Regional Assembly elections have just taken place in Rodrigues. Results were announced on Monday last. Of the 12 local region seats, the Organisation du Peuple Rodriguais (OPR) of Serge Clair bagged 8 under the First Past the Post (FPTP) system, the Mouvement Rodrigues (FPR) of Johnson Roussety: Nil.
The OPR secured 43.5% of total votes cast and more than the floor level of 7 seats laid down in the Rodrigues Regional Assembly (RRA) for it to be enabled to form a majority government. This party thus became entitled, according to the Rodrigues Regional Assembly Act, to the allocation of additional seats in the RRA to ensure that it « disposes in the Assembly of a majority of 50% plus 1 seat ».
The Electoral Commission accordingly proceeded with the allocation of seats in the second round. The has yielded the following re-configuration among the parties : 11 seats (8+3) for the OPR, 8 seats for the MR and 2 for the FPR which had returned no elected member under the FPTP. The OPR is adjusted to have 50% of the 20 seats in the total plus one. Under this scenario, if Johnson Roussety were to remain in the opposition along with the MR, the OPR would be running the business of the Assembly with a thin majority of 11 (10+1) against 10 for the opposition parties. Any clash of personality between paternalistic Serge Clair and flamboyant Johnson Roussety will rapidly confirm this ruling party-opposition profile in the Assembly.
It appeared at first that the OPR had much reason to celebrate the huge difference it had carved out for itself by securing 4 out of the 6 regions of Rodrigues under the FPTP. After the adjustment under the PR system, it has to navigate in a rather dangerous situation with a majority of only one. Noting that the crossing of the floor by two members in 2006 led to political instability in the RRA, a problem that was seething until the election of Sunday last, the risk exists that the majority of one will not be an easy equation to handle for Rodrigues Chief Commissioner. Instability will look him in the eye at all moments. There is no dearth of bargaining chips for members who will assume a greater self-importance than normal under such narrow circumstances.
Serge Clair is perhaps sensing the threat under which he will have to operate as Chief Commissioner (an appointment due to take place tomorrow) with this wafer-thin majority. He is disillusioned that the majority he appeared to have secured under the FPTP is not so great and comfortable a majority after all. For all we can say, this might turn out to be a highly unstable political situation, making the task of ruling even more difficult. Already, tensions were high between Serge Clair and Nicolas Von Mally who has been appointed Minister for Rodrigues at the level of the National Assembly. The latter feels how embarrassing it will be to continue wearing this crown, now that four of the six regions of Rodrigues have repudiated his party, the MR, which has been jettisoned into the opposition over there. He is seriously contemplating discussing the matter with the Prime Minister on the latter’s return from his mission in India with a view to relinquishing this portfolio. There is also a PPS for Rodrigues at the level of the National Assembly from within the ranks of the MR. Holding on to this position may not be as difficult as holding on to the responsibility of Minister for Rodrigues.
Mauritius has been eyeing for some time going some sort of a hybrid system that will combine the existing FPTP with a PR system in order to reflect more « fairly » the votes cast for each one of the parties (with or without the Best Loser System). It is being said that the OPR is not happy with the allocation of additional seats under the PR system as that lands it up with a quasi-ungovernable majority in the RRA. It may appeal against the allocation of seats made by the Electoral Commission under the PR ; we do not know whether this is a matter which properly gives rise to a valid legal recourse or whether it has connotations rather of a political nature.
In any event, Rodrigues is throwing signals about the incompatibility of the FPTP and the PR system when they form part of a combined package, especially when the numbers appointed under PR can upset drastically the majority emerging from the FPTP. A clear majority of 4 under the FPTP (8 seats for the OPR against 4 for the MR) becomes a thin majority of one when this is mixed up with the PR system.
If we can avoid throwing up unstable governments of the sort by using this device, it were best we stuck to our guns with the FPTP and the BLS. « Fairness » is no doubt a good criterion from a moral standpoint but « decisiveness » of electoral outcomes is superior when it comes to governing. This situation is pointing out that it may not be worthwhile to venture out into territories that may land us into nasty electoral surprises. Intellectual exercises are very good when they help break new and better grounds; they are not that good when they combine fundamentally mutually exclusive solutions into one whole package: this is the decision British voters gave in the recent referendum seeking a dose of PR in Britain at the behest of the Lib Dems.
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India and Mauritius do not belong to different leagues
Whenever a system is seen to be working out well, your are sure to come across certain protagonists who will find fault with it. This is the case with the India-Mauritius relationship. Many reduce international relationships to small money matters. While they are free to do so, countries should have lofty enough vision to be able to look beyond rupees and cents.
India has scored a lot of economic success in the past few years and it has been warmly embraced for that by the great powers of the world. Those newfound “friends” are in quest of newer alliances after failing with those they trusted better in the past. This embrace will however be kept up as long as India keeps performing at the global level and filing the gaps that have come about in those countries’ geopolitical strategy. Not when India becomes irrelevant to their quest to remain dominant in the global arena. This should never be forgotten.
In the case of countries like Mauritius, there is a true genuineness in the country-to-country relationship that transcends those momentary embraces India has been receiving as the member of the newfound “club”. Mauritius has never betrayed India. India has never betrayed Mauritius. There is a feeling of mutual understanding between the two countries struggling against a world that has kept them on the fringes of real development. Enlightened leaders of both countries have kept underscoring the depth of this relationship. And rightly so. We in Mauritius stand to gain and share in its advances whenever India makes progress. We cannot but work in this direction. We feel that this sentiment is reciprocated by the farsighted leadership on the other side of the Indian Ocean which irretrievably links up our fates.
Both countries stand up to gain by reinforcing ties that have bound us together. This is not only because we can create commonality of mutually beneficial economic and developmental benefits. We can re-invent our shared interests by consolidating existing commercial and cultural relationships, but that does lie on the route of continuous suspicion of incorrect motives on the one part and the other.
America has spent trillions of dollars in the Middle East. It has a purpose. That purpose has probably frittered away now. However, it was a deliberate choice, heedless of the expenses involved. It stood firmly by those it has chosen to be its friends. China has been spending billions on developing infrastructure in Africa and similar other places in different parts of the world; it is probably not thinking of recouping those expenses in the short term, however it knows that the ties that are building up in its favour in those places will be the key to upholding its future economic growth. It will not call them into question from time to time because that clearly does not serve any useful purpose for both sides.
There are lessons to be learnt from countries which do not stifle their economic and other relationships despite not seeing the results of their actions in the short term. It would be good if both India and Mauritius got the point more clearly in the pursuit of their future goals and objectives. Mistrust has never been a platform on which constructive and well laid down plans have been sustainably executed. Once this element of mistrust is made to go away in the India-Mauritius relation, serenity will be restored so that even a small country like Mauritius can go on supporting India’s global progress without asking a price for it.
* Published in print edition on 10 February 2012
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