Irrespective of which party or alliance comes to power, the hope is that it will be a ‘for’ rather than an ‘against’ win — By M.K.
What’s being played out in the coming by-election in the constituency of Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes following the resignation of former Good Governance minister Roshi Bhadain is far removed from the concerns and aspirations of the people about their daily living conditions and their occupations, their security concerns or about their hopes and goals for the future.
Not even the Metro Express, for that matter. Not anymore, notwithstanding the fact that it was the details relating to the implementation of this infrastructural project which had been widely touted by the former minister as having triggered a rethink of his association with the current government and led to his resignation. It may be noted that this happened shortly after he was denied the Finance portfolio in the context of Cabinet reshuffle following the nomination of Pravind Jugnauth as Prime Minister.
What is being played out now basically boils down to the crude political jockeying that takes place in the context of elections generally – in this case with an eye on forging post-electoral alliances that various parties would work out to secure their position on terms that would be deemed acceptable by their respective electorates.
This by-election may have the merit of showcasing new faces who have by and large, and in some cases at least, demonstrated a different vision of Mauritius and a new approach to politics. Perhaps most importantly is the absence of any pre-electoral alliances. This will allow the surfacing of the much-needed “clarification politique”, as Jean Claude de l’Estrac put it earlier, regarding the real electoral weight of different political outfits. They have so far ensured their survival (and in some cases abused the system) thanks to the piggyback rides they had snatched for themselves in past decades from the Labour Party and the MMM. The by-election will therefore provide them with the opportunity to confirm whether poll popularity gets expressed into votes for their candidates which, if substantial, may in their judgement not only reflect their electoral weight but also be an indication of things to come in 2019.
Nevertheless, such surmises and speculations notwithstanding, the question that may be asked is: Will the result of the by-election set in motion the events that will force change to happen in the political configurations, or at the level of political leadership at the helm of the country? Despite its parliamentary majority, which in normal circumstances should allow the MSM-led government to hold on till the end of its mandate, a Labour Party win will create a momentum – unstoppable, would suggest LP apparatchiks – that will force the MSM-ML combine out of power earlier than what is expected from the next general elections in 2019.
That is however without considering the possibility of the MMM negotiating an alliance with the MSM in view of the next general elections – and there are rumours that MSM is covertly supporting MMM in the campaign. Although the objective conditions for the MMM to go it alone – given what appears to be the irreconcilable differences between the Labour Party and the MSM that makes for another alliance between these two parties highly improbable -, another defeat of the MMM at the next general elections will jeopardise the party’s future and, without any doubt, that of its leadership. Despite official denials, therefore, a MSM-MMM alliance seems to be not totally in the domain of mere speculation.
This is in line with the reality that anything is possible in Mauritian politics despite the constant repetition about principles. At the end of the day, though, what is emerging is that for one, this election will bring about that ‘clarification politique’ alluded to above. Secondly, LP and MMM are the parties that look set to confront each other finally.
However, irrespective of which party or alliance comes to power, the hope is that it will be a ‘for’ rather than an ‘against’ win, that is, it will not be one by default. For this to happen, the potential winner will have to have an agenda for the future that will include, among others, the following essential elements: a level playing field for business and employment; overhaul of the system of distribution of wealth to address inequality issues; prodding the private sector to be more proactive in providing jobs for the bright boys and girls of Mauritius, by going into productive industries with less emphasis on real estate and smart city development: this is no doubt very lucrative for the developers, but may be socially divisive in the long term; more attention to the housing, medical, education needs of the future generations through consolidation of the Welfare State. In particular, there is an urgency about land reform for the current housing needs as well as that of the future generation.
What is at stake is therefore the very future of the young generation, and it is hoped that the young ones who have decided to jump into the political fray will not become pawns in the hands of those whose only concern is power at any cost, but will be the harbingers if not torchbearers of a new dawn for not only their constituency but for the whole country. The bar is set at a high level, because that is what they must aspire for their country, and take the lead to ensure a future bright and promising.
* Published in print edition on 8 December 2017