Which alternative?

Those who voted to change the political landscape in December 2014 are at a loss. They put a lot of trust in the Lepep government to give them relief from impending threats. They looked forward to a concrete departure from past practices for the good of the country. In fact, they were so keen to see a better way of doing politics that they hardly scrutinised the credentials of several below-par candidates Lepep fielded for the elections.

In lieu of the great expectations they placed on the new government, what have they been served? A lot, too much perhaps, of instability in governing. Instead of consolidating the economic base, the government went about seriously impairing business confidence in the most arbitrary manner. Not that action need not have been taken to redress abuses. But the way it was done – amateurish and dramatizing, unprincipled – shook the nerves of the most staid observers of public affairs.

While all this destabilisation – employing the same arbitrary methods which led voters to spurn the Labour-MMM alliance — was happening in the public place, no compensating worthwhile initiative was being taken during the past two years to show that the government was simultaneously charting a constructive action. It was assumed that things would be fine despite all this. On the contrary, bad signals kept being sent from inside as internecine dislocations surfaced from time to time. Some members were apparently prioritising a struggle for power within.

The people never voted for this. They were and still are dismayed at the break-up of the alliance they voted to power. In simple words, they are disappointed with all the incoherent things that have happened in the last two years. Fortunately, for the government, the opposition parties are as much in disarray as the government has been in the past two years. They have been doing the classic thing: pointing fingers at the government for its mistakes, in dispersed order, each one from its own vantage point.

But that is not the same as posing as a veritable alternative to the government by rising above all this tumult and formulating which better way they would govern, with which improved programs, given the chance. People suspect that the opposition as a whole don’t have ground-breaking proposals to catch their attention. They may not even have pondered deeply on the way forward for Mauritius in the changing global framework, taking into account all the damage already done.

As the recent so-called united opposition anti-government demonstrations showed, there is no unity of purpose in the opposition. This situation might be deliberate. This may be because each party in the opposition wants to keep open options for a potential future political alliance with any other party, including with the MSM which is currently in power. In such a case, the priority for a party like Labour or the MMM would be to try to recapture the electoral base which deserted them in the last elections. Get enough bargaining power for a future alliance, that’s it.

As for the PMSD, which now leads the official opposition, it would see itself not only in a position to draw to itself the customary MMM electoral base, excluding the party diehards. It would also be seeing itself in a wider-encompassing national role of being able to canvass voters who have not traditionally formed its voter base. It has shown, much to the annoyance of its late partners in government, that it has national ambitions to radiate out to a non-customary client base.

Will it be able to go far enough in this enterprise to consolidate itself, to be able to claim having a national embrace like what the older parties have had? It may or may not, depending on the credibility of its leadership and if it does not make many blunders along the way. But its objective is to make itself stronger on the political chessboard, not to remain content playing a minor role. For this, it needs to demonstrate that, unlike other parties which held a strong promise but floundered on the way, it has the stuff within it which goes into the making of credible national parties.

If it doesn’t, even then it would, going in this direction, raise itself above being a junior partner in a potential coalition with another party to face the next elections. It would seek to become a force to reckon with if it wanted to attract to itself a wider electoral base frustrated with the political parties they’ve customarily voted for. The MMM could do the same thing. So could Labour and the MSM.

People who are concerned with the national interest will be asking themselves whether all this “tamasha” by political parties will not land them in the same soup as in the past where they are forced to choose not the best performing towards the country’s advancement, but the least bad among the lot, only to be bitterly disappointed in the end? A Hobson’s choice, in other words. Abstention at the polls might increase again. Election results may again bring the kind of instability we’ve seen in the past two years.

It is for this reason, not to let voters down again, that what is left of the government that was voted to power in December 2014 has to surpass itself. It has to deliver concrete results as the base for sustaining the economy and society, rather than prioritising politicking as before. If it doesn’t, people will have to look for hotchpotch alternatives, which is not worth the candle.

Even if Mauritius is still a developing country, it has shown that it can muster strength enough to rise above the numerous challenges it faces. It is challenged even more so in the current incoherent global situation. It has to enunciate and put into practice policies which will help it overcome numerous structural hurdles. It has little time to do so. That’s why it is imperative upon the government to show now or never whether it has the mettle to pick up the challenge or land us into another mess once more.

M.K.

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