Voters gave their verdict on December 10th. Surprising? To an extent, yes, especially because of the unexpected margins and numbers by which L’Alliance Lepep won – 47 against 13, given that the latter was battling it out from the position of an underdog as the Labour-MMM alliance had already clamoured that their overwhelming win was arithmetically inevitable. Or so it also seemed to most commentators and political analysts, but the number of votes separating winners from losers in most constituencies showed that voters had made up their mind otherwise.
Voters get to exercise this power only once every five years. The decisiveness they showed in their voting implied that they understood, across the board, what was at stake. It was a rejection fundamentally of the two principal ideas that the Labour-MMM alliance stood for, notably a ‘reform’ of the electoral system and the advent of a ‘Second Republic’. It was also, amongst other things, a rejection of the 30-30 ticket-sharing as well as power-sharing arrangement between Labour and the MMM in the context of the Second Republic proposal and any form of bicephalous leadership at the helm of the government, which voters, as argued by this paper all along, considered in their wisdom as constituting the best recipe for political instability. It is true that nearly a quarter of voters abstained from the polling booths. Some of them may have done so to also endorse the same rejection of these ideas but without caring to make a clear statement of the same by voting against. Of those who voted, 51% clearly rejected those ideas, choosing to vote for L’Alliance Lepep instead. For them, the choice was unambiguous.
Whereas Labour-MMM had reckoned with an almost 80% of voter turnout in their favour, they secured only 39% of the votes cast in the elections. It means that they had frittered away what they collectively considered as their acquired ‘vote banks’. It showed the decisiveness with which voters acted, leaving the Labour leader unelected in Triolet-Pamplemousses and plummeting the MMM leader to third position in a constituency the latter considered as an impregnable bastion of the MMM, with Ivan Collendavelloo coming on top. The remaining 10% votes cast went in favour of parties and/or independents who see themselves as distinct from the major parties which usually dominate the political scene. The latter did not state it in so many words but they were also not in favour of the Labour-MMM ‘Electoral Reform’ and ‘Second Republic’, having reached the conclusion that this agenda was personally motivated by the leaders of the MMM and Labour.
Voters decided that they would not allow themselves to be led up the garden path into such inherently destabilising and counter-productive issues, irrespective of long-standing party loyalties for Labour and the MMM. Many were plain disgusted with the roundabout accommodations made by the two leaders vis-à-vis each other despite having been in severe opposition to each other over a long stretch of time on various issues. The scale of rejection of the Labour-MMM alliance was more pervasive among the traditional Labour voters (with Labour electing only four deputies in the thirteen going to the Labour-MMM opposition). The rate of rejection by traditional MMM voters was no less significant across the country except for Savanne-Riviere Noire and two Port Louis constituencies.
The election turnout showed that voters could distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Other than showing themselves capable of severely sanctioning those who decide to take them for a ride, they clearly expressed a strong opinion against both ‘Electoral Reform’ and the ‘Second Republic’. Likewise, the Mauritius Times had been making the point during the time the electoral campaign was on that the 2014 elections were one of the most crucial elections since Independence, if not the most crucial, given the Labour-MMM proposal to amend the Constitution in order to change the rules of the game with respect to the electoral system and the political governance of the country.
In the circumstances, voters agreed to give the reins to the newly constituted three-party L’Alliance Lepep despite its not having a track record of having worked together before. The presence in that alliance of SAJ as leader proved a decisive factor towards giving it victory at the polls. His seniority as leader and his reputation as a no-nonsense politician should also have helped the alliance he headed to garner enough votes to make the unexpected difference it made in terms of the number of seats secured.
The other leaders of this alliance, especially Ivan Collendavelloo of Muvman Liberater, also carried a huge amount of goodwill vis-à-vis traditional MMM supporters for his no less decisive action to take a clear stand against the MMM leader’s bid to join hands with the Labour leader. Xavier-Luc Duval comprised the reassurance factor which the leader of the MMM appeared to be relinquishing by allying himself with Navin Ramgoolam. All these factors combined to produce the electoral outcome, not the individual parts, not the “electoral arithmetic”.
Politicians sometimes refuse to rise above party affiliations and to look at the bigger picture as being larger than the sum of their personal egos. Not surprisingly, many seek to ingratiate parochial and private interests counter to national concerns needing to be prioritized. Resultantly, the ship of state has often unwittingly been wrecked on the shoals of misbehaviours at the micro level. At this stage, it is to be hoped that micro factors will not be allowed to disrupt the trust the population has placed in the new alliance.
Will the new government rise to fulfil this expectation, concentrating on giving a new sense of direction dictated by a persistent troublesome state of affairs at the international level? The task is huge to mark our presence on international markets by sharpening the resources and opportunities we have and can put in place. There is also the urgent need to develop and sustain a long-term vision of where the economy should be. The public and private sectors will also have to work collaboratively to consolidate our national objectives. Mutually destructive confrontation and the failure to produce a healthy social balance will hurt the economy. We will also have to work harder to put ourselves above unfounded suspicions as a financial centre and give ourselves international credentials to foster unimpeded our international delivery of goods and services. Growing our economic space despite prevailing international constraints is in itself a big challenge on our imagination,
Much work awaits the new government in various compartments of national life, such as strengthening strict adherence to the rule of law, reinforcing the independence of national institutions, focusing on removing the material impoverishment of part of our population, dealing effectively against a trend towards violence, theft and lawlessness. Rigour and discipline in all we undertake will suppress the rise of personal egos that have been at the source of destruction of many a government.
Mauritius will also do well if we could rejuvenate the quest for culture and bring up a decent joie-de-vivre by living a tension-free life in its various refinements. The rush after securing material benefits quick and fast, as we see it in the world outside, needs to be tempered with this much needed dose of an inspiring cultural uplift Giving citizens a strong sense of duty and responsibility will create an environment for our people to seek to excel in all they undertake at the national and international levels. Briefly, we need to translate into actions all that we contemplate to do instead of dwelling at the level of lofty statements but little by way of action.
As the above shows, numerous challenges face the new government and the people of this country. There is little time to take away attention to irrelevant and petty matters which politicians somehow manage to erringly bring into focus instead. Statesmen give to their countries direction and strong values that outlast them. This is what we are very much in need of at the threshold of the New Year. One right signal like putting the right people who can deliver in the right place instead of pushing up pals and potentates to undermine institutions will trigger the rest. It is sufficient that such a signal is given to the population in no uncertain terms. That will be the stepping-stone to move to the higher stage of good governance and prosperity.
* Published in print edition on 19 December 2014