Victory for the Alliance de l’Avenir
The Alliance de l’Avenir has won in the general elections by a comfortable majority. It secured 41 out of the 60 directly elected seats in the Assembly. This is a remarkable achievement in view of the strength that the Alliance du Coeur had been gathering during the past three weeks, aided in this by an aggressive campaign on its behalf by the pro-MMM press, namely the l’express media group and Week-end.
The alliance that the Alliance Sociale contracted with the MSM did not directly contribute to raise the number of votes secured by the Alliance de l’Avenir if only for the fact that there is little differentiation between the voters of Labour and the MSM when both are aligned on the same side. However, this alliance was of a highly strategic importance, it being given that any alternative potential MMM-MSM alliance would have so considerably trimmed down the margins as to be able to upset the applecart. Had an MMM-MSM alliance materialised instead, it would have turned Labour’s incumbency into a heavy liability and changed the outcome of voting unpredictably.
The election has shown if it was at all necessary, with what speed and effectiveness a vast propaganda machine can be mounted and launched by the opposing camp. It stopped short of nothing, including the whipping up of past communal reflexes. In that sense, despite the defeat of the MMM, the clock has been set back on the question of national unity. It was amazing how identity suddenly assumed an overwhelming importance in the election. It became so important that political parties including the Alliance de l’Avenir had to concede on some of the most opportunistic vindications made from a purely ethnic standpoint. Inroads were sought to be made even within individual communities in order to tribalise whole communities into sub-groups. It can only be hoped that the wounds inflicted by these ethnic tactics will not fester and arrest the nation’s progress towards a more globalised outlook with feet firmly planted in a growing culture of sharing, understanding and meritocracy.
There have been times in the country’s political history when ethnicity has been given a prime position against a poor economic background facing the country. It was easy to flog up ethnic feelings of apartness when unemployment was on the rise and economic prospects bleak as it was the case in the 1960s and the late 1970s. However, this time on, the feeling was aroused despite much better prevailing economic conditions. It was perhaps the only plank that could have salvaged the quickly patched-up Alliance du Coeur to gather steam enough to make a brave showing in the elections for which it had been caught napping. The results show that even this device was not enough to turn the tide in its favour. One hopes however that the virus of ethnic politics as we have just witnessed it is not here to stay, especially with the younger generation that is going to vote on an altogether different platform in 2015. Unfortunately, this factor has required that both major political alliances concentrate their campaign on objectives of immediate importance without attending to much broader issues of national importance. The sights have not been set on a choice of more long-lasting national goals; they have been focussed on welfare spending.
There is one positive factor that has emerged from the 2010 elections however. Abstracting from the ethnic factor which was infused during the past four weeks in the campaign, voters in several constituencies have clearly signalled to candidates that they will not tolerate candidates who appear only at the time of elections to solicit votes but are absent or inexistent during the bulk of the mandate from their constituencies. Many deputies would have learnt at their expense that a high price needs to be paid to compensate for such absences or inadequate identification with the circumstances of their local voters. The permanent proximity which politicians of yesterday rightly used to cultivate with their constituents has disappeared in the present set-up.
Voters have indicated quite clearly that they are not prepared to tolerate absentee deputies who come over on the eve of elections to give a semblance of involvement in their wards. In this sense, a committed presence translated into tangible progress made in each constituency will have a real effect during the next elections. This means that political parties may not be able to opportunistically designate candidates in the different constituencies at the last minute; they may well suffer defeat. Nor may political parties defer the execution of economic projects till the last minute as a demonstration of “work-in-progress” and thus hope to impress voters. Without the essential planning that makes for timely implementation of well integrated, cost-saving and validly prioritised projects, political parties may not be so lucky the next time over. The age-configuration of voters and the tools they will employ to communicate will not yield to the assumption that personal charisma will be enough to win over. Next time over, voters cannot be taken for granted.
The Alliance de l’Avenir has won a mandate to govern the affairs of the country for the next 5 years. It should govern and not lose its way in internal bickering, as we have seen it happen so many times with different governments. While much credit goes to Navin Ramgoolam for having neutralised the recent irrational campaign based on ethnicity, he should take the opportunity to democratise the decision-making process within his alliance so that people are convinced that new and capable figures will emerge to take on the various challenges which will inevitably face the country in a world that is not really out of the economic woods. The elections of 2015 will be decided on a platform unlike those of 2005 and 2010 which bear a lot of resemblance to each other.
The more there is projected an image of cohesiveness and authentic team spirit of the new governing alliance, the less difficult it will be for Navin Ramgoolam to get on successfully to 2015. There is a dearth of talents the world over; Mauritius cannot be an exception to this condition. It would therefore not be appropriate to invite the tribalism that almost dismembered our society in the course of the last electoral campaign. We will inevitably have to inculcate new values that will match the ambitions of the younger generation which will form the core voter group the next time over. The new voters will need to be inspired to aim at higher goals in a spirit of solidarity, rather than being incited by some socio-cultural leaders and priests to believe falsely at each turn of the electoral process that some weird conspiracy would be hatching up against them or those belonging to their flock by some unidentified adversary. Tangible results will count as a demonstration of management capability in social and economic affairs of the nation. For the present, a spirit of magnanimity will pull together the fabric that has just been unfairly torn apart putting at risk the social fabric. The work of confident reconstruction can help save the situation.