Local government in the land of Topsyturvy

The land of Topsyturvy once was a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The British monarch was the head of state. He appointed a governor-general who alone held certain powers over vital national assets. Since the 1979 general elections there has been no elected local government in the land of Topsyturvy.

The Topsyturvan parliament has two chambers: the House of Assembly is  elected by the people. Once elected, members expect their electors to bow and scrape before them and at all times to be referred to as “honorable.” The 17 members of the House are elected using the first-past-the-post system. This means that while a constituency with only four eligible voters elects one MP, a constituency with 12,456 voters also elects just one MP. The system is called Topsymocracy, a handy left-over from the colonial days of rotten boroughs in England when politicians and landowners could buy and sell seats at will.

A rotten borough was a parliamentary constituency that had declined in size but still had the right to elect members of the House of Commons. Newtown, on the Isle of Wight, was once a flourishing market town but by 1832 it had been reduced to a village of 14 houses. Still it sent members to parliament. Most of these constituencies were under the control of a patron.

Rotten boroughs had very few voters. For example, Old Sarum, in Wiltshire, only had three houses and a population of 15. With just a few individuals allowed to vote and no secret ballot permitted, it was easy for candidates to buy their way to victory.

Members of the Senate are mostly handpicked by the prime minister. Immediately thereafter members are offered the coveted opportunity become   talk show hosts, in the Land of Topsyturvy the equivalent of royalty. Once elevated, they are expected to use their papal infallibility to promote and defend only government causes.

In the land of Topsyturvy both Houses sit for a concurrent term of up to five years. The prime minister appoints a Cabinet, or Closet, from members of both Houses. If one of his favorites fails to win a seat, he simply appoints him or her a senator, which does not necessarily mean that the lucky appointee need give up his or her day job. Closet membership demands no personal sacrifices.”

In the old days, central government provided support to local government authorities through local government and finance officers who carried out reviews to ensure adherence to financial regulations. However, after the most recent general elections and the obligatory commission of enquiry to investigate the wrongdoings of the previous government, it was decided that local authorities should no longer have the power to decide how to spend their money without directions from Central Government.

Previously, there had been 13 administrative divisions, known as quarters, and one city with three town councils, six village councils and four district councils. Things have changed. Prime Minister Isoo Yusoo explained that the Constituency Councils Act will now provide for 15 Constituency Councils in 14 constituencies and will continue to strengthen the democratic aspirations of all Topsyturvyans.

“Since the liberating experience of Independence, local elections have been suspended,” explained Isoo Yusoo. He reminded the electorate that the last local elections had been held before the departure of the colonial powers that had erroneously believed local elections empowered the people.

Dr Yusoo went on to declare: “Democracy has been enhanced because centralized authorities have taken over the functions and responsibilities of local government; the people have been liberated from the chore of deciding what needs to be done in their home communities. No longer will local politicians be faced with a mountain of foreign aid that needs to be spent wisely. The funds will be safely tucked away in the government’s coffers and used to cover rising public service costs, travel per diems and sundry expenses.”

In this new era, such monetary cares will be managed by the prime minister and his Closet. Neither will the local population have to worry about who will best represent their causes. As Dr Yusoo explained: “Henceforth the Minister of Physical Development, Housing, Urban Renewal and Local Government will be responsible for the appointment of all council members. The prime minister has given himself overall responsibility for policy formulation, direction, and spending.”

Isoo Yusoo neglected to mention that the new system would ensure that all opposition would be “liberated from responsibility.” Each council will have up to 15 members with one nominee from each of the political parties represented in the House of Assembly. Which, of course, guarantees the opposition party at least one lone seat on each council of 15 members. More importantly, it gives the minister the freedom to appoint 14 handpicked government loyalists to run every constituency.

Just in case council members omit to toe the party line, appointments may be revoked for several reasons, among them: if a member, without a reasonable excuse, fails to attend three consecutive meetings of the council. “Reasonable cause” is defined as leaving the island on political junkets in order to collect inflated per diem payments.

A person who is declared a bankrupt is no longer eligible to serve. But loans to party loyalists from friendly banks will be available to eliminate such possibility. A person whom the court has declared to be incapacitated by physical or mental illness may no longer serve—but Senate seats have been reserved for persons who have lost it, what “it” might be.

Fraudulent and other behavior that conflicts with the discharge of a member’s duties is also cause for disqualification. However, this clause is unlikely to be enforced as no cases of misdemeanor are ever discovered until they are revealed in post-election commissions of enquiry after a government is compelled to relinquish power due to unreasonable demands from the electorate.

Persons charged with and convicted of a criminal offence, except when the offence is a minor traffic offence, may not serve. Traffic offences are excluded in order to allow members to park where and when they like. Criminal offences are always referred to far distant tribunals.

Concerned about the eternal problem of maintaining sustainability, Prime Minister Isoo Yusoo decreed that members may hold office more than once. A member is eligible for reappointment upon the expiration of the term of his appointment, as are party leaders, prime ministers, etc.

The Minister of Finance (who also happens to be Dr Yusoo) is responsible for collecting local taxes, while the local council is responsible for collecting user fees. There is no set policy for transfer payments from central government to local councils.

To ensure top officials remain loyal to the government, higher grades are recruited by central government. Local authority staff is recruited locally to keep the peasants happy. The new act ensures that there is no legal requirement for community involvement in local authority decision-making and no e-government strategy for local authorities in the land of Topsyturvy.

In the absence of a local government association, the government will ensure good relations exist between the various civil society organizations. Big Brother remains ever watchful!

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