Test of Endurance


By M.K.

Many have mentally dismissed the rallies scheduled by political parties for the 1st May. They do not expect to learn anything from what politicians have to say about one another on that day although they will be keen to know how well each side has performed in terms of rallying numbers.

It will not be surprising if the majority of the local media will be focussed just the same on the numbers mobilized by each one of the two major political blocs. The comparative figures are important. 

Labour is making its call to its partisans under the disadvantage which is cast upon a party by incumbency in power. It is faced also with the challenge to show that it has not lost support after the MSM quit the ranks of the government in mid-2011. As the MSM has now rallied the MMM opposition and SAJ has left behind the comfort of the presidency to head this new opposition coalition, Labour is further challenged to show that its electoral base has not frittered away due to these developments. Moreover, in the current global economic predicament, it is called upon to demonstrate to its traditional supporters that it will not be swayed towards right-wing policies towards which certain changes in the labour law had appeared to incline it in 2009.

On the side of the opposition, the recent realignment will stand the test of time towards keeping the troops together provided it can show itself capable of destabilizing the government fairly quickly. It has failed several self-imposed tests in this regard since the realignment began. The MMM leader announced that the government would soon be thrown into minority. This was intended to reassure followers that elections were round the corner. Nothing of the sort happened. No one left the ranks of the government to join the opposition. Those who were called upon to cause the defections failed in their mission.

Having been discomfited on this count, the next best thing the opposition could have tried was to seek to destabilize the government by creating a general sentiment in the country that the government no longer enjoys popular support. This is why it has been working overtime to get a maximum number of people to gather at its rally on May 1st. As Mauritian voters like to know about allegedly well-guarded “secrets of the gods”, it has promised to release scandalous information about doings on the government side at its rally of May 1st.

Since time is of the essence for the opposition coalition to hold together and hence to be held credible by its own supporters, this appears to be a last-ditch attempt to salvage the ‘remake’. It is not quite certain that even a numerically superior gathering mobilized by the MMM-MSM would evoke such a sense of panic on the side of the government as to precipitate its downfall in any conceivable manner. True, such an achievement would be psychologically important to send the message that power is not too far out of hand for the MMM-MSM’s supporters but it is not the stuff for overturning governments.

The question then arises as to what will hold the new opposition coalition together on the road to May 2015. Popular discontent with government policies, as it usually fanned up by the MMM leader, will not be a sufficient condition for so doing. One-off recriminations die their own natural deaths; so, only monumental gaffes committed by the government side could precipitate any action on the scale hoped-for by the opposition.

Short of being able to get anything on this scale, the new opposition alliance is likely to fail the test of endurance. This is where daggers could turn inside. Absence of success will force the MMM leader, true to himself, to look for reasons to spot the opposition coalition’s lack of progress towards its avowed goal to get into power soon enough. It is certain that the government side will do all it can to deny the opposition any such opportunity in the time to 2015, which is what it has tried to signal by proroguing Parliament and introducing a new Government Programme 2012-2015.

By putting too ambitious an objective in front of the new opposition coalition’s ‘remake’ – notably, by shifting the blame for the MedPoint scandal, causing the MMM’s Assemblée des Délégués to vote in favour of the MMM-MSM alliance with both parties even losing members gained to their cause since long, proceeding with the selection of candidates in a cavalier manner fraught with casualties falling off on the way, having made the former President of the Republic resign his office and the way forward being still unclear – the MMM leader has sown the seed of its prospective implosion. Risk-taking is good but surely calculated risk-taking is better.

Be that as it may, the May 1st rallies will show which one of the two sides has really something of substance to offer to the country. People are slowly getting fed up with incompetents and we know that this is a shared weakness on both sides of the political front. It is not because the opposition is insulated from the test of fire due to its being on the other side of power, that this hideous aspect of management should be assumed away from it.

Political leaders have so far ensured that they alone will be the star players on each side of the political divide. The question arises as to who exactly between Paul Bérenger and SAJ will actually assume that role on the side of the opposition. Seeds of dissension may eventually sprout up and help the MMM leader extricate himself once again from a messy condition into which he has put himself once again. In that case, the demonstration on the ability to pull up crowds on May 1st by the different factions would prove to be yet another exercise in futility.

New affinities will be researched for getting together into new political constructions; such is the poor state to which local politics has fallen on account of the readiness of leaders to make composition with each other, depending on the way the tide starts flowing. Ludicrous arrangements of the sort have emptied politics of its earnest content which is to focus on the advancement of society. In this changing kaleidoscope, the bitter words exchanged yesterday between leaders are soon lost and rationalization of the newest coalition is done with amazing simplicity and ingenuousness.

Some day will come perhaps when we could make an abstraction of this futile game of personalities that has been plaguing local politics. On that day, it will be realized that the true national agenda was neglected for too long and that a heavy load of real work needs to be undertaken in a race against time. It will, hopefully, not be too late to catch up with all that has been lost on account of the pursuit of the futile power game which May 1st has come to represent in today’s context.

* Published in print edition on 27 April 2012

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