Not out of the woods yet

After all the ups and downs of the several past weeks, a new government headed by Pravind Jugnauth as Prime Minister has been formed. The latter reconstituted the Cabinet, with SAJ (the PM till then) retaining a position in Cabinet in the new government, having been put in charge of Defence and Rodrigues. This was challenged from different quarters.

The opposition was up in arms against the ‘passation du pouvoir’ – from father to son – and the appointments that followed. An arrangement was made thereafter for all the opposition parties to stage a common protest demonstration last Friday at the Place d’Armes, in front of Government House. However, only the PMSD and Labour ended up participating in the protest rally, with protestors separately partitioned from each other.

It seems the PMSD leader didn’t initially want to create the semblance of a re-unification of the Labour-PMSD alliance of yore, the more so as Navin Ramgoolam, Labour’s leader formed part of the Labour protest camp. It looked as if the latter was a difficult weight to carry for the PMSD, in view of his yet to be resolved legal hassles.

The MMM which had agreed to join the common opposition protest finally decided to stay away. The reason for so doing must have been the same: it’s difficult for the party – or whatever is left of it – to appear to be sharing a political protest platform of which Navin Ramgooolam formed part. It would have been too stark a reminder of the thrashing the Labour-MMM alliance received in the 2014 polls.

As a whole, the opposition came out from all this in greater public disarray than it would have been perceived to be the case, had the idea of a common opposition protest rally not sprung up against the re-composition of the government the way it was done. There was also in the air a feeling that things turned out this way possibly due to future electoral calculations, Mauritius’ usual scenario having been to end up in coalitions of diverse concoctions despite professions of faith to the contrary.

In particular, it looked like the MMM was keen not to go too far hand-in-hand with the MSM’s rival, notably Navin Ramgoolam, present at the opposition rally and potentially recuperating dividends had the rally been a resounding success. It is this kind of image that the presence of the latter would have evoked among voters and the MMM might have chosen to avoid embarrassment to itself. Nor would it have been too keen to distance itself from the MSM, losing an opportunity to get back into power sometime in the future.

The opposition’s inability to unite could have acted to comfort the government in place that it was not facing a strong challenge against the course of action it had just adopted, after all. Actually, it didn’t play out this way.

Although the government is not publicly displaying much concern about it, a left-wing political party, Resistans ek Alternativ, has on Monday last filed a case in the Supreme Court (see interview of the party’s legal counsel, in this edition), challenging SAJ’s reappointment as Minister in the newly constituted Cabinet. This, it has claimed, would be incompatible with provisions of the Constitution, with respect to vacating the position of PM he held previously in the Cabinet. If so, doubt could be cast on whether the other Cabinet appointments comply with Constitutional provisions.

Until this case is determined by the Supreme Court, a further factor of political uncertainty has landed on the stage. This adds on to the DPP’s request for permission from the Supreme Court to be allowed to challenge the Court’s judgement clearing Pravind Jugnauth, the newly appointed PM, from the charge of conflict of interest in the MedPoint case.

In any event, what is clear is that the strategy of the opposition to league together to unsettle the newly-formed government was foiled by its own contradictions. On the government side, the serenity that would have allowed it to now embark on work seriously after two years of unnecessary squabbles and serial ‘gabegies’ since coming to power, though not lost, may be said to be shaken again.

As the political fight goes on, new obstacles appear to be coming for the government. This will hinder putting its real agenda for growth and development into action. All of this will inflict a serious cost to the country which has immense real challenges to confront. For the present, however, it looks as if the opposition and the government prefer prioritising an agenda for neutralising each other. This is the true measure of the type of leadership the country has been getting of late.

M.K.

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