Getting out of the current political maze
A political coalition called the Alliance de l’Avenir was formed some time before the elections of May 2010. It consisted of all the members of the 2005 Alliance Sociale led by Labour (Labour and PMSD) with the MSM joining in. To all evidence, the participation of the MSM in the coalition of 2010 represented a precaution against the possible dispersion of votes towards the MMM in a three-cornered fight, the more so as radical economic policies not to the liking of voters had been adopted by the Alliance Sociale government the preceding 5 years. This arrangement was, besides, convenient to existing Alliance Sociale incumbents such as Rama Valayden, Rashid Beebeejaun and Xavier Duval. Besides, the MSM had a right real score to settle against the MMM which had been poaching away its members. This all-inclusive new alliance was presented as a stable assembly of political forces and it actually won the elections.
The stability it was said to represent has been short-lived. In the last week, a little over one year from the elections, all the MSM Ministers resigned from the Cabinet on the ground that they were not satisfied with the “manner of proceeding” of ICAC soon after this investigative body had placed the former Minister of Health under arrest on the charge of using office for the benefit of third parties in the purchase by the government of the MedPoint property. The MSM claimed that it nevertheless continued to remain part of the Alliance de l’Avenir. The MSM having been elected under the banner of the latter alliance, the stand thus adopted by it was like making virtue out of necessity. However, for all practical purposes, the breach in the unity of the government had been made. The MSM did not elaborate why the “manner of proceeding” of ICAC was sufficient for it to withdraw its support from the Cabinet or, how, for that matter, such a decision would get things sorted out for it for whatever it had to reproach ICAC with. It is not for challenging the integrity and independent functioning of institutions that ministerial functions are conferred upon members of the government.
Be that as it may, the MSM’s decision to resign from the Cabinet en masse has destabilised the government. It was a purely political decision that was enormously miscalculated and perceived as a manner of putting pressure to try to change the course of the investigation being carried out by ICAC. The MSM cannot repair the breach so made within the ranks of the government. It is therefore left to the leader of the Alliance de l’Avenir to get things back into place. He has already stated that he will not tamper with the independent functioning of institutions of the country, which goes in the right direction and is also a disavowal of the stand taken by the MSM vis-à-vis the ICAC. The latter was scheduled to continue its investigation with the former Minister of Health yesterday. It is having a session in the afternoon today with the Leader of the Opposition (after missing out a previous rendezvous with him due to the sickness of one of its officers in the last week, prior to the resignation of the MSM Ministers) to obtain from him the name of his informer on the allegation that it was the Labour leader who would have sought the second valuation of the MedPoint property. The MSM has fallen into a position of weakness for having challenged an investigating body in the conduct of its duties quite apart from having allowed itself to be carried away to the point of resigning en masse from the Cabinet. This situation has the potential to turn the MSM into a political liability.
The principal concern is however about the continuation of the work of the government. It was already difficult for it to find orientation in the midst of growing uncertainties threatening the integrity of the Eurozone, our principal export market for goods and services. It also has to cope with any possible larger negative fallout of any sustained global loss of faith in the ability of America to hold its course, given the grafting on of political brinkmanship on to a weaker than expected economic situation over there. The political problem unleashed by the MSM’s resignation from the Cabinet has distracted attention away from rapid economic and strategic engineering called for by an apparently deteriorating global economic condition beset by several uncertainties. In practical terms, the current situation facing the government requires the leader of the Alliance de l’Avenir to (i) put things back in place with a reasonable majority for his government to sail through safely up to the next elections and (ii) strengthen the political structure left behind after the MSM’s resignation for his alliance to be able to face its future more confidently.
The MSM having taken the option out, the government’s majority in the Assembly will be thinned down. Preserving the majority will be important when the session resumes. This situation may give rise to pressures or exaggerated demands by remaining members. Appreciable results from government action can only be obtained by keeping the fold together without going to excesses in any direction. It will call for a lot of skills to manoeuvre in this situation. It is only when this kind of hurdle has been sustainably crossed that what is left behind of the 2010 alliance can contemplate its future with greater confidence. The future will be based on the delivery of sound results in the management of the country.
There are many challenges from inside but more so from developments in the rest of the world. A team which has the necessary skills should be able to weather the storm and get voters behind its action. This will not be an easy task in view of the various currents influencing voting patterns/decisions in Mauritius. Past elections have shown that even the delivery of good economic results is not a guarantee for being voted back to power. This should not mean that the government should hurriedly get into an alternative alliance at the risk of facing an identical showdown in the event the power brokers do not get what they expect, if only to make sure that it has the necessary arrangements in place to win at the next polls. It is implementing decisions in keeping with the government’s program that will give it credibility for facing the future confidently and getting voters from diverse past political cultures to adhere to it irrespective of the remaining configuration of existing political forces. This was proved in the elections of 2005 on the back of a poor showing by the then MMM-MSM alliance that had governed in the period just before. A re-edition is possible by sticking to rules of good governance in the conduct of public policies.