How much is too much?


By TP Saran

During the campaign for the general election of December 2014, there was a hullaballoo raised regarding information that was spread on social media regarding a key figure of the MSM. Apparently the contents portrayed the candidate’s family in a derogatory manner, featuring them engaging in frequentations and activities deemed improper and not becoming of a future high representative of the people. Investigations were ordered to trace the source of this material and the person(s) responsible. Eventually, however, as the results of the election showed by the overwhelming ‘Vire Mam’ phenomenon, the purported objective of the dissemination of such denigrating information was not achieved – quite the contrary in fact!

Unfortunately, this tactic is one which has been used elsewhere too, with similar outcome. In the US presidential election, a lot of what would today pass a ‘fake news’ was spread about candidate Barack Obama. Among others, allusion to his middle name Hussein was made to ‘prove’ that he was a Muslim, whereas in reality he is a practising Christian who attends Church services regularly with his family. And as we know he was finally chosen as President of the US for not one but two terms, a clear rebuttal of the false information that was being spread about him.

The clear message that comes through is that such negative messaging about one’s opponents after a while tires the people out, and evokes instead their sympathy towards the targeted candidate who is then perceived as being a victim, and this translates into votes for the latter, with spite for those seen as using unfair – and unacceptable — means to earn victory.

In other words, there is a limit to which the electorate will accept victimization or below-the-belt attacks of any candidate, and will feel that enough is enough! It is a question of how much is too much – a fine dividing line that should not be crossed, and no one knows when the scales will tip.

There are persistent rumours that this tactic is being planned in the forthcoming general election in a big way. As has happened before, a boomerang effect is almost certain to ensue – and potential perpetrators are therefore forewarned!

Another potential backlash

The débauchage exercise carried out by the MSM that has bled the MMM of six members has been taken very badly in the population at large. That poaching potential candidates from another party is a reality of local politics is a known and accepted fact, even if begrudgingly. It is also known that this happens for purely selfish motives by the actors concerned in this bilateral transaction – for that’s what it is, since again everybody knows that there is much money and other perks and privileges involved! And all talk of national interest or disagreement with one’s party’s policies or functioning is but hot air – the shift of allegiance is solely for one’s benefit.

Besides, especially in the case of the senior members, their transfugisme is seen in a very bad light, because it is the living proof that they had no ideology whatsoever, or were never committed to the ideology of the party they have left. In other words, they are deemed to be hypocrites – and will ever be perceived as such, which means that their adherence can be bought and sold without any qualms. There is no guarantee that they’ll be faithful to the opposing party they have been transacted to, and they can change again depending on the winds that blow!

But it’s also another Mauritian reality that the population can tolerate, and has, à la limite, accepted a couple of transfuges – but six in one go! That they can’t digest, because it shows the party that bought them in a negative light: it is feeling weak, and that is why it has felt the pressure to poach so many.

The smell of betrayal has become unbearable. And a backlash is more than likely!

Ahmad Jeewah for President?

According to press reports following the resignation of the former members of the MMM, one of them, Ahmad Jeewah is earmarked to be installed as President of the Republic. Other than the fact that if this is done, it will mark an infamous first in the history of the country – of the world too perhaps – in that we will have a transfuge as President, such a move by an outgoing government is highly condemnable, even it if is legally and constitutionally in order. It’s not our intention to cast a slur on the character of Mr Jeewah, but the appointment of a President by an outgoing government nearing the end of its mandate raises some fundamental questions.

According to the Constitution, the President of the Republic can be chosen by a simple majority in the National Assembly, and the current regime does have that majority. However, to remove the President requires a two-thirds majority, and this is where the rub lies, one that can potentially destabilize the polity.

The President has a mandate of five years, and enjoys powers that are conferred by the Constitution that allow him to ‘act in his own deliberate judgement’ when it comes to key constitutional posts, for example in the judiciary, the PSC or the Disciplinary Forces Commission. In principle, he is expected to liaise with the Prime Minister before he puts the final pen to paper – but he may choose not to do so. What will happen if the present opposition gets elected and forms the next government, and if the President chooses to go counter to or not to seek the advice of the next Prime Minister? Will that not create an unstable and tension-ridden situation at the apex of the political power situation in the country?

And this situation can turn very ugly should the Prime Minister and the government decide that they cannot work with the President under the circumstances and the s/he needs to go. For which he will need a two-thirds majority – but also have to first go through a complex, lengthy constitutional procedure which will complicate matters further, inasmuch as affairs of State will then take a back seat. Enriched by his encounter and experience in the Ameenah Gurib-Fakim case, is Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth prepared to take the risk of making the country undergo such an ugly episode again? The answer is only too obvious!

As far as such a seasoned politician as Mr Jeewah goes, we genuinely believe that he should not allow himself to be manipulated into playing the game that is seemingly planned for him. We cannot believe that he is so desperate as to put his undoubted professional reputation at risk.

It is but fair and appropriate that the choice and nomination of the next President of the Republic should be left to the party or alliance that comes to power after the next general elections.

* Published in print edition on 6 September 2019

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