Letter to Uncle Sam
Thanks. You gave folks here an unexpected bonus. If local elections are held here sometime this year, the island will be politically calm in 2012 with no serious warning on the horizon. Politics being one of their favourite pastimes, folks here would have ample time to join ranks with you on your campaign trail to win a second mandate. In this sense, the video announcement of your candidacy and which was widely watched on the net comes as a bonus.
By the way, early into the year 2012, folks will have the chance to enjoy a French film where Nicolas and others will contest for Elysée. But this one will just be a side dish. The main course will be Uncle Sam.
Uncle, folks here have the strong belief that the long road to Washington DC is no different from the one leading to Government House in Port Louis. The ground battle and the media frenzy involvement in the process are symptomatic of generally accepted democratic rules. And the common ground between Port Louis and Washington DC is the strong link between politics and business lobbyists and money.
The announcement that you will run for a second term surprised all by its early timing and has attracted this comment – Are you not being unnecessarily pushed to make yours the Dogberry doctrine in politics so common here? Meaning starting off first and fast but being the last to touch the line.
But then we were greatly relieved. The news came that in fact this early announcement into the race for the White House is only a legal requirement. And that once met it legally allows the White House hopeful to start campaigning to raise funds through specific events. And among analysts and professionals, it is being said that next year’s presidential race would cost a White House hopeful anything around the billion dollar figure.
In Mauritian rupees, this is equivalent to anything above 30 billion. And this could finance 60 general elections here if together all major parties are to spend half a billion in a campaign.
Now if the same legal electoral rule was applicable here, Uncle, we bet that the political establishment would have long moved to give the Dogberry doctrine constitutional status and protection. And this would have allowed parties and candidates to make very early announcements for contesting elections. And independent candidates and parties would try to ‘faire malin’ with such a system. For the same reason as in the US – raising funds legally.
But as things stand now, no one can try to ‘faire malin’ with campaign financiers and lobbyists who would never sign cheques until Parliament does not stand dissolved.
The bad thing here is that there are no transparent rules for political financing. The existing ones are circumvented with complete impunity. Campaign financiers know best how to break the rules and how to do the business. The existing ‘carnet donation’ kept by a few conglomerates at best can reveal sums like 10 000 rupees or 50 000 but never the multi-million donations. And they would want us to believe that these small sums were enough to fight the ground battle once the campaign catches electoral fever.
Uncle, if you have a look at the legal rules supervised and monitored by the Electoral Commission and the authorised limit for expenditure for each candidate and the documents filled and signed by each after election, you will laugh. It’s a real joke. Now don’t expect the political establishment to discuss and debate about such things and to come clean on an agreed set of rules that won’t be a laughing stock. They have other urgent business and priorities.
By the way, you must have heard that the state of Tamil Nadu in South India is already deep into the electoral process to elect assembly MPs. The thing is that on several occasions, police road blocks in certain regions have uncovered and interrogated people who were travelling with millions of rupees in cash stacked into their cars. When questioned, either there were no answers or there were this standard one – the money is meant for land and estate acquisition — not to bribe or finance political campaigns! Wall Street should send them their best professionals to help them manage money destined for open or underground political activities.
Now Uncle, here the general feeling is that your next national campaign will face serious criticisms with no serious arguments from Reps, Tea Party campaigners and the extreme right. And of course, the oil mammoths and part of other Wall Street conglomerates will join the fray to lobby against you and the policies you want to stand for and promote.
And folks here hope that your recent decisions to accommodate, and work with, the Congress majority on tax cuts and spending cuts are only a political manoeuvre. Your friend Nicolas would term as ‘reculer pour mieux sauter’.
But from what is being rehearsed these days in DC and across the US among political foes we safely feel that the chance for re-election is not that thin or completely hopeless.
On domestic issues, there is need to display tact and ferocity on the ground to counter the shameful arguments put forward on everything by the rightist extremists and the religious right. The economy, despite the timid improvements witnessed, is still under popular scrutiny. A friend from Florida describes the socio-economic situation there along Main Street as ‘still very painful’. And there is no reason not to believe the pain felt among ordinary Americans whose situation is still uncertain despite statistical improvements. And families writing to you rehearsed their painful lives almost everyday.
On the international front, and as at now, US diplomacy under your administration has brought a policy shift in handling and management of terror stricken regions and things seem to be under control. The big achievement is the building of mutual trust and respect.
From here though, there is this general unanimity that the US will need to take the UK to task to resolve the unsettled issue of the Chagos Archipelago. Not to settle for the closure of the Diego Garcia military base which is at best an obscene idea, but to settle for recognition of rights and sovereignty and then to move on for rental fee for land occupation. And things like these.
Uncle, we look forward to enjoy the 2012 American Show.
* Published in print edition on 15 April 2011
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