Overturning The Tide

We are now at mid-term of the present mandate of the government. As things stand today, the government has a majority. It can do its business with the numbers it has at its command without having to cede the front stage to issues that are not and should not have been its priorities. It should not be seen to continue digging where it finds itself in a hole. It could address other important issues to shape the future.

Yet happenings on the political scene the past six months since the municipal elections appear to indicate that it is the Opposition that has been occupying this front stage. The opposition has latterly evoked a series of issues pertaining to alleged failings in different public administration compartments, which have caught up public attention. It has been using them in succession in an intense bid to point out and prove systemic shortcomings on the government side.

While being on the defensive and occasionally winning over the argument could reflect a show of strength on the part of the government, reason dictates that this process could well be counter-productive if it were to last longer than necessary. The prevailing situation could have been stood up on its head if the government had instead been taking a series of initiatives on its own and kept the opposition busy criticising those initiatives.

Thus, the original PRB report could have been seriously examined internally in the first place, its weaknesses thrashed out in-house and necessary adjustments made so as to make it an overall economically realistic and sustainable proposition. Once the government was convinced that this was the best and most equitable outcome it could deliver in the given circumstances, it could only then have made it public. In such a case, it would have stood up by it no matter how the trade unions were to take it. Not only would such a well thought-out proposition, fully supported by the government, have kept up the good credentials of the office of the PRB. It would also have avoided getting into a situation where a hurried review of the PRB’s proposals had to be made, the sector-wide asymmetries of which and  their deeper economic implications for the country as a whole remain to be fully evaluated.

It is necessary to preserve an element of serenity in order to break new grounds in the sound management of public affairs. It appears that this has not been the case the past six months. It will therefore be necessary to reverse this situation so that government and ministers feel duly empowered to go ahead with projects and deliver on them before the coming elections. Instead of going for repair work when the problem has already manifested itself or been pointed out by the opposition, it is always better for government to be undertaking something new or transformative as a signal sent as to where the initiative is really anchored.

Despite the observed recent turn of events on the political stage, the opportunity for the government to overturn the tide unleashed so far by the opposition is a real one. The semblance of a fortifying consolidation of opposition forces which appeared to be in the making with the ‘Remake’ is slowly disappearing. Uncertainty about whether Paul Bérenger will eventually lead the MMM has created a credibility gap whereas the tide of support that it was expected the ‘Remake’ would enlist at its 1st May rally, in the face of serial denunciations of government failings, did not materialize. A grey area on the future of the unified opposition has come forth. There is a loss of dynamism, a factor which has helped to weaken the resolve of opposition supporters to back their parties.

In an interview to this paper last week, Yvan Martial who is writing a series of articles on the history of the Labour Party, stated that there is a classic scenario which can be resorted to by Labour to win the elections. According to him, the Labour leader only has to state as follows: “ Regardez bien à qui votre Pouvoir politique ira, si vous ne votez pas pour le PTr aux prochaines législatives! Message reçu 5 sur 5. Même pas besoin de faire un meeting, comme le 1er-Mai dernier.” He also postured the Labour leader as saying 48 hours before the voting: “Oubliez tel ou tel candidat qui vous déplaît. Faites comme si j’étais votre candidat. J’aurai besoin de lui pour gouverner, avec une majorité comfortable. Si vous refusez quand même de voter pour le candidat de mon choix, pas besoin de voter pour moi. Votez pour l’adversaire. Donnez-lui le Pouvoir. Mais ne venez pas, après, vous plaindre auprès de moi.”

This scenario looks to be plausible as Labour will not forgo pointing out the risk of giving power to political parties other than itself which do not have at heart the interests of its traditional supporters. An even bigger twist could cloud the chances of the opposition to assert itself at the polls if, as Yvan Martial conjectures, Paul Bérenger might be called in before soon to replace the current President of the Republic with Alan Ganoo taking the MMM into an electoral alliance with Labour for the coming elections.  In which case, the opposition, as we are seeing it today, will be reduced to smithereens and hardly anything Labour would have to contend with. New partnerships will emerge at the helm of power.

As we can see, several possible games could be played to bring to naught all the noise the opposition has been racking up so far against the government. Those games, however, are relevant to the conquest of power. Once political parties will be in power, no matter what their configuration, we may have the same kind of tug-of-war on display for some time to rouse up popular passions in favour of one side or the other, only to be dashed eventually in the political game of alliances. But there is a bigger dimension to the exercise of power. If competent, rather than convenient, people were to run the affairs of state with the necessary leeway to take actions, they would make a difference to the destiny of the nation. This ingredient is necessary for Mauritius to make important headway towards carving out a respectable place and position in an unforgiving emerging new global order.

We have already seen the age of trade preferences melt like ice. We are currently seeing a fierce struggle among the major powers to gain an edge over each other. It looks as if there will be no free lunch in the new economic configuration that will come up on the world stage very soon.

* Published in print edition on 31 May 2013

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