government’s abject failure to abide by Westminster styled traditions, the conventions and customs that political parties in UK adhere to and which Mr Picardo often pays enthusiastic lip service to. 

These state that whenever parliament is dissolved and a general election is called, the outgoing government ceases to operate as such, and automatically assumes the much reduced role of a caretaker government with limited competences, powers and in an interim capacity.

Its function is essentially to oversee that elections are held and there is administrative continuity in the period between the moment an incumbent government calls an election and when the results are formally declared, to ensure the handover period to a new or returning administration is carried out in as seamless a fashion as possible. Full stop. Under no circumstances can it breach long standing parliamentary custom to engage in full blown party electioneering at tax-payers’ expense as we have seen throughout the campaign.

Mr Picardo has been behaving as if he were still the Chief Minister of Gibraltar conducting activities disregarding these rules, as if he were in the middle of a normal term of office and not in an acting, caretaker capacity just days before an election.

If it was already quite amazing to see Mr Picardo inaugurating the new comprehensive mega school and strutting around its corridors on the same day as he announced the election, earlier this week, anyone with respect for long standing traditions of our democratic culture would have been flabbergasted to see what he did next. 

In a quite flagrant breach of the functions of a caretaker Government, he took it upon himself to announce taxpayer-funded monetary deals to different sectors of society. This could be interpreted as buying peoples’ vote weeks and even days before an election. As is customary, this was accompanied by the notorious fanfare of party political propaganda that emanates from 6 Convent Place every time that Mr Picardo uses tax payers money to further his political interest. 

Perhaps Gibraltar is not as fully fledged a democracy as we are often led to believe that we are.

Not content with opening schools and paying out considerable sums of money in the middle of an election campaign, we saw Mr Picardo and his Minister Samantha Sacramento doing a tour of Bishop Canilla House and throwing a tea party for residents to celebrate the complete refurbishment of the building. Needless to say, there were pictures galore of the two GSLP ministers kissing and hugging everyone within distance, as the GSLP-Liberal road show courtesy of the taxpayer continued.

Mr Picardo’s use of public funds to generously shower sections of the electorate with financial and other benefits during an election campaign, raises many questions and could be construed as not just overstepping the mark, but actively and deliberately seeking to influence electors to tilt the balance in his favour. There is an important principle at stake here and the impunity of such actions should be challenged. Our democratic system must have checks and balances to stamp out such excesses and inherent contempt for democracy.

Orlando Yeats is a candidate for the GSD.