By TP Saran
In the four years of the current government’s mandate, 2018 will likely go down as the most tumultuous one, heavily marked as it was by rot that seeped down from the highest level of any republic, its presidency. The country’s image was blackened not only by alleged wrongdoings involving the incumbent and an Angolan businessman of suspect reputation, but the saga took an uglier turn when there was open conflict between the Prime Minister and the President. The latter committed a further blunder by setting up a Commission of Enquiry which was considered unconstitutional by eminent legal experts, resulting in another Commission being set up to… investigate the presidential Commission! Difficult to beat that as a notorious ‘first’ in our Republic’s short but honourable history till then.
2019 looks set to be as restive, for two reasons that will be determining for the future course of the country: the verdict of the Privy Council in what has come to be called the Medpoint affair, and the political configuration that begins to shape up as the general election draws near.
To a large extent the political landscape will be moulded by the decision of the Privy Council. This assumes importance because by most estimates it is considered that the MSM cannot go it alone for the election, it will perforce need to seek an ally. And it goes without saying that a verdict which is not in favour of the main person concerned in the case, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, will weaken the MSM of which he is the leader when it comes to negotiating an alliance.
For all we know, potential allies, the main ones being LP and MMM, might just as well decide to keep away from the MSM, so as not to be painted with the same negative brush for one, and secondly because of consideration for its electorate which will feel that the MSM is not worth it. This therefore complicates matters for the MSM, and it will then face a Herculean uphill task to stay relevant on the political scene. In this scenario, its fallback position will be the smaller parties which do not themselves have much credibility or a robust electoral base.
The LP-MMM alliance of 2014, built on the shaky foundations of a presidential system which would override the prime ministerial system, met its just fate when faced with Vire mam and the resistance to the proposed constitutional change that would have conferred powers that had not received prior acceptance from the people. The aging leaders of these two parties are not likely to present themselves again to their combined electorates and seek respectability: they are likely to be rejected outright.
It looks as if, therefore, that there will most probably be a lutte à trois, LP, MMM, and MSM with its pale partners.
However, the scene changes considerably should the Privy Council rule in favour of Pravind Jugnauth. This will certainly boost his morale and put his party in a stronger position for negotiation with an eventual partner. On the other hand, that ally will in turn be able to better sell the arrangement vis-à-vis its electorate, claiming a higher moral ground for doing so. And so too will the MSM face the electorate, why the population as a whole with more confidence, although this does not necessarily mean that the latter in its entirety would believe in the justness of the verdict. But this factor will not enter into the MSM’s calculations as, naturally, it will deploy all the means to leverage this positive decision to further its chances of success at the polls.
But another aspect comes into play, and that is the bilan of the MSM, the simple fact of the favourable verdict will definitely not be sufficient to ensure a return of the MSM. There is much more in the basket to be weighed, and on a number of fronts its record so far has not matched the pledges taken in 2014. Measures taken have had a mixed effect so far, and have not brought about a consequential change for the better in the life of people, especially those at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Problems persist in several aspects of the common man’s life, but even the middle class which is contracting is feeling the pinch, what with the widening inequality gap and the perception that the power elite comprising the corporates, the banks and the politicians are all in it together, seeking to perpetuate their hold and remain in control rather than further the interest of the people.
There are also the series of scandals and scams, and ‘own goals’ that have not helped the credibility of the ruling alliance. Besides, the attempt to doctor indicators to present a rosier picture of the economy is itself a sign that Lepep must be feeling it is on shaky grounds to have to resort to such a ploy.
All told, therefore, the country’s future as well as the fate of all the major parties, whatever be the Privy Council’s verdict, will hang precariously in the balance as 2019 unfolds. It will require a real tour de force to turn the situation around, and for the sake of the people, we really must pray hard that such a feat becomes possible and that the country sets forth towards brighter horizons.
* Published in print edition on 28 December 2018