Horse Trading Political Power

Matters of The Moment

Jumping ship to rally the government is basically a shortcut to power, its trappings and handsome perks. Can we as a nation be complicit to such abject horse trading at public expense?

There is a heightened expectation and muted impatience among the people at the imminence of general elections in the country as the National Assembly will stand dissolved in a few months on 21 December 2019. The government is ending its tenure. No gimmickry or ploy can change that. Power is returning back to the people who are raring to exercise their vote to elect a new government capable of ushering a better socio-economic order and imbued with a commitment of service to the people, good governance and a high standard of ethics, after decades of being short-changed by successive governments.

The government is obviously apprehensive of the people’s vote. It seems desperate to ensure that it holds all the aces and all chances are on its side in the run up to the general elections. The government’s lame gimmick of organizing a by-election on 13 November at public expense knowing fully well that it will have to be annulled ahead of the statutory dissolution of the National Assembly on 21 December says it all. It basically aims at delaying the announcement of the date of general elections to the very last minute so as to derive some imagined edge over the other contesting parties. The announcement of the date of general elections in a democracy by basically a lame duck government headed by a nominated Prime Minister cannot be the object of stratagem or subterfuge.

A government confident of its track record and sum of achievements should, in deference to the respect owed by politicians to the people, confidently announce the date of general elections well in advance so as to assure a fair democratic exercise.

Although the date of general elections is yet to be announced, the government is already in a campaigning mode as evidenced by its daily propaganda on national TV extolling the litany of measures and projects initiated by it and its unabashed calls for support from the people so that it can pursue the work started. The political landscape is also witnessing an unprecedented level of defections and pre-electoral shenanigans of politicians of every ilk ahead of the general elections.

Ragtag cohort

The MSM is however patently not sure of the outcome of the forthcoming general elections. In a bid to assure victory, it has called various splinter groups and members of principally the MMM to join the MSM and has managed to entice and rally a ragtag cohort of dissenters and defectors to its cause. All the empty rhetoric and glib justifications given to join forces with the MSM for the general elections cut no ice with the people. It cannot mask their overriding objective of bidding for political power by every means. Some have openly admitted that their prime objective is to be part of government rather than moping for years in the opposition. Personne n’est dupe.

In a bid to broaden as large a platform as possible to assure victory, it is reported that the MSM is also trying to selectively poach some candidates from the PMSD. Is the country going to be yet again afflicted with a hotchpotch of the same breed of politicians who have monopolized the political scene for years at a time when the country needs a radical change of tack and a new crop of well qualified and competent politicians to grapple with the daunting challenges it faces? The people and the country are fed up with a political system which panders to identity politics and to politicians jostling for favour and power and its trappings.

More than ever before the people are clamouring for an alternative choice of well qualified and talented Mauritians dedicated to the service of the people and the country to vote for. A new team who can through their intellect, ethos, initiatives, reforms and good governance bring the sea changes required to usher a much better socio-economic order for the improved well being and prosperity of the people and the country. This is certainly not the time to recycle the same cohort of politicians who have failed the country for too long.

The obsession with power

The political history of the country has repeatedly been marked by politicians who have blithely crossed the floor in the pursuit of power or to remain in power when their party leaves or is sacked from government. However, the scale of the present defections and the number of politicians joining the MSM in a bid for political power is unprecedented. Some have received promises of party tickets to dispute the forthcoming elections while others have presumably been promised fat cat jobs at public expense. Jumping ship to rally the government is basically a shortcut to power, its trappings and handsome perks.

Can we as a nation be complicit to such abject horse trading at public expense?

Et tu, Brute?

The MMM has over the years been weakened by dissent, exits and defections. Its long track record of electoral defeats and its inability to learn from its mistakes, change leadership and have a new vision have finally taken its toll. The latest wave of defections and resignations has yet again exposed its feet of clay. Trapped in its hangovers and fixations of a bygone era, its specious brand of politics grounded on communal and caste arbitrage and proportional representation has never been able to build trust and rally the multitude. Social democracy and dynastic politics were the last straw. Is this the end of the road?

Odious reality

These developments have unmasked the plummeting standards of our democracy and exposed its odious reality. There is therefore a pervasive cynicism in the country about the standard of political ethics of the political class, politics and the prevailing political discourse.

This appalling state of affairs in the country 51 years after independence begs some fundamental questions. What do politicians run for office for? Is it for political power and its trappings or a commitment of selfless service to the people? Should we not vote and entrust the government of the country only in the hands of those having the qualifications, intellect and track record to competently manage the affairs of the country? Should we not shun politicians who do not make the cut? No one remains in power indefinitely. MPs are transient. Only democracy and the country are permanent.

It must however be remembered that in the past politics has not been in the appalling state it has been in for far too long. It is a noble calling. Ideally, only those who have the intellect, competence and the necessary qualifications to be able to genuinely contribute in establishing a more just, inclusive, egalitarian and significantly more prosperous society for the benefit of all should be fielded as candidates.

Rebooting politics to its seminal values

During the fight for independence, many political leaders were driven by lofty ideals, a commitment of selfless service to the people and the unswerving battle for their rights and the continuous improvement of their well being. As from 1937, they played a determinant role in inspiring and mobilizing the people to join the fight for their rights, for freedom and a better socio-economic order.

The first elections in 1948 based on literacy franchise as well as the subsequent elections before independence were fought and won through the voluntary mobilization of the people where everybody contributed to a common higher cause. There were no war chests of Rs 300 million to finance the current razzmatazz of campaigning but a shoe-string budget made up of limited personal funds, voluntary contributions from friends and well-wishers and the hard fieldwork of partisans to fight the might and financial clout of the sugar oligarchy who were bankrolling the reactionary parties opposing democratic change.

It is therefore high time to reboot politics in the country to these seminal values and ethos. Let the political parties be warned. There is no place for sectarian parties who jockey for the interests of the few and maintain a sectarian discourse in the national debate and political alliances. All political parties must be national parties with a unity of purpose and a national outlook which continuously strengthens and cements the unity of the nation.

General elections are always an important juncture in the political history of a country. The choices made by the people determine the government elected to hold office. The people cannot afford to make the wrong choice. The choice has to be right. Time is running out. It is becoming eminently evident to all that we need to cut the dead wood and subscribe to a new and game changing dawn for the benefit of all and better prospects for the young.

* Published in print edition on 30 August 2019

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