In 2012, the MMM decided on pre-agreed terms to form an alliance with the MSM, which it called the ‘Remake 2000’.The objective was to canvass enough support to topple the Labour government in place. SAJ who was President of the Republic at the time resigned and became the leader of the ‘Remake’. Some MSM members defected to the government side and the MMM’s hoped-for downfall of the Labour-PMSD government did not occur.
Notwithstanding that, the MMM still had the ‘Remake’ deal on its hands. Now that discussions have been ongoing on the sharing of tickets for the next polls on the pre-agreed terms of the ‘Remake’ between the MMM and the MSM, MMM supporters feel uneasy. In the 2000 version of the MMM-MSM coalition, the MSM had secured tickets in constituencies which the MMM supporters considered as their exclusive strongholds. They are loathe to see a repeat of the same situation this time. On the other hand, the MSM would see little prospect in being projected as a subordinate of the MMM and hence carrying little conviction with its voters that it will not be outdone by the MMM.
MMM supporters do not want to find themselves again in the situation where the MSM would walk away with the prize in MMM safe constituencies. That could minoritize the MMM whether in a prospective MMM-MSM Opposition or Government. It seems the MMM leader was echoing this preoccupation of MMM followers last week, when he made a public statement to the effect that a Central Committee of the MMM will be convened before the close of March to take a decision about the ‘Remake’.
Suddenly, there was wild speculation in the public as to whether the deal reached in 2012 between the MMM and the MSM would actually go forward. Journalists even asked the MMM leader the question whether he was contemplating negotiating an alliance with Labour in view of the next polls, which he denied. On his part, the leader of the MSM came out in public to give reassurances that negotiations between the two parties were proceeding “smoothly”. To “clarify” matters, the leader of the MMM made a further point this week to the effect that the Central Committee of the MMM would be convened on 22nd March to “re-confirm” the ‘Remake’ deal.
Nothing comes out of thin air. The amount of agitation the MMM leader’s reference to a Central Committee decision having to be taken in March this year on the fate of the ‘Remake’ shows that the public considers this arrangement as a wholly volatile matter, likely to explode any time for some trivial reason or other. When he made that statement, the MMM leader might have been sending a signal to Pravind Jugnauth, his direct interlocutor in the matter of allocating constituencies between MMM and MSM candidates, that a breaking point had been reached. Or, as is wont in politics, he might be using this public statement to extract something from the MSM leader that the latter may not be conceding. Otherwise, there was no point going public to make that statement about the Central Committee’s decision.
In a democracy, the opposition stands for the alternative government. Nothing in the episode played out between the MMM and the MSM during the past two weeks mirrors them as the potentially alternative government. They are at loggerheads with each other. There is no unity of purpose. It would appear that, even in a pre-electoral alliance, each one would be keen to take advantage of the other. Political parties which stare rudely at each other even before confronting the polls are not likely to work together harmoniously for the general good first and foremost. They are more likely to stumble upon each other.
Where the opposition is busy infighting, it has less time to force the government in place to perform in tune with the imperative needs of the country. Why should the government press the agenda when it can have one or other of the opposition political parties at its mercy, depending on the proposal it has on hand from any of them? If it can scatter them apart on the least occasion, it does not have to worry about them and can therefore take its own time, unquestioned, to execute decisions at leisure or not execute them at all.
On the other hand, many will readily agree that a country in Mauritius’ current condition has numerous challenges to face. There was a need to address certain key reform issues quite some time ago. We have not done that. It appears that the government is not in a hurry. With the kind of opposition we have, there is little the latter could have done by way of pressure, putting down its own priorities and policies for the public to judge the difference it could have made, to make the country take the decisions it needed to take. We have to go to the heart of matters. Can we do so if the political class keeps rambling around peripheral issues for patching up concerns about its own survival, composition and re-composition?
* Published in print edition on 21 February 2014