Of regional elections and ivory towers

By Nita Chicooree Mercier

Now that the high level of adrenaline emitted by the interchangeable political parties is cooling down and the Sunday fever has subsided, all those who had been complaining that the world was coming to an end because municipal elections were not held as officially scheduled should be satisfied. By definition, multi-party elections should give the electorate the choice of parties. As in other countries, the two-party bipolar confrontation makes a mockery of that principle. Why the three left-wing parties are still keeping away from elections is a mystery.

There was a time back, when people across the world fought and died to obtain the right to vote. A few decades later, we do not deem it necessary to head towards the electoral booth and cast a vote. Hence, the high number of abstainers in elections. Or should we acknowledge that the man in the street is fully aware that politics has become the art of ruling to safeguard the interests of the richest people, that politicians are just cogs in the machinery of wildcat capitalism, the rules of which have been determined by international bodies?

The trappings of democracy

Even more distressing is the fact that while the populace sings the praises of their gladiators in blue, purple, orange or red, and fights with rivals in the arena of politics, the real power wielders are sitting on the fence and watching the political showbiz.

Lobbies, Free Masons, embassies, etc., must be having a good laugh.

Elections are part of the trappings of democracy. Well, it does look as if people have started to believe that democracy does not fill their stomachs. An astounding number of people go to bed on empty stomachs in democratic India compared to communist China. It is still questionable whether that a small country should apply all the precepts of the Westminsterian system. Too many MPs are handsomely paid from public funds without contributing significantly to any form of progress at the national level.

Some of them, women included, are better qualified to be social workers than politicians. There are, undeniably, too many ministers in such a small country. Others are idling away in different ministries, not to mention the plethora of advisors hovering around ministers, swelling the ranks of the overstaffed civil service. Whether we need to spend our precious energy and time to gesticulate over town and village elections to elect more people to represent us is also debatable. It just sounds sensible that those who are elected at the Assembly should be able to conduct the affairs of the whole country.

The key issue is the quality of those who are elected, des gens de qualité are needed at every level of governmental and parastatal bodies: people who are imbibed with the notion of hard work, integrity, patriotism, dedication and public welfare.

Overcrowded and boring

The towns and the suburban areas are overcrowded. How the newly-elected candidates plan to enhance the quality of town life is yet to be seen. Some places in Mauritius never change. Take Ste Croix, for instance. That place has always been shabby, dreary and dull. No wonder illicit trades of all sorts have found a convenient niche there.

Villages are overcrowded and boring too but there is still room for improvement and efficient planning provided that the presidents of district councils display some imagination. Villagers have not been consulted in the policy of setting up casinos in every nook and cranny. No sociological survey has been carried out to assess the long-term consequences and implications of gambling habits in the country. It has become a real scourge, and no one seems to care.

Whichever party wins regional or national elections does not alter the fact that politics at its highest level follows the same pattern as in big democracies: it has largely become the exclusive hunting ground of the upper-middle class. Behind the curtains, the interchangeable parties speak in monologues and behave as if they own the country. And just as in other countries, the ruling class ends up enjoying in their ivory tower, cut off from the concerns of the population at large.

* Published in print edition on 14 December 2012

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