Even if there is no better instrument than elections to express the people’s will in a democracy, opinion polls at times constitute an efficient way to measure views on a burning issue affecting society or on forthcoming elections at a point in time. Not always so however, for polls can turn out to be disappointingly off the mark, particularly so on small sample sizes or if people are wary of venting their real feelings or prefer to answer what they feel the interviewer wants to hear. In fact, opinion polls are no substitute for a vote, which goes beyond intentions.
There is also sufficient evidence on the ground to prove that voting decisions are not formed cumulatively across the passage of time to a general election. They are often crystallised towards the very end of an electoral campaign, sometimes in the final week before elections are held. That happened nearly on the eve of the 2000 elections when the decision to form an MSM-MMM alliance (called the MedPoint alliance) overturned the situation overnight against the Labour Party, which could not quite make out why it had been defeated so heavily contrary to its expectations.
Five years later, on the eve of elections once again, the MSM-MMM had the bitter taste of the same kind of overturning position when Rashid Beebeejaun was presented by the Labour Party as Deputy Prime Minister, the effect of which was to shake up the very foundation of what had heretofore been considered as an MMM stronghold. The outcome of elections is also decided on who the protagonists on the two opposing sides of the major political configurations happen to be. That is why political parties have engineered the coming together of unexpected forces at the very last minute to win at elections and this is a truth far removed from what opinion polls can paint at some point of time or other, in the present case two years before the actual polls are taken. The opinion poll published by Le Mauricien Ltd/Straconsult Ltd with a sample size of 600 is admittedly no more than a snapshot taken end February 2022 and March 2022. As such it reflects intentions of the chosen sample polled up prior to the events that have hogged headlines in recent weeks without a break – the rising cost of living and public protests, the CEB-Terragen conflict, the MTC-GRA tussle about the organisation of horse racing, the controversy surrounding the deportation of a Slovak national. Its conclusions however do mirror the trend that has been observed down the years about the gradual decline of mainstream (so-called traditional) parties and their leaders and more importantly the alliances that these parties have lately tried to sell to the electorate, beginning as from 2014.
In broad terms, the Le Mauricien/Straconsult poll found a strong majority of 68% rejects the political alliances that are being proposed for the time being, 49% say they do not know which political alliance to choose, 16% are in favour of other alliances that have not been proposed, etc. As for their preferences in terms of alliances, it is the current MSM-Ganoo-Obeegadoo government alliance which scores the highest with 11% of respondents, 7% are in favour of an LP-PMSD alliance, only 5% would support an enlarged LP-MMM-PMSD-Bhadain-Bodha alliance, 3% for an MSM-MMM one, and 2% in favour of either a LP-MMM or MSM-PMSD alliance. The L’Alliance de l’Espoir in its present configuration receives the support of only 1% of respondents!
That was to be expected, as we had hinted in an earlier editorial, since when it comes to politics, and contrary to what Aristotle had postulated, the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts. The two major mainstream parties (MMM and Labour Party) neutralize each other in the game of numbers of supporters they manage to bring together such that their combined force will produce a lower than expected electoral result. Electoral arithmetic simply does not work in that instance, and that is why, contrary to what is generally believed, the MSM’s leader ardent wish is to see the LP and the MMM come together with the Duvals, Bhadains and Bodhas, the more so since it now takes only 37% of national votes, unlike the earlier 44% or more, to win general elections and form a government – call it a minority government if you wish or whatever! – but that’s what is required to capture the State and rule the roost as it is presently the case.
We mentioned in that earlier editorial of 21 Jan 2022 that the Labour Party, though itself diminished but with a faithful core base to this day, remains the best and only option that could challenge the MSM in the rural constituencies – No 5 to 14 – which elect parties to power. Whether that would require a leadership change or some Jonny-come-lately with the right profile is for the Labour Party to decide. Some may well query whethermeritocracy within the LP has been upended, but the leadership issueshave always been and remain for the Party to decide, hopefully democratically, taking account of many factors including the ability to lead the party – in a stable alliance or otherwise – to electoral victory at the next polls.
2024 will constitute the biggest challenge in the political career of Navin Ramgoolam. Winning past elections when the electoral arithmetic worked in some cases is one thing, winning 2024 in the face of a resilient adversary, a past master in ethno-caste politics, with allegedly a formidable war chest and that is not averse to making an abusive use of the tool that the MBC-TV has become for propaganda purposes, nor to distributing pre-election freebies to the electorate at taxpayers’ cost, will prove to be one of the two major challenges Navin Ramgoolam will have to face in coming years, the other being to ensure the continuing relevanceof the LP in Mauritian politics.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 13 May 2022
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