Legacy: Personal over national?

10th December is only 20 days away, and most political analysts would shy away from volunteering a definite reading of the direction in which the political wind is blowing. Echoes from the grassroots point to the growing confusion among the electorate, mostly among Labour supporters.

It is made worse by the ambiguous posturings of some sociocultural organisations, which do not make matters any clearer. What does come out however is that a 60-0 win by the Labour Party-MMM combine is increasingly unlikely – unless electoral arithmetic would prove us wrong.

Electoral arithmetic would indeed suggest that an alliance between the two major parties of Mauritius, namely the Labour Party and the MMM, should in normal circumstances capture all the 60 seats at the forthcoming elections. The undercurrent of discontent among the LP electorate over their Party’s alliance with the MMM appears to be so significant that the question that one should be asking today is: how much of the LP’s core electorate would, as it usually does, support their Party come what may? What are the reasons that would explain the apparent confusion and discomfort among Labourites presently? Is it lack of ideological clarity or political consistency? Or does it have to do with a high degree of doubt about the merits of the LP-MMM alliance, or of uncertainty about the future?

It would also appear that an equally significant swathe of MMM’s supporters are also at odds with their Party leadership over the alliance with their long-time adversary, the Labour Party. Should this rumbling undercurrent of discontent translate into a No-vote for the LP-MMM alliance, sufficient to defeat its bid for a ¾ majority to enable the leaders to operationalize their electoral agreement, there will inevitably be an ensuing political instability in the country.

We have pointed out earlier about the need for the LP-MMM alliance to enlighten the electorate about the implications and likely consequences of the electoral and constitutional reform proposals spelt out in the March 2014 Consultation Paper and which the leadership of these two parties has agreed upon to forge the current electoral agreement. This has not been forthcoming to date. The Alliance Lepep’s leadership has broached the issue of the Second Republic, but has yet to address the other, more important, one relating to electoral reform, in particular the mechanism that will be applied for the allocation of 20 Party List seats based on the ‘unreturned votes elect’ (UVE) formula. Why is this not being talked about on political platforms?

At the risk of repetition, we have maintained that the likely impact of the UVE and its unintended consequences on the overall electoral outcome assumes greater importance because of a) the unequal sizes of our 20 constituencies, b) the fact that the smaller constituencies tend to support the MMM and the larger ones back the Labour Party. The result is that the MMM obtains more wasted votes than the LP, hence more of the additional seats in spite of it having lost the elections nationwide.

The view has also been repeatedly expressed in the columns of this paper that the equal sharing of electoral tickets between the LP and the MMM on a 50/50 basis is neither in the interest of the LP nor of the country, and that one of the two should have commanded a ‘controlling share’ to ensure that much-needed stability in the highly bipolarised Mauritian political context, which is crucially required for the country’s economic development. It is also held that this 50/50 sharing of electoral seats will make governance — ‘la cohabitation’ — tenuous in the context of the Second Republic should the LP-MMM obtain the ¾ majority. An LP President with enhanced powers should still be able to fall back on a comfortable parliamentary majority to ensure that he is the one who sets the agenda – that’s where his ‘real’ power comes from.

As for the Second Republic, with the provision for a one-round presidential election, it can be safely assumed that it’s quite unlikely that any of the candidates would secure a majority of more than 50% in a widely contested election with a number of ethnic/communal/casteist-based groupings and other smaller parties as well as the LP and MMM in opposition to each other at a later stage.

Most of the terms and conditions in the LP-MMM electoral agreement may not be in the interests of the Labour Party’s electorate, yet the Party’s leadership has agreed to go along with Paul Berenger. Why is that so? It cannot be that the leadership doesn’t realise the enormity of the misstep that the electoral and Constitutional reforms constitute. Its stubbornness in pursuing along this path is leading the Party straight into facilitating Paul Berenger to fulfill his long-cherished, single-pointed ambition of leaving the one political legacy that will ensure the predominance, and therefore the permanent supremacy of the MMM over the LP: bringing in PR into our electoral system. That is surely not what traditional LP bargained for, ever?

It is pertinent here to recall the quote of William Makepeace Thackeray cited by eminent Indian jurist and economist, late Nani Palkhivala in his book ‘We The People’ about ’men serving women on their knees… when they rise, they go away’. He remarked that the same is equally true about the rapport that the people share with their political leaders. When the spell is broken, the people also move away. The political class, especially those who would want to place themselves on the right side of history, would do well to remember that.

* Published in print edition on 21 November 2014

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