If we go by what is being said in social gatherings and in different other settings around the island, there would seem to be a rising discomfort, even a build-up to frank opposition among a significant swathe of the electorate as regards the electoral agreement between the Labour Party and the MMM.
That is not to say that the bulk of the electorate has already made up its mind. It is also much too early to conclude that the crowds assembled at Quatre Bornes for the LP-MMM alliance and at Vacoas for the MSM-PMSD-ML (Alliance Lepep) are indicative of the real electoral weight that each of these two alliances carry at this stage. Or that the Alliance Lepep’s crowd represents, as some would like to think, a game changer in terms of the balance of power on the political chessboard.
It may equally be too risky now to speculate on the electoral outcome of the next general elections, for different reasons. Firstly, the date of the forthcoming general elections as well as the list of candidates and the profiles of the latter are not yet known, although prospective candidates on both sides of the political spectrum are already in the different constituencies, busy canvassing support for themselves. Secondly, although the MSM is particularly active in the social media constituency with video clips berating the two leaders of the LP-MMM alliance, the electoral machinery of the LP-MMM alliance itself has not yet been set in motion and we have yet to see how this will work out to neutralise the Alliance Lepep’s electioneering. Thirdly, certain sections of the population appear to be still on the watchout for definite electoral trail markers, and it is not known at this stage where their allegiance will go.
However, the buzz in different sections of Mauritius society tends to exclude as at present a 60-0 win for the LP-MMM alliance. This goes to suggest that the common man, contrary to what electoral arithmetic would indicate and politicians are generally wont to believe, may be more alive to what is at stake in the next general elections. We will get a better feel of the electoral mood in the weeks to come and see if the MSM-PMSD-ML alliance will be able to belie electoral statistics or, at the very least, defeat the ¾ majority required by the LP-MMM alliance to justify its continued existence post elections.
A number of irritants seems to have already cropped up and surprisingly ventilated in public. Thus, there has been criticism (‘ene fiasco’!) in relation to the logistics put in place for the Quatre Bornes rally, and a few MMM candidates have bruised the Labour Party government for failings in the Education, Health, and Housing sectors. Last but not the least the caretaker government’s decision to award the Light Railway Rs 22.2 billion worth contract to an Indian company, Afcons Infrastructure Ltd, has prompted Paul Berenger to change his mind with respect to this issue!
It should be expected that the LP and MMM leaders would endeavour to iron out any differences that might crop up to ensure that their alliance makes it through to the next elections. Several considerations come into play. The MMM has need for a party as strong as the Labour Party to raise the ¾ majority it needs to attain its primary objective of introducing a dose of Proportional Representation in our electoral system. This is to ensure a stronger representation of the Party in Parliament, thus turning itself into the strongest and all-powerful political force in the country. For his part, it would appear that the Labour Party leader might have approached the issue of an alliance with the MMM with a view to pre-emptively ward off a likely haemorrhage from his Party, in case of a win by an MSM-MMM Remake at the next elections had the latter alliance been maintained. That kind of haemorrhage happened following the rout of the LP in 1982, and it took it almost six years to get back firmly on its feet thanks to the leadership of Sir Satcam Boolell and his close associates in the Party and thereafter by Navin Ramgoolam.
However, is this not too high a price to pay for changing the rules of the game that would effectively alter the balance of power permanently in favour the MMM, such that with the party list it would no longer require to seek any alliance. Besides this being a travesty of democracy, there is also the risk posed by a single round for election of the President. It must also be kept in mind that once these changes take place, given the new balance of power, they will be almost certainly irreversible, as securing a three-quarter majority again will be next to impossible. What then is to be expected? That the common man make the right choice so as to safeguard our democracy.
* Published in print edition on 17 Ocotober 2014