It happened finally. SAJ stepped down from the Presidency to engage in active politics once again. The first signs are that it is not going to be a smooth ride for the new MMM-MSM alliance, which some have been calling the MMM-SAJ alliance.
It will be recalled that SAJ’s resignation came in the midst of statements being made by the MMM’s leader that the government would be put into minority. This did not happen. In fact, he is now saying that he is reckoning that the government cannot be laid down that easily. He might have been counting on defections from the ranks of the government to swell the ranks of the opposition after SAJ’s stepping down. This has not happened. On the contrary, a few who might have been suspected of changing sides in this eventuality came out in public and condemned the former President in no uncertain terms.
This shows that the strategy to engineer defections has failed or that it was a mere figment of the MMM’s leader’s imagination. The irony of situations like this is that, in the absence of an expected consolidation of the numbers on the side of the opposition, the defections might well take place in the opposite direction, i.e., in favour of the government side.
The probability of this happening should not be discounted too hastily. To this extent, the MMM’s leader’s strategy around SAJ’s resignation stands impaired. It might even turn out to be counterproductive and force him to resume his original stand with regard to what he called “le scandale du siècle” since he has lately claimed not having changed his view on this matter by “even an iota”. It is worth recalling that he began his crusade on the MedPoint affair by accusing the MSM of being behind it before changing tack later.
We learn that it is proving quite arduous for the MMM and the MSM to agree on the sharing out of tickets in view of the latest alliance to be headed presumably by SAJ. Discussions have been going on between the two sides in view of difficulties encountered. There is a mistrust factor evidently.
It may be recalled that some in the MMM had claimed that the division of tickets had been such during their 2005 alliance that the MSM was able to walk away with elected seats in wards that were effectively bastions of MMM supporters. As a result, the MSM commanded a larger number of seats in Parliament at some stage putting it in a position to wrench away the position of the Leader of the Opposition from the MMM leader. This has not been well digested by MMM diehards and the leadership of the party is no doubt being put in front of hard choices to make in the present allocation of what the MMM considers to be its own “safe seats”. Moreover, previous candidates set up by the MMM leader to front for him, such as Ashock Jugnauth, fell out against their original party, the MSM, and the crossing is proving to be difficult just as well in view of the new alliance.
Negotiations are therefore taking the time they need before the two parties are agreed on both the number of seats to which each one will finally be entitled and the constituencies from which the respective candidates belonging to the two parties would stand. Now, to make a real impact on the imagination of voters and to get their adherence to the new alliance being formed, it was necessary to make resounding immediate advances. This window of opportunity lost, the assumed expected initial impact of the new alliance appears to be fizzling out.
Inabilities to overturn the government and moving slowly with allocation of tickets have served to take the wind that had gathered earlier on off the sails of the new alliance. The resulting uphill task is rendered more difficult by the fact that, at the end of the day, the new alliance may have to wait until May 2015 to get a chance to test the electorate’s affiliation towards its cause.
Many things could happen in between. For one we know, the traditional private sector which usually employs the MMM as its Trojan horse in government, may find it too long to wait for. The uncertainty of support creeping into the equation from this source as far as the MMM is concerned, could make the MMM leader go into diverse directions, including repudiating its alliance with the MSM. On several occasions in the past few months, the MMM leader has shown that he did not want to miss the train.
Matters are not as clear therefore as the new alliance would have us believe. The more the time of waiting, the greater the uncertainty of getting into power will become. In the meantime, much water could flow under the bridge and change parameters considerably.
On the other side, Labour’s challenge rests on meeting certain conditions –
- It should at all costs be able to sustain its majority in the House;
- It should be able to keep its political partner, the PMSD, reasonably well behaved so as not to disrupt cohesion at the overall level; in other words, the PMSD should not be seen to be pressing for short-term gains at the risk of making the government lose support from its electorate;
- It should cleverly manage the economic chapter to ward off any major catastrophe such as what might happen in the unlikely, but still possible, event of greater disruption hitting our principal export markets, notably in the Euro zone; in other words, the negative social impact of any damage coming from this source should be provided for in advance. The Budget is the main instrument for so doing.
The above shows, if at all it was necessary, that the imperative for Mauritius is not about quarrels of personality. It is more about setting the house in order so as to be prepared for the worse that might come. Beyond the defensive aspect, the time has come to see to it that only those who can deliver the goods without putting the government in serial embarrassment need to be in positions of command in key areas of activity in the broad public sector. We have had enough of empty barrels making a lot of noise and leaving a lot of wreckage in their trail. This situation requires to be addressed firmly to give the necessary reorientation and confidence to the country.
* Published in print edition on 6 April 2012