Growing Clamour for a People’s Government

The patience of the people has worn out. For the people, there is no place for dead wood.

The backlash of the 2014 general elections was a warning shot

Representative democracy is best defined by Abraham Lincoln’s iconic ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people’. In essence this means that those elected by the people at the polls and entrusted with the task of governing should above all selflessly serve the people to ensure their welfare, safeguard their fundamental and unalienable rights and assure their continuous socio-economic development and improved quality of life. These were basically the seminal ideals of democracy which inspired world leaders from Jean Jacques Rousseau to Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill or Mahatma Gandhi who fought for the freedom of their respective countries and the rights of the people from imperial or colonial rule.

However, recent events have shown that people across the world are getting more and more fed up with politics and the endless shenanigans of politicians to hold on to power at all costs for power’s sake instead of serving the interests of the people. There is also a growing clamour against the model of socio-economic development being imposed on them. More and more people hold globalisation, world trade liberalisation and unbridled excesses of the banking sector as the root causes of unemployment, their enduring hardships and the deterioration of their quality of life. Globalisation and delocalisation of manufacture have widened inequalities. Too many people across the world therefore feel left behind and forgotten by the prevailing socio-economic system.

Cocktail of exasperations

The growing discontent against policies and an international policy framework which panders to the interests of big capital, multinational companies and international banks in the context of globalisation and the international financial crisis at the expense of the people and ordinary citizens has an air of insurgency. Across the democratic world many good people have been angered into endorsing the wrong causes.

The Brexit vote and the vote in favour of Trump are the resultant of a cocktail of exasperations of people against what is perceived as the adverse effects of globalization, world trade liberalization, austerity measures, illegal immigration and flawed government policies on their way of life and their livelihoods. There is therefore a growing clamour among the people from across the world for a new socio-economic order which is first and foremost at the service of people.

The growing angst and deep seated grievances of the people have become in the words of a Spanish political analyst ‘a petri dish for populist movements’. In Europe, the people are rearing to rock the established political order of an essentially two-party system and the traditional political parties which have monopolised the political scene since the Second World War. To top it all, government policies have failed to provide apt responses to the problems faced by the people.

A new crop of populist parties are therefore challenging and gaining ground against traditional parties. They are not just right wing parties who feed on an anti-immigration and risk of terrorism rhetoric as in France, Germany, Holland, the UK or Austria but also young left parties who are part of the ruling coalition parties in Greece and Portugal or who have carved an important share of parliamentary seats in Italy and Spain.

The grievances of the various member countries towards the European Union add to the clamour for a new socio-economic order. The motivations of those supporting these emerging parties are quite different but the upshot is that they all resolutely challenge the status quo. They are fundamentally redesigning the European political landscape and are bent on putting people at the centre of their actions and policy making.

A similar scenario has unfolded in the United States epitomised by the Bernie Sanders success during the Democratic primaries and the Donald Trump election. It must be recalled that Bernie Sanders’ criticisms against Wall Street, the ruling class, widening inequalities, war hawks as well as his policies to break up the big banks, double the minimum wage and put the entire country on Medicare connected with the young voter and rallied the support of the progressives favouring the establishment of a new and fairer socio-economic order.

Grievances galore

Similarly, there are so many shortcomings in local politics and governance which rile the people in Mauritius. The list is long. The grievances galore is endless.

The political scene has for decades been monopolised by the same political parties led by the same repeatedly defeated leaders or their offspring. The parties are devoid of democratic rules. The main political leaders are autocratic and omnipotent. They consider their parties to be a family heirloom to be bequeathed to the next generation. The parties are tightly regimented through the unconditional allegiance of a coterie of yes-men and apparatchiks where dissent is summarily dealt with.

People also have serious interrogations and misgivings about political interference and highhandedness, about the poor standards of political ethics, governance, accountability and transparency. There are legitimate questions about the nomination of political appointees to key posts of the government Establishment and government owned companies in lieu of a merit based system of appointment.

Instead of altruistically serving the interests of the people, the political class and the main political parties seem obsessed with the fixation of how to wrest and preserve power at all costs and by all means. Our political history is replete with political shenanigans and ploys of every kind including the constant reshuffling of political alliances before each election to suit the political imperatives of the moment just to wrest or preserve power.

Worse, in contrast to established practice in the best democracies of the world, roundly defeated and ageing local political leaders do not step down to allow a younger new leadership to change tack and give a new impetus to the party, but hold on indefinitely to their posts.

The policies adopted and decisions taken in so many important sectors such as the sugar sector, the tertiary education sector, the continuous allocation of dwindling public beaches to hotel promoters, the smart city scheme, education or the energy sector clearly pander to the interests of vested lobbies or covert agendas in the teeth of simple logic, the public interest, COP21 imperatives and cogent representations made by the more vulnerable stakeholders and the organisations of civil society. Never before have so many ill conceived government policies been so blatantly against the interests of the common man and the people.

How would a student residing in Bel Air commute daily to attend a degree course of his choice in one of the institutions of the Pierrefonds campus? How would students residing in the four corners of the island commute to tertiary institutions on campuses flung in remote areas across the country? This is not the textile industry sourcing labour in the regions. What steps are being envisaged in conjunction with the institutions concerned and placements in the private sector to assure the smooth integration of the plethora of Mauritian graduates and diplomates produced every year into the work market?

Instead of encouraging investment in the production of energy from green and renewable energy sources in keeping with our COP21 commitments and bringing down in priority our energy production from more highly polluting coal (than gasoline), why do we still hear of plans of a new larger coal using power plant in the east? How can the protection of the inhabitants of the villages neighbouring the power plant from the toxic fall outs of coal burning be less vitally important than those of Albion?

Politics and endless politicking have become the bane of our country when the priorities which need to be urgently addressed are economic, dealing robustly with the widespread drug problem, the high and rising toll of road accidents and diverse social issues. This is fuelled by the weekly press conferences of the opposition parties diligently relayed by the partisan press but also by the Prime Minister and the leader of the MSM blithely accepting to be tenaciously quizzed by the press on topical issues after every function they attend. Why can’t government politicians, as is the case in most democracies, allow Q &A exercises only during formal press conferences instead of providing weekly fodder to enable the politicking mill, the spin doctors and their sensational headlines to have a field day?

New dawn

Many more issues and flawed government policies rile the people. The endless carousel of replacing a bad government by a worse one or composing with the same discredited party leaders and protagonists who have monopolized the political scene ad nauseam is no longer tenable. None of this is acceptable to the multitude. The patience of the people has worn out. For the people, there is no place for dead wood. The backlash of the 2014 general elections was a warning shot.

As is the case in Europe and demonstrated in the US presidential elections, the people want a new people centric socio-economic order aeons distanced from the current political establishment. It is more and more evident that only a new government of the people for the people under a new trustworthy young leadership will be next elected by the people. The ground is ripe for the emergence of such a new, young and talented leader heading a pluridisciplinary young team bent on innovatively and truly serve the people and realise their most ambitions aspirations.

This will finally usher a new dawn for the people.

Mrinal Roy

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