In November 2020, history was made. The United States of America elected its first woman VicePresident.
That Senator Kamala Harris is a child of immigrants from the Commonwealth (India and Jamaica) is another important milestone. For some, this is democracy at its finest.
For those of us in the Commonwealth, we have been luckier as we have had women Heads of State and Heads of Government such as Sirimavo Bandaranaike in Sri Lanka,
Indira Gandhi in India, Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, Khaleda Zia in Bangladesh, Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and currently, Samia Suluhu,
Vice-President of Tanzania; Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand; Paula-Mae Weekes, President of Trinidad and Tobago; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; and so many more.
Nonetheless, most of us in the Commonwealth are cheering on as a sister starts this historic journey for womankind.
For me personally, following this epic event, it would not have been possible without the aid of social media.
The larger part of this article talks about social media, parliamentary democracy and whether social media will be, and should be, the primary tool for Commonwealth Parliamentarians to uphold democracy.
Central to this debate is whether democracy is recognised as a value or system of representation.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), “democracy has come to be recognised as a universal value which does not belong to any country or region.”
A large portion of the work of the IPU is based on the idea that
“a strong Parliament is a critical marker for a robust democracy”
and that “Parliament is the central institution through which the will of the people is expressed, laws are passed and government is held to account.”
1 The era of COVID-19 has seen the Executive branch intensifying its domination of the ‘pandemic agenda’ and a plethora of decision-making that lacks democratic control.
In my discourse with fellow Parliamentarians, there are questions as to whether the current political scenario and in-built processes are fit
and proper to ensure that Parliaments are truly representative and are performing the job they are elected for.
Which then begs the question – ‘What is it, exactly, that an elected Parliament is supposed to do (during the pandemic)?’
A non-exhaustive list would include legislation, passing emergency budgets,
oversight of the Executive, debating issues, approving constitutional changes and generally reaching out to the nation.
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