Can this AN Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time?

We tend to ask what one thing the new National Assembly should focus on first. But the new AN will need to do 15 things at once, and all of them well.

The wait is through, #5E has come and gone: Habemus Henry and the deputies have been sworn in. 163 of them, anyway.

While most of us keep on wonderingbout ¿por dónde empezar? – where do we start – the better question is: “¿cómo organizamos la pea?‘ – how do we coordinate a multi-pronged plan of action?

Some say that politics should come before economics, others say that the economic crisis cannot wait any longer, and others even say that the parliament should not get near the economic crisis so the central government receives all the blame. As you can see, it all revolves around politics and economics, leaving a ton of other issues out of the picture. In fact, the Assembly needs to deal with the politics and the economics and 15 other things too, and all at the same time.

Is that too much to ask? It isn’t. Here’s why.

Let’s start with a simple number: 112 deputies. If we add the 112 alternates, we get 224. And if we include all of their assistants (because they all probably have at least one), the muscle of the new majority goes all the way up to 448. Yeah, that’s 448 individuals that can be simultaneously revising laws, overseeing, comptrolling, promoting well-prepared hearings, etc.

But how do we organize such a big group in a way that all the important jobs are attended to and no one is left without a meaningful role to play?

Imagine a 15 drawer cabinet in which we have to stack a huge bag of toy soldiers. Since we are all for transparency, let’s make it a clear-plastic cabinet. Each drawer must contain at least 7 toy soldiers and no more than 25.

Thankfully, the 15 drawers are labelled:

  1. Política Interior
  2. Política Exterior, Soberanía e Integración
  3. Contraloría
  4. Finanzas y Desarrollo Económico
  5. Energía y Petróleo
  6. Defensa y Seguridad
  7. Desarrollo Social Integral
  8. Cultos y Régimen Penitenciario
  9. Ambiente, Recursos Naturales y Cambio Climático
  10. Pueblos Indígenas
  11. Poder Popular y Medios de Comunicación
  12. Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación
  13. Cultura y Recreación
  14. Familia
  15. Administración y Servicios

Once you have your toy soldiers in their respective committees, the drawers might seem a bit messy (remember, is a clear-plastic cabinet), so it’s time for some custom-made drawer trays: each committee can establish subcommittees to attend to specific bills or other matters of national interest pertinent to each committee. This trays will help organize the work and, most importantly, assign responsibilities. Remember: alternates and assistants can help with the work load, so there are a lot of helping hands available.

At this point you must be wondering: who decides which tin soldier goes in each drawer? The Reglamento de Interior y Debates establishes a simple rule: the political organization with the most seats chooses first, then comes the party with the second most seats, and so on and so forth. Deputies can scream “shot-gun”, but the drivers -parties- will make the ultimate detention. Meaning: each party decides from which trench -or drawer- they want their toy soldiers to fight from.

There are some drawers that most parties want, like the standing committees on Domestic Policy, on Foreign Policy, Sovereignty and Integration, on Comptrollership and on Finance and Economic Development. We can honestly see the appeal, but the other drawers imply a ton of work and they shouldn’t be left to die: an empty drawer is a waste of space and resources.

And since all clear-drawers are structurally alike, the visibility and “cool” factor will ultimately depend on the work and communicational skills of the deputies. So maximize your drawer utilization, keep each drawer in order (don’t ever forget the clear walls), put some bumper-stickers on it and voilà.

Once the toy soldiers are in their respective places, is time to play.

There seems to be consensus on an Amnesty Law and MUD published a legislative proposal (though at this stage it reads more like a draft than an actual proposal). But, honestly, the path is not clear… we only see some scattered Blue’s Clues.

We think that 112 deputies, 112 alternates and -at least- 224 assistants can multitask, right? So it doesn’t have to be a single road map… there can be 15 maps, one for each committee. This doesn’t ignore the fact that political tactics have to be taken into consideration, but it doesn’t have to be this OR that… it can be this AND that.

In its first month in office, each committee can:

  1. Properly prepare -at least- one good committee grilling, for a total of 15 blockbuster interpelaciones.
  2. Decide on – at least – one law that should be revised during 2016, for a total of new fewer than 15 laws.
  3. Decide on – at least – two topics to be subject of intensive oversight during 2016, for a total of no fewer 30.

The quality of the parliamentary work is not a simple matter of politics, it’s also a matter of team-work and good organizational skills. The post-#5E world is upon us. Las cosas aquí han cambiado. So it’s time to organizar la pea.