Voting Intelligently

The debate about any future Constitutional reform is not over, as there is too much at stake for the country. It is merely postponed, as after the dissolution of Parliament, electoral campaigning has already started, although the date of the forthcoming general elections is yet to be announced, as well as the list of candidates. Apparently these will be made public this Sunday during the joint Labour Party-MMM meeting due to be held in Quatre Bornes.

So far, however, judging by the faces that have intervened in the meetings held in different places, it would appear that the majority of candidates in all parties are likely to be the ones already known, made up of a mix of the old guard and middle aged ones. Whether new candidates will be fielded, and how many in each party, is yet to be known. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that Resistans ek Alternativ have decided to field candidates in all 20 constituencies.

There is the well-known local adage ‘vote bloc, donne choc!’ And in the past we have had sweeping majorities, 60-0 and 57-3, that reflected this call from the parties. The two main contenders in the coming elections are probably hoping for a similar scenario this time too. However, the general feeling is that there are going to be surprises when the results are out: it is not going to be that simple. There is dissatisfaction on both sides of the divide about the LP-MMM Alliance, the consequences of the proposed electoral and Constitutional reforms are not clear at all – there is no indication that they have been pondered sufficiently –, and the closed door, private nature of the discussions have rattled many segments of the thinking population. And it must not be assumed that the common man does not think about such things!

To these uncertainties and doubts, there are also some givens that stare the people in the face – and they are going to be a slap in the face of the candidates of the parties which have already participated in several previous elections. Thus, these parties have all in some way or the other been perceived to be associated with corrupt practices, or not done enough to eradicate this evil from our society. Ostentation, abuse of privilege, nepotism, favouring of specific segments are some of the other sins which have been laid at their doors.

As regards the candidates, tarnishes in personal behaviour and character, arrogance and aloofness, absence most of the time in their constituencies, failure to come up to expectations of their electorate despite promises made are some of the charges that they share to a varying degree.

Under such circumstances, there is bound to be confusion among electors as to whom to trust. Let us not fool ourselves: it is known that people are canvassed to attend public meetings with fleets of buses put at their disposal, followed by picnicking afterwards. It may be folkloric, but this is the reality, and accounts for the fact that the results of the elections have quite often been contrary to the projections of the parties/their leaders despite the pre-electoral ballast of commissioned crowds at their various meetings.

Given these realities, and the fact that both candidates and parties have in the past shared political beds as well as split among themselves, mutually praising and patting when they are allied and pouring calumny within moments of parting ways with a string of falsehoods and petty excuses, whatever they say in the coming days before the elections is going to sound terribly hollow. There is going to be more of a clash of words than a clash of ideas, and they have already started trading traded insults, innuendos and allegations as friends-turned-foes sentiments surge. What example to the future generations!

A case in point is the attack on the socio-cultural associations: which party has not used them? Their pretence and hypocrisy is crying, especially when it is known that there are other, religious and social organisations which lobby the parties to push their agendas in ways less visible and noisy, more shrewd, and have had things done on the sly. Remember to ‘voter avec ou le coeur’? Why was there no comment on that – because it suited the MMM? Clearly, the daggers are out of their sheaths already. Put another way, the writing is on the wall as far as the grand Alliance is concerned. Only those foolish enough to be still dreaming will fail to notice.

So while it is not possible to rely on either the personal character or behaviour of individual candidates, nor on the failed promises of the parties as a guide to who to vote for, there are certain considerations that may yet provide an indication of the direction to follow.

An obvious start is younger and newer candidates who might be fielded, despite the fact that they will be inexperienced politically. They may be assessed, nevertheless, on their work and professional pathways, any engagement that has made them leave a positive imprint on society at the local or regional, if not national, level, proven sincerity and genuine wish to bring about lasting and meaningful change both in the country and in the mindset of future generations. They must have a valid and viable, and broad-sweeping projet de société for the country as a whole to table for discussion.

The track record of known parties and candidates must be examined in terms of their contributions for: combating corruption, building and strengthening institutions instead of merely paying lip-service, promoting an inclusive economic agenda by not only diversifying but expanding the economic base to include players in all developing sectors, ensuring that the rising tide lifted more and people from all communities out of the poverty trap, whose social schemes were applied without discrimination to all Mauritian citizens concerned by such schemes, who engaged genuinely and sincerely in nation-building that did not contradict their mouthfuls about the latter.

In respect of the latter, for example, people must ask themselves whether we ought to have had so many cultural centres? Since all the parties have never ceased to harp on the theme of ‘unity in diversity’ why was not a Mauritian cultural centre set up? And worse, why were so many set up for one community, the Hindu community? To all discerning observers, this was clearly a balkanization process. Will they now see the woods for the trees or will they allow themselves to be trapped again?

* Published in print edition on 10 Ocotober 2014

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