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February 2021 Cabinet Election #5 - Prime Minister Debate


Year 18 | 09 February 2021

Moderator: James D. Halpert | Participants: Jay Coop and Sandaoguo (Glen Rhodes)

Welcome to the February 2021 Prime Minister Debate!

I am James Halpert and I will be the moderator of this debate with Jay Coop and Sandaoguo (Glen Rhodes), candidates for Prime Minister. This debate is sponsored by the South Pacific Independent News Network.

The format of this debate will consist of three sections:

The first section will feature questions for all candidates on their qualifications, intended policies and their visions for the coming term.
The second section will feature specific questions for each candidate.
The third section will allow each candidate to ask one question to their opponent(s), after which a few minutes for discussion will be allowed.

Candidates are asked to clearly mark the end of their answers so that I may know when to invite the other candidate to answer or to move on to the next question and to answer no later than 3 minutes after a question has been asked. If any candidate wishes to respond to their opponent at any time, they should first ask for the floor; the goal of this is to keep an orderly flow of discussion and avoid excessive interruptions.

Opening Statements

[Jay Coop] Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this debate. It's great to be here, and I hope to have a spirited discussion with my opponent and give the people of the South Pacific an option in the prime ministerial election.

If you don't already know me, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Jay, and I am a former Cabinet minister. Serving as the MoRA, I co-organized Pacific-Con in early 2020 and later served as the MoFA, setting the stage for the Partnership for Sovereignty that we have today. I'm hoping to get your vote and make sure that we can develop the PfS into a bloc that reigns supreme.

[Sandaoguo] Hi TSP :tsp_heart: I've spent this last term helping out the Prime Minister lead the Cabinet, helping write statement and formulate policy. I'll spare a lengthy opening statement here, since it sounds like we're going to get into a lot! I'm excited to debate qualifications and policy with Jay, and hope this SPINN debate is both informative and illuminating for the upcoming election :slight_smile:

The outgoing Cabinet has received a fair amount of criticism for a lack of results, accountability and transparency. Why do you think that happened and how will you ensure that this changes under your premiership?

[Sandaoguo] From my vantage point as deputy to the Prime Minister, it was mostly leadership. Not all ministries were an issue-- Defense and Engagement were shining stars. But other ministries did suffer from lack of advanced planning, some biting off more than they can chew, and leadership at the top kind of waiting until the last minute to chide people into getting a move on. As Prime Minister, I'd make sure we establish reasonable and achievable goals from the start, commit to timelines, and most of all be more transparent and thus more accountable. I believe the region should be able to look through the window and see 90% of what the Cabinet does-- that would allow the Assembly to hold us accountable, but also provide a much-needed fire underneath the Cabinet as a whole.

[Jay Coop] I think that's a great question, and one that I'm quite familiar with after serving as MoRA. I think that there is often a cloak-and-dagger approach to regional government, especially in the realm of FA because of its security implications. I think we should move toward greater transparency by opening up a Cabinet discussion channel on Discord that is publicly-viewable while maintaining a restricted channel for other discussions that should remain private. For example, I don't think it's quite necessary to discuss Culture stuff privately. If people saw that these discussions were happening, I believe that the transparency would lead to accountability and maybe even foster discussion in Leg Lounge.

Would will your leadership style be? Do you intend to be an "ultimate deputy" or will you lead the Cabinet by coordinating a common agenda and holding every minister, and yourselves, accountable to it?

[Jay Coop] I would pursue a leadership style that allows me to pursue the agenda that I mentioned in the campaign, which is defender-oriented in that it is building up the PfS to become the preeminent bloc in the WA. That said, I would like to work with the rest of the Cabinet so they can pursue the agenda that they were elected to do. After all, all positions in the Cabinet are elected separately, and there are multiple mandates because of that.

[Follow-up for Jay Coop] Does that mean every minister will be left to pursue their own agendas, or can we expect a common and accountable Cabinet agenda, if you are elected?

[Jay Coop] I think that there are areas where I would like to work with the Cabinet to implement my agenda, which I brought up in an addendum, and I believe that we can synthesize the agenda to some extent, but I will also allow the ministers to work on the projects they've promised during this campaign or happen to make throughout the term.

[Sandaoguo] I believe in strong, forward leadership from the Prime Minister, and that's how I would approach leading. Strong doesn't mean brow-beating, but instead assertive in setting smart goals, keeping to timelines, and the like. Cabinet ministers should also be able to look to the Prime Minister to start important discussions and make decisions, rather than people regularly asking "should we do something about X?" or having debates linger on for weeks without resolution. That's also what the Assembly should be able to expect from their PM, too. If a question is asked, the PM should be able to provide a definitive answer in a reasonable amount of time, because they've already established the Cabinet agenda and are the prime person in it.The PM should really be a leader, much like they are in real life. I'm not sure how much simpler I could explain that. :stuck_out_tongue:

With the formation of the Partnership for Sovereignty and the recent tension with the North Pacific, foreign policy is at the forefront of executive decisions. What kind of approach can we expect under your premiership in terms of working with allies and handling disagreements with them?

[Sandaoguo] First, let me say that I respect the Charter sets foreign policy execution primarily with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Heads of government meetings are not necessarily common. I do have extensive experience in this area, which I can draw from to make judgments that I link are best in TSP's long-term interests as a defender region. I would certainly be active and at the forefront of foreign policy-making within the Cabinet. But yes, the MoFA would be primarily responsible for direct engagement with allies and other foreign regions.

[Follow-up for Sandaoguo] Are there any red lines that you can think of, or any scenarios where you think a firm stance towards an ally would be warranted?

[Sandaoguo] Certainly. I would deeply disappointed if any ally were to engage in widespread region destruction. As for the TNP incident, I do believe in the tenants of the Partnership for Sovereignty, one of which is an opposition to approval or quorum raiding. Whether these would be "red lines" in the sense that we dissolve a treaty after one incident is debatable and depends on the significance of the incident. But we have values as a region, and shouldn't compromise those values for the benefit of an ally that routinely acts against them.

[Jay Coop] I believe that TSP's attention should first and foremost center on the PfS and its development, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the inflammatory statement that McMasterdonia made about defenders and his government thereafter accusing us of being illiterate. I think that the Cabinet made the right response to such an incendiary statement that questions TSP's commitment to anti-fascism. I think that we should hold McM accountable for the remarks he made, but whatever form that takes will be up to the MoFA and the Assembly. Back to my original point, though, I'd rather focus our efforts on the PfS, which represents the cornerstone of our foreign policy agenda at this time.

The past term has seen little in terms of a coherent home agenda; that is, cultural events and consistent media publications. Do you think there is anything you could do as Prime Minister to ensure that the "home ministries" succeed?

[Jay Coop] Yes, I would like to work with the next MoC to set up cultural festivities from time to time. I think that there is a demand for and Among Us, so I'll discuss that with them and see what we can do there. We could also look at perhaps holding a festival with other PfS members. As for the MoM, we need to fully revive The Southern Journal and compete with the new media landscape that now has NST and TRT at the center. As I said in my campaign, I hope to contribute a few articles myself and maybe get an editorial board together to write up opinion pieces. That could stimulate activity in TSP and give us a voice where other media have thrived.

[Sandaoguo] Absolutely, and I've dedicated a good portion of my campaign to it. Primarily, settings smart goals that are actually achievable is important. If it takes 2-3 months to execute something because it's so complex, I'm not sure that's a good use of our time. Similarly, biting off more than you can chew usually means you end up abandoning a project and losing all that invested time. Not good! As PM, and this might be a shocker to some!, I want to focus my own office's projects here at home. Like OWL, which I hope becomes its own executive office appointed by the PM. But also I'm looking at the Wiki and thinking of how that can be utilized in so many ways and integrated into the forums, etc. For media in particular, I'd like to see higher quality, more polished releases... preferably less interviews and more original work. And while I dream of a big TSP-run pub that's read to the level of NSToday or similar... "media" is a broad term, and starting off it's probably smarter to focus on doing TSP-related things really well first. Once media masters that, they'll have the groundwork to grow.

Desserts are a contentious issue in the region. Do you prefer cake or pie?

[Jay Coop] PIE!!!!!

[Sandaoguo] Pie, it's just no contest. Stop lying to yourself by saying cake is better :man_shrugging:

Glen, you have recently expressed a concern that foreign policy decisions could be made by ministers who were elected to lead "home" portfolios. How would decisions be made in the Cabinet if you are elected?

[Sandaoguo] 3 minutes is not a lot of time for a complex question! Overall, I think we need to have a real heart-to-heart about ministerial portfolios. I believe that, for instance in FA, the policy preference of the MoFA, PM, (and when relevant, the MoD), are significantly more important than the other ministers... because we elect the MoFA to do FA, MoD to work with MoFA, and the PM as our head of government (which necessitates foreign policy-making). I think there's a real disconnect and a potential for some bad outcomes democracy-wise if the ministers who don't actually have portfolio to do X are the ones overruling the ministers who actually do.

Jay, you have said in your campaign that you are most interested in foreign affairs issues. Given the lack of significant results in the "home ministries" during the past term, how would you assure voters that the Culture, Engagement and Media portfolios would still receive sufficient support under your premiership?

[Jay Coop] That is a good question. As a former MoRA, I worked nonstop to make sure that Pacific-Con was a success last year, so I believe that I can work with the MoC to make sure that we have events other activities from the ministry. As a former writer for NST and the MoRA, I believe I can make good use of this experience and help the MoM put out TSJ. I will also work to make sure that the MoE to ensure the completion of the dispatch project and continued development of TSP Encyclopedia. I believe that the experience I have in these areas can help translate into progress for these ministries.

Cross Questioning and Discussion

[Jay Coop] Glen, how will you work with the MoFA to ensure that the PfS will continue to grow and become a successful bloc?

[Sandaoguo] Firstly, I think the alliance needs a permanent forum of itself own. The infrastructure is important, but currently it's just a Discord server. That's not good for history, and 2 or 3 years down the line we'll regret that. Once the infrastructure is finalized, as far as expansion, I believe that the best way to recruit is to be seen acting. So in addition to the alliance reaching out to good potential members themselves, I'd like to see a good "propaganda" department there showing NS players just why they should join in. :slight_smile:

My main question to you would be... In your campaign, there's a lot of big projects discussed. Reinventing TSJ to rival NS Today, "globalizing SWAN," and the like. As PM, you'd only have so much time and energy. How would you make sure you could keep your campaign promises on those fronts?

[Jay Coop] I hope to work with the MoFA and the MoM as if these were group projects. I believe that I can pursue a multi-faceted agenda by discussing these things with each ministry and figuring out how to implement them. Given that our government is divided into ministries, I believe that I can follow through on these promises.

[Sandaoguo] I suppose "working with" is doing a lot of work there. My concern would be that we're entering into over-promising territory. I'm not sure you'd agree with that, but I thought I'd give me 2 cents there either way :stuck_out_tongue:

[Jay Coop] Yeah, you're always welcome to your opinion. I've been thinking up a second question, but I've come up with nothing. :stuck_out_tongue:

Would either of you wish to expand on any of your previous answers?

[Sandaoguo] Yes, just to say that regarding ministerial portfolios, I would look to reach an agreement internally among the Cabinet on areas of responsibility and how much non-portfolio ministers would expect to be involved in policy outside of their responsibility, and what "big" decisions should be whole-Cabinet. (This applies to more than just FA!) If we can iron that out during the transition, perhaps it's something that could be formalized for future Cabinets as well.

[Jay Coop] Yeah, I brought up the PfS multiple times, but I forgot to mention the endorsement deficit we have compared to the WALL. I think it's important for TSP to keep track of it and see it as an issue. Not only do we need more endorsements for our delegate, but we should also see to keeping track of the endorsements of other PfS delegates. Every endorsement they get is another vote in the WA, so I hope we see that as an important issue.

Closing Statements

[Jay Coop] Yes, thank you for having me. It's been great participating in this debate and discussing the pressing issues we have in TSP. I believe that, no matter who wins in this PM election, TSP wins in the end. I believe that Glen is a well-qualified candidate just as I am, but I hope to get more votes! :stuck_out_tongue:

So, with that in mind, please make sure to vote for Jay! Voting starts on the 11th at 9 pm UTC and ends on the 14th at 9 pm UTC. Vote! :ballot_box:

[Sandaoguo] Sure! :tsp_heart: I truly hope I've shown over this last term that I'm active and engaged in the success of TSP and our Cabinet. This debate has been wonderful and cordial! Honestly, this election season has been so much better than the last few, which I think were tainted by some ... problematic behavior. I'd like to thank Jay for being a nice debate partner :heart:

I hope I've been able to inspire some people still on the fence to cast their vote for me. There's still time before voting starts, and my campaign thread remains open for any more questions!

The South Pacific Independent News Network (SPINN) is an independent news organisation established in 2003 with the goal of providing good, insightful and timely commentary on regional events for the citizens of the South Pacific. Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board. Content is published via pseudonyms. The SPINN is not associated with the Government of the South Pacific.