The hypocrisy of the position of Ms Hassan Nahon on the issue of enlargement of Parliament is astounding.
She is openly giving the impression that she is surprised by the fact that enlargement should happen now and behaving as if this issue was new and there had not been any prior discussion about this. She is also being politically dishonest about her own position.
In 2013 she stood with the GSD at a by-election expressing full support for GSD policies. That was less than two years after Peter Caruana had moved a motion seeking the enlargement of the Parliament to 25. That Motion was defeated because the GSLP/Liberals blocked it at the time. There had been significant debate on enlargement between the years 2006-2011. She cannot have failed to notice that.
In 2015 she stood as a GSD candidate at the general election on a commitment that made clear that the GSD supported a process of enlargement of Parliament to 25 members combined with political reform to make sure that the system is improved, Ministers are made more accountable and the quality of decisions affecting people are improved. She clearly backed enlargement then.
On 9 May 2019 and in a press release dominated by her complaint about the GSLP’s motivations on enlargement now (because they had always previously opposed it) the main issue appeared to be one of timing. She ended that press release by making clear that Together Gibraltar was “for enhancing Parliament including but not limited to the enlargement of Parliament.” Her point then was that there should also be other reforms. It was clear therefore that she was in favour of enlargement and other reforms.
That has been the GSD position for years – that there should be enlargement and other reforms. The Motion before Parliament will recognise a political commitment to other reforms that in the GSD’s view should be immediately put in place once enlargement has happened.
Ms Hassan Nahon should be honest about what is driving her U-turn on this issue and whether this is just not a shallow attempt to foster populist objection to this measure even though she actually recognises it would be good for democracy. What she should not do is mislead the public about the value to democracy of this measure. She should not resort to bringing political debate down to the gutter by referring to “enchufes” or “pagas muertas” particularly when she herself was proposing enlargement with the GSD in 2015 and with her new party in 2019.
GSD spokesperson Damon Bossino said:
“This issue needs to be approached from a principled position. The current system is broken. It leads to regular complaints about style of Government and lack of accountability. Larger Parliaments allow you to do more and to control the power of Government more. The system needs to be fixed to allow it to work like it does in other small successful territories. We had more Parliamentarians running Gibraltar in the 1960s than we have today when we have much more self-government and we run practically all our affairs. The system cannot deliver 21st century controls with the human resources of the 1950s.
We have advocated the need for reform for the better part of a decade. It has been consistent Party policy that we have set out and which Ms Hassan Nahon used to and continues to support at least as recently as 9 May this year.
Reform will improve the quality of democracy. It will allow the possibility of the Government exceptionally being defeated on measures from time to time. It will make it more attractive for people to stand for election and increase the pool of talent to influence what decisions are made. It is a basic fact that Ministers cannot scrutinise Ministers. Having backbenchers will allow freer debate and on issues of great importance as they may break ranks with the Government to force them to rethink on individual issues. It is clear that this is good for democracy. While we understand the possible apprehension of people we believe that once they see the new system in action with the reforms that are necessary to underpin it the public will appreciate that our democracy has been made more vibrant and will be the better for it.”