LP-PMSD vs MMM-MSM: The die is not cast yet
— MURLI DHAR
It has been said that the MMM and the MSM have reached certain agreements towards a ‘remake of 2000’. They have, subject to the MMM’s ‘Assemblée des Délégués’ approval, decided on a 30-30 share-out of the tickets. They have also agreed on a shared Prime Ministership of 3-2 years. They have agreed to discard Ashock Jugnauth from their list of candidates.
This gives a semblance of cohesion to something which appeared to be in tatters immediately after the ex-President had resigned from State House. Despite the appearance that, unlike the MMM which can go it alone if that was called for, the MSM which badly needs an alliance has snatched away quite a lot. It must have exerted pressure to get to its objectives in the new coalition. Sidelining of Ashock Jugnauth should have been one of its demands conceded to, which reduces the latter to someone who would effectively have served the convenience of the MMM at one time, no more. Securing half the number of seats appears to be a more generous deal than what Labour had conceded to it in the election of 2010.
For all practical purposes, the MSM is coming into a position of strength in the new alliance under formation. It must have its own end in view. But the same must be true of the MMM’s leader; he must be having his own cards to play when the occasion would present itself.
By now, it should be clear that, short of having joined Labour in alliance, the electoral preference of the MMM is to go it alone preferably in a three-cornered fight in which the MSM would serve to scatter away votes going to Labour in the rural constituencies in particular – especially in those considered as “marginal” constituencies. This Labour-option may not have been abandoned altogether by the MMM and could be brought up if the opportunity arose. It is well known that the MMM leader has a plethora of excuses ready if he had to change tack at some stage or other.
A thorny issue remains to be settled though between the MMM and the MSM in the alliance under formation. It relates to the candidates who would be assigned to the different constituencies by the two parties. This should form part of a next tough round of negotiations. This is because the MMM would want to so align its own candidates in specific constituencies as to secure a permanent majority in the House vis-à-vis the MSM partner if the alliance were to form the next government.
Now, the MSM would not want to be distanced by the MMM in terms of representativeness should the usual virus of separation of coalition partners strike along the way. It would fight against its possible “minoritization” by its partner, something that the MMM is adept at. In other words, should the MMM proceed along this kind of agenda, it could “help” make certain MSM candidates lose out in some constituencies, the better to comfort its majority. This is a potential big source of mistrust between the two parties that have just agreed on some preliminary understandings. The MSM would equally want to field a number of its own candidates in certain specific “safe” urban constituencies – the so-called “bastions-MMM” — in order to secure a majority of elected MSM candidates over its current ally, the more so as it is likely to lose out to the Labour Party in most of the rural constituencies. This stage has not been crossed and the haggling between the two parties with regard to the sharing out of electoral tickets may cause quite some upsets on the two sides. It would be fair to assume, therefore, that the die is not cast yet.
Regarding the MMM leader’s forecast of a 60-0 forecast victory of the new alliance, things are not so straightforward. It will be recalled that the elections were called in 2000 within one month of the formation of the MMM-MSM alliance. There was a wave created in its favour and it won. Conditions are not identical today. If all goes according to rule, three years will elapse before the next elections. This time period will prove very testing for the two parties in the alliance to stick together. Moreover, hopes have been given to the ‘base’ of the MMM that it will not be long before they have a taste of power. There could effectively be a long time of waiting, enough to disenchant it about the alliance that has been contracted. The momentum of the current ‘remake’ will not be the same as that of the MedPoint agreement of 2000.
On the one side, incumbency in the opposition will erode the MMM’s appeal over such a long period of waiting. The sharpness of its arguments will gradually diminish and it will be back to the same old story of uphill fighting. On the other side, the government will need to deliver results over this period of time. If it demonstrates an effective defence of the purchasing power of the public, control of inflation, the generation of employment in adequate numbers to keep unemployment at low or negligible levels and supporting economic growth despite the international crisis, it will be difficult for the MMM-MSM alliance to undermine such a balance sheet.
The government’s balance sheet will play a big role in determining whether electoral support will eventually go in favour of the MMM-MSM alliance or towards the government. This factor has to be reckoned with. A good record of achievement may even unleash new ideas into the MMM leader’s mind as to whether or not he should change his alliance strategy once again. In that case, he can repudiate all lock, stock and barrel and seek to join hands with the winning team. It may be said therefore the whole story has yet to roll out in full and one should not jump to conclusions in a domain in which private interests supersede everything else.