The National Assembly was due to resume, after its usual holidays, on 20th March. A new development overtook this event. The Prime Minister moved for a prorogation of the Assembly to 16th April. In practical terms this means that a new Session of Parliament is due to begin shortly with a new governmental program coming in its wake. There may be a catch in this decision to prorogue Parliament, which should quickly start unfolding on or just before 16th April.
It will be recalled that Paul Bérenger had come to control the whole situation on the tracks of the split of the government once the MSM decided to quit the government in the context of the MedPoint scandal. While longing for an alliance with Labour since long, he had been giving contrary signals by appearing to join in alliance with the MSM. A whole staccato style rigmarole was perfected up in the play down of this scenario.
The MMM’s “Assemblée des Délégués” was said to be objecting strongly against the party’s projected alliance with the MSM when this possibility was first announced by the MMM’s leader around the middle of last year. Towards the end of the year however, enough water appeared to have flown under the bridge for the party’s politburo to approve, this time, such an alliance. This amounted in fact to sending signals to Labour to take a decision concerning the MMM’s preferred electoral reform option, notably introducing a dose of proportional representation to “correct” the lopsided outcomes of the First Past the Post system of elections if it was in Labour’s intention to enter into alliance with it. Paul Bérenger was clearly exploiting the government’s thinned down majority in the House to tempt it to agree to its terms. Professor Carcassonne and Rama Sithanen both recommended the introduction of PR to varying degrees. Paul Bérenger was apparently heading towards a smoothing down of differences on electoral reform with Labour.
On March 3rd this year, it was the turn of the MMM’s Central Committee to take a decision by ‘secret ballot’ for an ‘in-principle’ alliance in the style of a ‘remake of 2000’. In 2000, SAJ had been fielded by the MMM-MSM alliance as the Prime Minister-to-be for the first three years of the 2000-05 government with Paul Bérenger as PM for the rest of the government’s mandate. While sparks were still flying left and right as to whether the President of the republic would head such an alliance and whether he should not have stepped down instead of placing the institution of the Presidency in a delicate situation, there has come this announcement by the Prime Minister that Parliament will be prorogued. SAJ must have hurt a sensitive chord of Paul Bérenger when he informed, before the decision to prorogue Parliament, that he was not implicated in the ‘remake’ (which means there was no reason for him to step down) and Bérenger might have realized that “the best laid-down plans of mice and men often go awry”. Yet never had the MMM gone for so long to such length in front of so many of its own structures before embarking on a political alliance; for example the MedPoint alliance of 2000 was decided upon at very short notice overnight.
On 12th March, deputies from the government side boycotted the garden party at State House. There was a rumour that a message was being conveyed that they suspected that the President’s position had not been squarely resolved to their mind. The Prime Minister and Paul Bérenger were also absent at the reception at State House, having been taken up by the send-off of the President of Seychelles who had officiated as Chief Guest of our independence celebrations. All this intensified the air of suspicion about the doings and non-doings of politicians who had been busy horse-trading for an alliance since nearly one year.
Now, other clouds are cast on the horizon with the announcement of a prorogation of Parliament. The Prime Minister who moved for it has stated that it was time to give priority to our economic concerns over sheer political pursuit. In the past, giving priority to the economy was being paraphrased as meaning a broad-ranging political alliance to ward off economic calamities threatening the country. This can mean, in the current context, that the chapter of alliances left and right may come to a close all at once. For the government to implement effectively its programme to be announced on 16th April, the first consideration is to set aside its preoccupation about effectively commanding a majority in the House, which has been a concern insofar as certain members on the government side had started leveraging their own importance after the MSM’s departure from government. If the PM feels confident that the present Labour-PMSD alliance can deliver the required stability, then he will not need an alliance with some other party for the new session. Alternatively, he could do something else to stop all the talk we have been hearing so far about an MMM-MSM alliance in the making for so long.
The second important consideration in the context of the prorogation of Parliament relates to the nature of the government’s agenda for development. Nothing is lost yet if the programme is directed towards achieving broad national objectives such as dealing effectively with the IPP issue for the protection of consumers, putting down a better economic distribution objective than so far and hence favouring a broader-base empowerment under a true democratisation program with milestones fixed for targets to be met, giving back an efficient administration to our public enterprises so as not to lose orientation in key areas like water supply, food sufficiency, re-diversification of the export sector towards newer and promising markets, delivering a truly high watermark level of realisation in our educational establishments and identifying better sustainable areas for expanding the scope of the economy.
The extensive amount of shadow boxing that has been taking place over the past several months has had the effect of sapping the nation’s vital energy. It has been: More form, less substance. A higher consideration of the fortunes of individual politicians and a lesser focus on nurturing loftier objectives for the nation as a whole. A diversion of energies towards the less important concerns pertaining to the fortunes of individual political parties. A situation of non-performance by many of our key public institutions.
This sickness cannot be allowed to continue because of the heavy price it commands at the cost of the entire population. The Prime Minister is right: we need to re-focus to redress a situation that threatens to get out of our hands not so much due to weak international economic conditions but rather due to serious internal flaws in the very system. No one who wants the good of the country can object to the execution pure and simple of such an agenda, which has nothing to do with who aligns with whom on the political chessboard.
* Published in print edition on 16 March 2012