Throughout the campaign leading to the general elections that took place on Wednesday last, short though it was, a recurrent accusation against the opponent was that it had not fulfilled the promises made in its previous manifesto. Besides the other dubious matters that were harped upon, it is the Alliance Lepep that repeatedly hammered the outgoing government about presenting its ‘bilan’ – and since it is the Prime Minister who leads the government, it is his name that came up when accountability was loudly and publicly sought. This is as it should be, no getting out of that.
However, no reply was forthcoming.
The fact of the matter is that no government in any democratic society has ever been able to pass all the measures and complete to the hilt all the programmes announced or described in a manifesto. This document remains more of an indication, thought out no doubt, but nevertheless without the force of any binding engagement in legal terms. And given that it is an impersonal document, no one can be sued – held legally accountable – for any lapse, not to speak of any compensation for such a lapse. More likely than not, by the very nature of political marketing and jockeying for position and power, this state of affairs is not likely to change. And the electorate has no option but to wait for the next election to show its displeasure. Midterm or regional/municipal elections provide an opportunity to do so, not that things necessarily change!
Power is in the hands of the electorate? Alas, only for the few minutes that the voter accomplishes his duty in the booth! After that, he becomes vulnerable to the power game that plays out for the duration of the mandate.
But this is precisely where responsible government comes in: and since as pointed out above, the figurehead of government is the Prime Minister, it is primarily his duty to reaffirm in no uncertain terms what he is heard asserting during political meetings, more so as the date of election approaches: that he will be the Prime Minister of ALL citizens, irrespective of whether they voted for or against him. This has to be demonstrably visible during the mandate because, in a down-to-earth sense, for the citizen who feels weighed down by the system not only the government but the Prime Minister is looked up to as the protector.
Thus, besides the formal requirement of having to meet the expectations raised in the electoral manifesto which must now translate into actionable programmes, there is a higher responsibility to which the Prime Minister in particular is called: a moral responsibility vis-à-vis not only the nation, but more so with respect to the citizen who looks up to him to lead by example. This means to set personal standards that must suffer no compromise. In so doing, he will gain the confidence and trust of the people and, if he is really lucky and so assuredly of high moral standard, perhaps their affection too. Isn’t better to be regarded with affection than to be finger-pointed and disdained for flaunting and misusing power?
The history of countries close to us in Africa and others across the world is replete with examples of leaders whose self-glorification took a damning, invariably violent turn and an even more despicable end. When you have been lucky, through hard work or inheritance, to have everything in life, isn’t better to be generous and leave good memories among those whom you knowingly took the responsibility to rule upon?
Good, but also clean memories.
It is in the interest of the incoming government, armed with its previous man-years of experience, to show that it means business by getting down to… business promptly, begin to implement measures and lay down the framework for integrated development. If it is true to its claim of promoting meritocracy and being a government of all citizens, then it must not hesitate to cull talent from even what it would deem as being in opposite ranks. It’s a tall order – but hasn’t President Obama appointed John Kerry as America’s Secretary of State, and isn’t the latter doing a good job for his country?
On the other hand, the Opposition must put pressure on the Government to spell out its electoral promises in terms of immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives. It must demand this, and make sure that this demand is met for the sake of ALL citizens that it also represents. And having done this, it must follow through, see to it that the roll-out is happening, and according to the agreed timelines.
Both Government and Opposition must in turn be called to account by civil society through its established, legitimate structures such as unions, professional and entrepreneurial organizations, registered NGOs and so on. It goes without saying that these structures must also act constructively and professionally, because their credibility is an important factor in ensuring that their voices are heard, and heard on behalf of their constituencies, but also in the national larger perspective.
The tasks ahead will be demanding, but if Government, Opposition and civil society each play their respective roles seriously and with dignity, it is the country and its people who will, and should, be the winners. If those who have fiercely confronted each other during the past exhausting few weeks now look to the future in that spirit, then we need not speak of who has won and who has lost: let there be a Hegelian dialectic with a Mauritian favour – a synthesis of win-win rather than a thesis and antithesis of win-lose…
* Published in print edition on 12 December 2014