Cabinet reshuffle: Reading between the lines

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The government’s recent decision to reshuffle certain cabinet portfolio has given rise to a lot of questions. While the official statement from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) states that the education minister stepped down citing personal reasons, making way for a younger leader to take charge, not everyone is convinced that such major decisions would be determined solely based on such reasons. Perhaps, there’s more to it than what meets the eyes? Making matters worse, the government’s silence has fuelled speculations of all sorts.

The voluntary resignation of the education minister in the final one and half year of the ruling government’s term is being dissected from many angles.

The education minister’s resignation on personal health grounds should be respected, particularly because this sets a precedent for ministers or top leaders who are not able to perform their duties due to ill health or prolonged sickness to step down. On part of the education minister, this is an exemplary choice and selfless decision to make way for someone stronger to lead the ministry.

That said, any government decision of such magnitude cannot be seen in isolation. There is always a political undercurrent to such decisions. And that’s where the entire nation is not really convinced that the government’s decision to accept the resignation of education minister and to reshuffle ministers at this juncture is primarily based on personal reasons.

For lack of clarity or convincing reasons, certain quarters are already calling this decision a calculated political move. If so, is it a political strategy of the ruling party – a preparatory work for the 2018 elections? Is it vote bank politics?

The reason for the reshuffle therefore needs to be much stronger. In fact, many have been saying the reason is not substantial enough to qualify the reshuffle. If we go by public sentiments, there is more doubt than clarity. And the nation must know the truth.

What is apparent is that the appointment of the Member of Parliament (MP) from Bardo-Trong who is also the chairperson of the legislative committee of the National Assembly as the economic affairs minister is a political decision at best.

The Bardo-Trong MP was in fact promised a ministerial position during the election campaign but was unceremoniously left out. Now that the promise has been fulfilled, both the MP and his supporters in the Kheng region should be happy. That’s a politically astute move.  That’s not to say Bardo-Trong MP does not have the credentials to be a minister.

The government has also been criticized for giving more attention to politics than governance. Frequent change at the top also reflects the instability of the government and its leadership. Already, social media is rife with jokes, for instance, how the cabinet offers internship program for ministers. Such public opinions, even light ones, project a negative image of the government of the day.

The other criticism is on the reshuffle itself. Change of top leadership comes with its own set of challenges. For instance, the minister of economic affairs ministry moving to education ministry, albeit wholeheartedly, also means he would be leaving a ministry that has been rife with controversies and issues, and one which he had confidently managed all this while. The new minister will now have to take the mantle, learning everything from the scratch. That transition would take time and risks is, governance may suffer.

The only positive meaning we can draw out of this reshuffle is that the elderly leaders are willing to pave way for the young and the dynamic ones. And that’s a rarity in the world of politics today.