Let us look
Elections of the 10th December have given a sweeping victory, 47 to 13, to L’Alliance Lepep (AL), an alliance formed between the MSM, PMSD and the ML parties. SAJ, the AL’s leader, Xavier Duval, leader of the PMSD, Ivan Colendavelloo, leader of the ML and Pravind Jugnauth, leader of the MSM, got elected.
Flawed leadership can wreck the chances of the best of candidates. The Labour-MMM alliance or the Alliance de l’Unité et de la Modernité (UM) has faced a severe defeat, with several of its principal figureheads, such as Arvind Boolell, Anil Baichoo and Rama Sithanen losing. Paul Bérenger was saved from defeat at the margin. Navin Ramgoolam, the outgoing Prime minister, also lost. With 74% only of voters casting votes in the elections, there was a record number of abstentions this election, indicating that many voters chose not to vote.
In Rodrigues, the OPR won the two seats of the constituency, completely overruling the MR that had been the previous government’s ally in the Assembly.
Many of the bastions of Labour and the MMM parties have conceded defeat to the Alliance Lepep in what appears to have been a wave of anti-UM vote in both rural and urban constituencies, barring a couple of constituencies in Port Louis which have voted in favour of the UM. This seems to indicate that both the programmatic and candidate profiles presented by the UM have been rejected by the electorate. Nevertheless, considering differences in the number of votes secured by the two principal alliances, it cannot be said that the Labour-MMM combine has been routed at the polls. Like the Phoenix in Greek mythology, Labour and the MMM still have the opportunity to take a new birth from their ashes and help invigorate the local system of political accountability, giving another lease of life to our democracy.
There was hope that some of the candidates from parties such as Lalit, Resistans ek Alternativ and L’Entente Pour la Démocratie (EPD), and certain independent candidates fielding themselves for the first time could have made a dent by securing a reasonable number of votes to themselves. That could have been interpreted as a sign that voters have started wanting to shift away from the style of doing politics by the traditional political parties that have been dominating the scene for quite some time. But that was not to be. Most voters have stuck to the older parties. However the small and new parties should somehow be integrated as additional inputs into the country’s governance structure.
Many factors may explain the defeat of the UM. There was already an atmosphere of revolt against several alleged miscarriages of public office. Traditional Labour and MMM supporters could not even accept the alliance which was unnatural in the light of past serial allegations made by the one party against the other. Many hard core MMM and Labour supporters neither understood nor endorsed this unbelievable twist that was being given to the disconcertingly newly conceived political arrangement between the MMM and Labour. The results show that the disaffection in this regard was stronger among Labour supporters than among the MMM supporters, as can be seen from the number of seats won by them respectively. It is surprising that Labour did not realize how much its traditional core vote bank was being alienated and that only appropriate timely action could redress the situation before it lost those voters altogether for the current elections.
There was also an assumption that “electoral arithmetic” whereby the combination of the conventional share of votes claimed by Labour and MMM in past elections would be sufficient to guarantee a win to the UM. This “arithmetic” has been defeated and ultimately proved to be illusory in terms of the actual outcome. In itself, the defeat seems to confirm that voters cannot be taken for granted and that they can react disconcertingly against assumptions that voters will only be followers of big party leaders. It may also be showing that no future government can take the people for granted, voting for it no matter what it accomplishes or fails to accomplish. Voters can discount heavily holders of the country’s highest political posts. It is the attendant risk which future governments will have to keep in mind when governing.
Another key factor, in our view, influencing voters’ decisions was undoubtedly the intention expressed by the leaders of the UM to change the Constitution to introduce an unpalatable ‘Electoral Reform’ and what was called the ‘Second Republic’. In 2012, when a Labour-MMM alliance was first contemplated on a 50-50 basis, Mauritius Times was the first newspaper to openly oppose this kind of sharing. We exposed how vulnerable the Leader of the House would be in that case, facing the risk of being trounced from power by the other party winning a larger number of seats in the elections.
As a newspaper, we did not stop at that. When it was later stated that the MMM was contemplating to repudiate the ‘Remake’ to shift over instead to a power-sharing arrangement with Labour involving Constitutional change to accommodate the ‘Electoral Reform’ and ‘Second Republic’, Mauritius Times expressed the view extensively that this needed to be decided upon in a separate vote, notably through a referendum, so that the people would understand how serious the stakes were. We highlighted in edition after edition of the Mauritius Times, ever since this idea was put forward, how dangerous and unnecessary such a Constitutional change would be for the country’s political stability and why it was not a priority for the country, leaving it to the people to decide whether to go for such an adventure or not. We did not have an axe to grind against any particular political party. We did our best to ensure that voters understood fully the seriousness of the proposed Constitutional changes and took a decision in consequence.
Election results show that this view has been vindicated. People should not forget how easily the rules of the game can be changed by political parties acting collusively to the detriment of the entire population. It appears this message has been heeded by the population in its majority.
A new government of the MSM-PMSD-ML alliance will now assume the reins of power. The Constitutional changes which threatened to disrupt the serenity of the country will now be something of the past. The change that there will be at the helm of government will hopefully herald a new serenity even though one cannot rule out altogether the risks inherent in coalition politics. If the new government were to concentrate on the country and address deftly the challenges facing it, attention will shift from its internal affairs to dealing effectively with the affairs of the country.
We hope and believe that all attention will now be focussed on giving the country the new direction it deserves rather than concentrating on power games which reflect in fact a lack of vision and ambition for the country as a whole. The new government will, for this purpose, have to define in clear terms a coherent framework of work and undertake this work cohesively and unitedly.
At the first signs of fissiparous tendencies within the new government, signals will be thrown up that nation-building would no longer be the priority for the government. This should not happen. Exaggerated private ambitions have the power to upset the ship of state and stifle the best there is in politics. One can only hope that at this new threshold of the country’s political history, a whole new way of governing the country will surface up so that everybody feels included in and part and parcel of the political decision-making. Our duty is to wish the new government that it adopts a level of governance which makes everybody feel as a committed stakeholder in the new enterprise of state about to begin.
* Published in print edition on 12 December 2014
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