General election 2019: A retrospective look

It looks like the island is full of smaller islands where groups of people live in their own bubbles and misinterpret the vision of a small unit for a wider reality

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

End of suspense after a tense week of electoral battle to win over voters’ confidence in the party which promises to deliver. It is desirable for the good functioning of the democratic process to allocate more airtime on national television to smaller parties to enable them to put forward their developmental plans in different sectors so that the electorate might be given time to think over the lasting outcomes of parties’ manifestos. Announcement of election day should also be made much earlier to give all parties and the public time to make sound choices after in-depth analysis.

The Labour Party has a pool of potentially able politicians and supporters to prop it up and maintain it as a major party. A redefinition of its identity and principles of governance is necessary for the future. Equally important is a coalition of smaller parties to make themselves and their policies better known to the public. Fresh recruits are needed in all domains of public life to instil new blood and provide opportunities to a variety of talented individuals…”

The last-minute presence of small parties’ candidates looks slightly like a novelty the MBC reluctantly introduced to dispel allegations of its monopoly by the ruling class. Though a little late, the onus is on the public to demand fairer time slots for candidates and parties to address the public in future elections, as a necessary condition to promote a culture of debate – which prompts the electorate to think over key issues that impact their lives and the destiny of the country.

Has there been mismanagement as regards the registration of voters by functionaries? Or deliberate manipulation of the electoral process? Rumours about unopened stranded ballot boxes run wild. Accusations of pre-poll rigging, though unlikely, demand a serious investigation by the Electoral Commission to dispel doubts about the reliability of the commission to ensure a proper and legal functioning of the whole process.

The recent election was a fierce battle waged for the political survival of the main stakeholders. The stunning defeat of the former Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party sounds like a deadly blow to his political career. Post-poll results show that he could have been elected in Constituency No. 5 where there is still a big chunk of Labour diehards.

The press refrained from going for risky predictions of election outcome through polls. The misguided 2014 polls served as a lesson not to embark on random anticipation of voter intentions. However, a last-minute prediction of ‘Paul in the government’ fell flat. It looks like the island is full of smaller islands where groups of people live in their own bubbles and misinterpret the vision of a small unit for a wider reality. Politicians are not the only ones who are cut off from reality once they are propelled to a position of authority and daily hop from their chauffeured air-conditioned cars into the cool cozy atmosphere of their offices where favourable reports on what they like to hear tickle their ears.

Fabrication of serial ‘gates’ or outrageous cases of wrongdoings?

On the eve of elections, the series of gates disclosed by the press without thorough investigation and full details may arouse suspicion as regards the motivation to inform the public or a strategy to run down the contesting parties. There is a difference between sound criticism and a fixated idea on selective targets for harassment. What is the use of reporting negatively on a new hospital which is not fully operational yet? It reflects an embittered rather than a critical press. Or does it all boil down to filling the papers to justify end-of-the-month salary, the press being also big business?

Mudslinging and name-calling can be counterproductive in the long run. For five long years, the most deplorable online comments have been given free rein by the press, comparing a minister to a dog, a ‘chihuahua’, a despicable verbal attack on physical appearance. Once the media opined that the former PM was not elected as such, what is the point in repeatedly calling him ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Ti Cretin’, ‘PM Limposte’? The statements of the Minister for Tourism taken out of context, a PPS nicknamed ‘Lalang’; former PM derided as ‘Lerwa Lion’, people in rural areas called monkeys ‘Zako Moris’, an ethnic-biased understatement, and so on.

Such fare may satisfy and please the online fans of journalists, but are shocking to others, all the more as some of the comments are made by an apparently ‘educated’ class of people. It speaks volumes of the twisted mindset of ‘educated’ individuals and the dark sentiments that inhabit their hearts, more so as all the venom is spewed while concealing their names and hiding behind chameleonic fake identities. It has been going on for five long years! Does the press call it freedom to advertise various opinions or do such comments simply follow editorial lines? Can we expect another policy in online publications?

Politicians who have shifted their party loyalty are portrayed as “traitors”. What have they turned their backs or their coats on? A clear-cut political and economic ideology, or a style of governance? The two parties used to work together in the 1980s and again in 2000. Can we believe that a few high-profile politicians who have had a long political career will content themselves with sitting in the Opposition for long? Or obediently accept that a young lady, a novice in politics will become their leader?

Redefinition of party’s identity

Now that the MSM has bagged the biggest number of seats and drawn MMM stalwarts into its orbit, the new government has a substantial MMM aura with the presence of big shots like Obeegadoo, Ramano, Collendavelloo and Ganoo though key ministries have not been entrusted to all of them. Françoise Labelle, a seasoned and committed politician, may be appointed as Speaker. It may take some time for the MMM party itself to recruit politicians of high calibre. Old parties do not die that easily, if that can bring some solace.

The Labour Party has a pool of potentially able politicians and supporters to prop it up and maintain it as a major party. A redefinition of its identity and principles of governance is necessary for the future. Equally important is a coalition of smaller parties to make themselves and their policies better known to the public. Fresh recruits are needed in all domains of public life to instil new blood and provide opportunities to a variety of talented individuals.

Right now, following the usual practice of governance, an overstaffed executive has been nominated with the emergence of new ministries, which amount to create jobs for new recruits more than the concern for effective running of affairs. As everyone knows, there are too many MPs and too many ministers for such a small country. Just as ministries and parastatal bodies have an inflated number of civil servants. Such a situation causes a strain on the public budget without really being effective. Hence the need to give the matter some serious thought.

As this column previously underlined, the PM’s two and a half years of leadership, and social measures were determining factors in the choice that the public made. Now that the colourful banners are more a nuisance and the drumming has died down, everyone is carrying on with their own business. And it remains to be seen how the new team will handle the economic challenges facing the country, create the proper environment to boost employment in promising sectors, tackle societal ills, divulge names and arrest big wigs of the drug traffic, and open new alleys in culture and sports.


* Published in print edition on 15 November 2019

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