2014 proved to be a more eventful year than one could have imagined. While elections were expected to be held around mid-2015, they came much earlier on 10th December. The results they brought were most unexpected, completely beating the bet placed by the Labour-MMM alliance that they would win by 60-0. The theoretically unbeatable alliance was thrown out by the people at 13-47 and that, too, by an alliance mounted up barely a few weeks before the elections. It shows that people can upset any applecart when they feel enough is enough.
No party or alliance should ever take for granted that voters will follow the pattern set by previous elections or that they will not think about the risks before they cast their votes. Political loyalties that had existed for decades for both the MMM and Labour ceased to hold once people started getting convinced that the proposals of the Labour-MMM combine would only serve the political ambitions of the Alliance’s leaders, and that they would in effect work against the people’s interests.
2014 was a culmination of a series of political events that started rolling out in late 2011 when the MSM decided to quit the Labour-MSM-PMSD coalition of which it had formed part as from 2010. The background to this departure was the questions Paul Bérenger started raising towards the end of April 2011 to the effect that the MSM would be involved in a scandal surrounding the government’s decision to buy the MedPoint hospital belonging to members of the Jugnauth family. There followed other events, such as Paul Bérenger persuading SAJ to quit the presidency in early 2012 to lead an MMM-MSM Remake. After a series of ups and downs, this in effect ended up finally in the Labour-MMM alliance that suffered a body blow on December 10th.
This defeat comes with the hope that political alliances will not in future present voters with irrelevant proposals, such as the one the Labour-MMM alliance came up with in the last elections on the basis of their presumed collective political strength based on simple arithmetic.
A country like Mauritius needs a strong opposition for democracy not to be baffled by those wielding power. Not only has the Labour-MMM alliance come with few elected members to the Assembly, but barely a couple of days after the election result, they have, at the MMM’s initiative, decided to go their separate ways.
The question is whether the MMM, discomfited at the scale of its rejection by its traditional electorate, would thereby be able to comfort them that the party’s alliance with Labour is something of the past and that they can now safely rally back around the party. This could happen in 2015 if the new government gave reasons to traditional MMM voters that it cannot accommodate them, despite the ML and the PMSD being part of the government. Time will tell.
Labour is a party with a long tradition. It was born steeped in deep social values at its core. Like many political parties that have endured for long, the party’s leadership frittered away its deep-rooted groundings to the point of being forced into a political alliance with the MMM, with which it has usually been poles apart.
As in the case of the MMM, when its traditional followers saw the void of its major proposals – ‘Electoral Reform’ and ‘Second Republic’ – they could not identify these with the core social values for which Labour has stood. The party secured less than half the number of elected seats the MMM obtained. With its leader and principal figureheads defeated in the polls, it looks rudderless. But it could recover its fundamental principles once again and hopefully reinvent itself as a party having a clearer social purpose led by several – not one – collegiate thinkers, the more so if the new government gave it the opportunity.
The new government has emerged on a strong wave of discontent and apprehension against the Labour-MMM alliance. It has acted swiftly to put in place its major office holders. It has rekindled parliamentary life by calling a parliamentary session barely a week before the close of 2014, thereby resuscitating Parliament that had remained inactive for almost one year while the previous Leader of the House and its Leader of the Opposition were engaged in bargaining about sharing power in the coalition they were discussing. The new government comes therefore with the hope in the public that it will instead attend to the country’s agenda and not to party politics. As we mentioned last week, there are a lot of priorities that the government can (and should) take up urgently instead of allowing itself to be distracted by non-issues in the quest of asserting its power more solidly or playing up to the gallery.
2015 is going to be a year beset by various global tensions. The Middle East is becoming a hotter cauldron of warfare, a sample of which was seen in the Israeli rampage this year into its Gaza massacre. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, the ’Islamic State’, Afghanistan, Pakistan, you name it, all are torn apart by serial conflicts and the chase after power. Territorial disputes around the South China Sea do not augur well for a tension-free world. Even though America has decided, after several decades, to put to rest its futile embargo against Cuba, another hot point has flared up between Russia and the West surrounding the struggle with Ukraine and, possibly, other Eastern European states that share some cultural traits with Russia.
Meantime, even though 2015 is forecast to show sturdier economic growth globally than 2014, this might embrace Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific economic blocs currently under formation. Such blocs will make for the free flow of trade within members; others, such as Mauritius, might face stiff and prohibitive tariffs in the way of penetrating those growing markets. A lot of homework awaits the present government on how to strategize Mauritius’ economic future in this changing global configuration, the more so as we have been well behind in embracing the innovation, technology, economic diversification and much of the rest that will be the foundation of future exchanges in trade of goods and services among countries.
Given the scale of challenges facing us at the global level, it calls for a lot of gravitas on our part to make inroads into the emerging realities. Vision is what is required the most. It is a good reason why the country should assemble its best brains and entrepreneurs to be able to push for the major uplift of the economic and social structure with which we will respond to the challenges.
It is unfortunate, as we look back at the track of our political history, that some who are less able to shine and lead the country to where it should be, take the alternative course of showing off at the personal level. The more this kind of stuff has invaded governments in the past, the more they have drifted off-course, focussing on trivialities instead of on the essence. At the dawn of the new year, it would be good if SAJ, as an advised leader, impressed upon his team to look competently at issues rather than upon their private personal and/or party pursuits. That would have the double advantage of warding off unnecessary wars of succession within government and keeping potentially destructive megalomaniacs at bay. The last thing we need is any type of turmoil that can rock the boat of state as it tries to meet the expectations that people voted the new government in for.
* Published in print edition on 30 December 2014