Political Scheming and Other Matters

It may be said that after two years of the present Lepep government voters have lost their compass once again. They can’t make sense of where the government they voted to power is now headed for.

In October last year, SAJ, the Prime Minister announced that he was thinking of passing the baton to Pravind Jugnauth. Some commotion was caused not only in the public at this announcement. It also raised a stir in the political class.

True to itself, the opposition seized the opportunity to come out into the limelight. It looked like back to square one: politicians building up their image on the failings of their rivals, not on the intrinsic worth of what they themselves have to offer for the advancement of the country.

But the rumblings were also on the government side. Probably impressed by the stir the announcement caused in the public, Xavier Duval who then was part of the government coalition publicly stated that this manner of succession at the top of the government hierarchy was not discussed among the partners at the time Lepep was formed. It was his way of dissociating himself from the negative repercussions of SAJ’s announcement.

That there was no unity of purpose among government members was illustrated in the course of the same debate. The leader of ML, the other partner of the MSM in the government alliance, stated, on the other hand, that there was nothing constitutionally wrong if, following the eventual departure of SAJ from the top position, Pravind Jugnauth were to succeed him as the leader of the majority party in government.

Matters dragged on further in December last. Government was in a rush to avail of its three-quarters majority in the House and amend the Constitution so as to place under scrutiny decisions taken by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and, that too retroactively to three years. There were grave doubts in the public that this was tantamount to a big abuse of power for personal reasons, at the risk of weakening public institutions.

It became the plank on which the PMSD split from the government finally, just before the Constitutional amendment was planned to be voted. This event consolidated Xavier Duval’s popularity in the public, henceforth as Leader of the Opposition in replacement of Paul Bérenger, and sapped confidence in what remained of the government. At the end of 2016, thus, the government emerged more fragile than before.

There is a real risk that it can be put in minority, especially if, in its quest to consolidate its numerical strength, it were to debauch certain opposition members on the promise of a ministerial or similar tenure. Why? Because appointing others outside the ranks of the MSM to high office would create discomfort within its own ranks as to why they were themselves not appointed as such or raised to offices for which they are not actually competent.

Already, at this likely prospect, some of the publicly smeared of its members have started agitating in this direction. Internal blackmail is said to be up. Should such publicly mis-perceived individuals be raised to high position under pressure, risks of government good public standing would worsen.

It is also possible the ML, the remaining partner in government, may not agree to play a passive role as over-pricing by publicly mis-perceived MSM members would start influencing decisions. Voters, already disgruntled at all these happenings, will feel that they have cast their votes in vain when this old scenario will play up again.

The problem before the MSM and the government is not only undermining of its position from within. Pravind Jugnauth, if he were to become the leader of the government, would confront three contenders for power who are skilled in the art of securing political power – Xavier Duval, Navin Ramgoolam and Paul Bérenger.

Each one of them plays on different chords with voters. Anything they acquire due to continuing weakening of the government will be at the cost of Pravind Jugnauth. It is doubtful whether the latter will be able to resist the combined assault of all three or whether, seeing it as an unequal fight, he would join hands with one of them to weaken the assault, in an oft-repeated political scenario of Mauritius.

Voters of the previous generation, hostage to the existing political system, have been used to making choices based on the personalities of such political leaders, having been held captive by a certain ideology which defined the original parties at their beginnings. Things have changed, however. For example, the MMM’s base cannot be said to be the same as it was before its fateful alliance with Labour in a bid to seize power at the last polls. The party no longer has its former credibility.

As for new voters, they are not swayed by such arcane considerations. For them, what matters are not ideologies of old. They are on the look-out to pursue a new education, lifestyle, work and entertainment, altogether different from the throes of poverty from which small planters, labourers, artisans, dockers, etc., of the older generation wanted to escape. Their reality doesn’t coincide with what the classic political parties claim to be their legacy.

Both old and new voters feel that they deserve better than what the older politicians across the board have been delivering, whether in or outside of government. For example, they know that it is not political power games that will assure a better future for them.

They would prioritize a consolidation of the economy and not of political power in individuals’ hands. Their realism is unmatched by old politicians’ continuing quest for personal power. They privilege the bigger picture to put the country ahead of the private ambitions of politicians. As in December 2014, more of this type of voters will decide the electoral outcome now, including from within the members of the past generations.

The current political instability has nothing to do with what the public in its majority last voted for. It is aghast at the political reshufflings which are likely to put misfits in charge of key portfolios of the country. It is likely that once the Rubicon is crossed in this respect, the fate of the government will also be thereby determined for good.

M.K.

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