Voters gave a decisive victory to l’Alliance Lepep in the municipal elections of Sunday last. In an unprecedented win, the political alliance secured all the 120 seats in the five municipal councils of the country.
This should be a moment of satisfaction for the party leaders, namely those of the MSM, the PMSD and the Muvman Liberater (ML). It could just as well provide an opportunity for the national government headed by the same alliance to launch itself into a fresh constructive action at the national level.
It is true that there was an escalation of the numbers of abstainers from the usual around 50% to 65% this time in last Sunday’s elections. It means that only 35% of registered urban voters cast their votes in the elections.
Many abstain from municipal elections maybe because they do not consider them to be important enough for them to go to cast the vote. They may not find much difference in the manner of local administration whichever team of councillors have constituted the municipal councils in the recent past. Seeing the higher numbers of abstainers this time however, SAJ, the leader of the government alliance, looked discouraged enough on election day to the point of suggesting that if it comes to that, an option was to suppress the right to vote. To the point of contemplating withdrawing himself from politics, if it came to that.
This time however there was a higher percentage of abstainers, for specific reasons. Labour having chosen not to field any candidate for the municipal elections, those who usually vote for the party candidates would have stayed away. Likewise, many historical supporters of the MMM, dissatisfied with the manner in which the party has been conducting itself of late, would have decided not to vote. Such voters are either unable or unwilling to find in either the PMSD or the ML a sufficient substitute for the party they’ve traditionally supported.
Another reason for the high rate of abstention of voters this time could have been their lesser appetite to give a decision in a match which essentially opposed the Lepep to the MMM. They may have little choice to make in such a fray; so, they decided to stay away altogether.
It is true that Lepep has secured all the municipal councils with a low turnout of registered voters. It is also true that even though the MMM has come out next after the winners in almost all the wards in all municipalities, trailing behind by a thousand to almost two thousand votes behind the top winner in most wards, the share of overall registered votes going in its favour is quite low. Unless it considers this outcome to be conjunctural, the MMM, which does not have a strong voter base in the rural areas as well, might have to introspect deeply about its future the way things have gone. Does it still have a strong enough election-winning base? Is it condemned to be a junior partner contributing the marginal votes to bigger parties for winning elections?
Already, the latest breakaway group headed by former MMM Deputy Leader, Alan Ganoo, has been approached by the leader of the ML, an integral part of the current government, to consider joining up with him. He has expressed his personal willingness to respond positively to such a request.
This could mean that MMM voters affiliated to the Alan Ganoo group – and maybe others in the Mouvement Patriotique (MP) a new party which they have set up after breaking away from the MMM recently — might be persuaded to shift over to ML and, thence, to the government side, effectively crystallizing the MMM nucleus away from the corridors of the opposition into the government. That nucleus might also include those from the MMM fold who, dissatisfied with the MMM’s recent track record, chose not to vote in the last municipal elections.
There is a good rapport between SAJ and Ivan Collendavelloo, leader of the ML. The question is whether the same warmth will prevail were the baton of the Prime Ministership to be passed on to the current leader of the MSM, Pravind Jugnauth. Alan Ganoo has hinted that there should be no difficulty. So, what we are seeing in the aftermath of the municipal elections is a possible regrouping of a chunk of the MMM, jointly under ML and the MP, under the banner of the Lepep government.
In this sense, the municipal elections have not been in vain. There appears to be a regrouping of political affiliations decided by party leaders. Voters, on their part, have indicated to political parties that they are not to be taken for granted.
The low municipal turnout reflects besides a popular dissatisfaction with political action so far. Besides their primary concern as regards their own material well-being and security, people also feel uncomfortable if the rule of law is set aside and arbitrariness sets in. They feel uncomfortable when meritocracy is not respected in matters of public appointments. They do not particularly enjoy it when a state of chaos, having implications for their economic well-being, is brought about in the country.
In the process, however, by abstaining from voting in increased numbers due to the limited choice they had between Lepep and the MMM, they’ve inadvertently gone as far as to create an oppositional void in all five municipalities. This is certainly not good for the health of our democratic tradition. It is perhaps due to no deliberate fault on the part of voters, but, given the municipal outcome, they should think seriously about being left uncomfortable in the resulting situations. Such an outcome would be more serious at the national level. This is why it’s preoccupying that no credible alternatives are actually emerging at this level.
The voter public registers fully all the misbehaviours of politicians and lets it be known to them whenever they get an opportunity to do so. They will not hesitate to employ the right to vote or not to vote to censure governments which indulge in irrelevancies and fail to deliver tangible results, especially so with regard to the economic well-being of the nation. The results of the municipal elections show however that they should also be mindful of unintended consequences of their decisions to participate or not in the vote.
* Published in print edition on 19 June 2015