For a Common Minimum Programme


In one of our past general elections, unseating the then PM Anerood Jugnauth became the refrain during the campaign – ‘Bisin deboulonne li’. The campaign was successful, and SAJ lost the election. People felt that a large gust of fresh air had blown over the country and swept away the no longer desired occupants of Government House. The victors duly formed the government and for quite some time this air of freshness hung around.

The things started to fall apart. Thanks Chinua Achebe.

Disaffection set in, and the regime that had promised ‘to do things differently’ fell into the same ways as the one they had ousted. And this pattern, alas, repeated again.

The current regime, after a relatively good start at the beginning of its mandate – in particular with regard to the Covid pandemic, which was fairly promptly brought under control, got mired in a series of alleged irregularities in procurement which has led to the current convulsions the country is practically reeling under. This has had the effect of exposing a number of weaknesses and failures in the functioning of key institutions, perceived to be caving in to political pressure.

As the situation in the country began to deteriorate rapidly, the main opposition parties came together to try and put pressure on the government, both inside and outside Parliament, to get answers and force it to mend its ways. Nothing doing.

Our interviewee this week, Kugan Parapen, in answer to a question has this to say: ‘Lest we forget, the opposition mainstream parties were already part of a common platform in the aftermath of the last general elections. Not on an ideological or social basis by the way, but merely an electoral one. An increasing section of the population have become disillusioned with these mainstream parties as they have failed to revitalise themselves and have lost their credibility with important sections of their traditional vote-bank.’

The Avengers are purporting to eventually become a political force. It is too early to know whether this project will materialize, and until then it is only the mainstream parties on which the population can look to.

This therefore places on them a great responsibility, of getting away forever with bonnet blanc, blanc bonnet, and truly be at the service of the people and the country. This can only happen if they come up with a real programme – at least initially, a minimum programme that cannot and would not be contested by any of the eventual allies — with the foundational thrust being: good governance, transparency, meritocracy, and accountability.

The common minimum programme, which would entail a major review of a number of constitutional provisions, must include, amongst others:

  • Limit of two terms for the Prime Minister;
  • Settling on a minimum electoral reform programme with particular emphasis on political financing and electoral supervision;
  • Establishing a Constitutional Court;
  • Putting an end to the ‘festivols de la terre’;
  • Ensuring the autonomy of institutions;
  • Introduction of ‘Right to Information’ legislation.

Unless there is movement along these lines, it will be back to square one all over again, and this is not something that can launch the country into the kind of future that its people deserve, especially those who have been destituted by the pandemic, and the future generations who have nowhere else to turn or to migrate. Most countries have literally closed their doors, as they themselves are battling to survive economically.

It remains to be seen whether and how that grouping – as it is do far – will deliver. But they have four years to work it out. Or less, if they feel they can put enough pressure to force an early election.

Either way, there is urgency, and they have to plan and proceed accordingly.

* Published in print edition on 5 February 2021

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