The President & Politics
There has erupted this week a crisis situation involving the Presidency of the Republic and the Prime Minister. On Saturday last, the Central Committee of the MMM (CC) voted by “secret ballot” in favour of an ‘in-principle’ ‘remake’ of the 2000 MMM-MSM alliance.
It is good to recall that the 2000 MedPoint deal between the MMM and the MSM (to which the ‘remake of the alliance of 2000’ refers) was done, amongst others, on a shared prime ministership: SAJ was to occupy the chair during the first three years of the government’s mandate and Paul Bérenger for the rest of the term. This is indeed what happened actually.
It is publicly known that, since after the MedPoint scandal, Paul Bérenger has been negotiating alternately with Labour and the MSM for an electoral alliance. He has been meeting the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic on sundry excuses but many suspect that the main excuse is to form an alliance with one party or the other. After last Saturday’s vote of the MMM’s CC for a ‘remake of the 2000 alliance’, and the acceleration of on-going talks, this week, between Pravind Jugnauth and Paul Bérenger, the question has arisen whether such a ‘remake’ did actually mean that the President would head the alliance and present himself as the Prime-Minister-in-waiting. It may be recalled that, at a previous stage last year, the MMM’s Assembly of Delegates had voted against an alliance with the MSM under this party’s current leadership, notably with Pravind Jugnauth. Hence, the new formula of a ‘remake of 2000’ presented to the CC for secret voting on Saturday last.
It is against this background that the Prime Minister called a press meeting on Monday last to state that it would be unethical for the President to remain in office while aspiring to become the next Prime Minister in the context of this ‘remake’. Indeed, the incumbent at State House has to be and be seen to be above party politics. This position has to be clear at all times. We have felt uneasy each time in the past when the incumbent at the State House gave the impression of being aligned with a political party. There can be no exception to this: an ambivalent position at the State House is unacceptable under our present institutional set-up.
Since the President has not stepped down yet, it can be presumed that he has no intent to stand as a power-sharing Prime Minister in the contemplated ‘remake of 2000’ between the MMM and the MSM. We can go further to presume that he would not have tacitly made a private arrangement to move over to the other side at the appropriate time. But the doubt persists, given the ups and downs of immediate prior political negotiations, that he might eventually, when the occasion serves him, stand down from the Presidency and take on the garb of a party leader. Such a premeditated calculation would cast the institution of the Presidency in bad light, tantamount to abuse of office.
The President could have dispelled the doubt arising from this situation by making a statement, if that was true, that he would be having nothing to do with the proposed ‘remake of 2000’. He might just as well have denied any assumptions made by the CC of the MMM concerning the President’s role, if any, in the remake, before the CC went for the vote Saturday last. He chose not to proceed in this direction. Following the ‘in-principle’ favourable vote of the CC of the MMM, Paul Bérenger stated in answer to a question as to whether SAJ will be part of the MMM-MSM alliance that it was for the President to make a statement as he deemed fit. The question about the President’s involvement has therefore been left open ended. However, after his weekly meeting with the President yesterday, the Prime Minister has stated having been informed by the President that the latter is not actually involved in the ‘remake’.
All this shows not only how skilfully Paul Bérenger has pitched the President against the Prime Minister into a situation out of which the President might have to walk out of State House eventually with nothing on his hands. First, if he is a party to the deal, the President would have no option but to step down to protect this important institution from being tainted. Second, an ‘in-principle’ decision by the CC of the MMM should not be taken to mean that the presumed alliance would be a done deal and that the MMM-MSM alliance would effectively be sealed. In fact, bearing in mind the round-about turns to which the MMM’s leader is prone, it would not be surprising if, taking advantage of SAJ’s eventual abandonment of high office, Paul Bérenger ended up negotiating with Labour on how to fill up vacancies with a view, this time, to working towards a Labour-MMM alliance that he has long been seeking. He could simply brush aside the so-called recent ‘in-principle’ decision of his CC concerning the ‘remake’. He could also easily find a reason as to why on-going talks with the MSM in view of the alliance can no longer be progressed. Such a twist would have the effect of evacuating the MSM from the scene altogether.
We have come to a situation in which the people of this country have to accept many unpalatable situations. They have to swing with the tide: if the political leaders decide to go for any specific alliance, the public have little choice than to take it lying down. We have a clear impression that political leaders, on their part, can flirt around and justify any alliance they fall into for personal power-seeking. This has emptied the political agenda of its loftier content; this content has been reduced to sheer deal-making. Even the apex political institution of the land, the Presidency itself, which is responsible for holding all the parts together by keeping at respectable distance the doings of individual political parties, has not managed to keep itself above the fray by not dissociating itself from party political arrangements as promptly as it would have been appropriate.
The process of degeneration of our institutions began some decades ago. If we had been serious about it, we would have arrested this failing before long. We have not acted as we should have because power-seeking à outrance led to the gradual devaluation of institutions. Consequently, even political parties risk being reduced now to the status of tradable commodities available to the highest bidder. This is a highly slippery slope. It shows that the political superstructure has weakened considerably. One would not be surprised if this kind of weakening were to undermine a country that has been relatively well governed so far to the point of having to throw away those very values that have kept it afloat so far. There is an urgency to reverse this tide.