The ongoing saga about a possible LP-MMM alliance is showing one surprise after another, which is perhaps not unexpected given the complexity of the political situation. However, those who are attuned to such scenarios and/or have been keeping a close watch over the style and manner of operating of different protagonists in the negotiations leading up to political alliances could see it coming.
For a start, Paul Bérenger’s persistent one-upmanship during the past weeks with regard to his negotiations with the Labour Party Leader – going public with not only the terms of a yet-to-be agreed alliance, who is going to be what on the Front Bench of an LP-MMM government, even riding roughshod over constitutional protocol with his announcement of the President of the Republic (still in office) giving way to Navin Ramgoolam in the context of the Second Republic, and the month the general elections will be held (a prerogative jealously kept by all Prime Ministers) – could only meet with a snub from the Labour Party Leader.
This is exactly what happened with the Prime Minister seizing the opportunity of two public appearances on Wednesday to expressly give out a curt denial to what could have appeared to be a gain for the MMM leader but perceived to be a sell-out to his electoral base.
There’s no question of his abandoning his traditional support base, the PM said, and an alliance (with the MMM) will only be possible when and if it meets with the satisfaction of his party’s objectives. He also made it a point to emphasize that there are a couple of matters (not one minor issue as suggested by the MMM leader) that needed to be sorted out, which would suggest that we’re in for the long haul – “ce n’est pas dans la poche”.
One can understand the desperation of Paul Bérenger to secure a deal from the LP leader – the prorogation of Parliament and his tacit support of this political move by the Prime Minister is no doubt placing him in an uncomfortable position vis-à-vis his party and electorate. His credibility and the soundness of his political acumen could be taking a beating given that nothing substantial has been achieved yet despite his repeated assertions that the two parties are very close to concluding a political deal.
But this is a price that Bérenger is willing to pay given the political and electoral gains the MMM would be obtaining from an alliance with the LP on the terms that he may be (mistakenly) believing he would be able to extract from a perceived weakened Labour Party.
What are those terms?
– sharing of seats on a 50:50 basis,
– the presidency (with powers yet to be defined and confirmed) going to the LP leader, and the prime ministership to the MMM leader with the same powers as emphasized by Paul Bérenger as prescribed in the present constitutional framework… (welcome bicephalism! En passant it has not been stated yet who is going to be the leader of a LP-MMM alliance…)
– Introduction of a dose of Proportional Representation with the eligibility threshold raised to 10% – the MSM leadership is dead against the 10% PR threshold and may not give way to that in the context of a new Remake;
– Paul Bérenger occupying the post of Prime Minister soon after Navin Ramgoolam accedes to the post of President of the Republic and that also for a full mandate of five years – in contrast to having to wait in the corridors (in the context of the erstwhile Remake’s deal) for three years before he takes up the post of PM after SAJ moves out.
As could be expected, these terms could only meet with disapproval from the rank and file of the Labour Party and especially so with its electorate. The LP leader would surely have felt the pulse of his electorate or been informed of the going-on’s which would have placed him on the “wrong side” of the Labour Party’s history.
Labourites clearly do not want a “sell-out” to the party they have fought for over decades. Paul Bérenger’s one-upmanship during the past weeks has only made matters worse by giving more than an inkling into what the bicephalic leadership in the context of a LP-MMM government would lead to in terms of serenity and political stability in the country. There is a widespread feeling that this cannot work and many not be in the best interests of the LP – and of the country. This paper has consistently maintained that there has to be only one strong leader and one controlling centre of power, otherwise friction is inevitable – as past experience has shown. History does tend to repeat itself and, in this case, more likely than not it will.
* Published in print edition on 13 June 2014