Is a Third Party alternative in Mauritius possible?

In the past two decades or so, at the approach of the general elections, the general feeling and popular conversation has been about the need of a troisième force in Mauritian politics. The assumption was that such a third force would be in the form of an entirely new party made up of mainly younger people, as opposed to the aging cohort present in the traditional parties, especially at the leadership level. Such a party, it was expected, would present candidates in all the constituencies as a challenge to the existing parties, thus making a serious bid for capturing political power and, most importantly after doing so, do politics differently.

As, in our recent political history, there are four main parties, namely Labour Party, PMSD, MMM and MSM, how come it’s a third force and not a fifth force that is sought? The answer is, of course, that these four parties and their minor breakaways (such as the ML and MP) have contracted alliances and been in dalliances on an on-off basis to suit the prevailing circumstances and desires both personal and political. These combinations have always opposed an alliance of two against another made of the other two, so that the same faces were on either one side or the other all the time. Hence the third force that was considered to be needed, totally separate and made of fresh or fresher faces.

Ensam Nou Capav, a nascent formation led by Ms Roshni Mooneeram who had no previous political experience, did try to pose as an alternative, but it could not cut any ice with the electorate for long, and has not been heard of since. Also noteworthy is the fact that it was put together only a short time before the elections, so it could not possibly canvas long enough to build a base around the whole country.

Enter the Reform Party launched by ex-Minister Roshi Bhadain. Can it morph into that third force that Mauritians are hoping for? It is too early to tell, but if this were to happen, there are several factors that have to be taken into consideration or addressed as the case may be.

On the plus side is the fact that its leader has experience as a politician and minister, as well as institutional experience as a lawyer when he was at ICAC. Although he is now saying it’s Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo’s doing, rightly or wrongly to date he is credited to have been the one who exposed questionable dealings within the the BAI conglomerate and the political ramifications which led to several heads of administration as well as other important personalities being taken to task for their alleged participation in various affairs that were labelled as scams and scandals.

Further, as Mr Lindsay Riviere has pointed out in the interview he gave to this paper two weeks ago, Roshi Bhadain has an A type personality, who has to be in command and show that his is in command. He is young, dynamic and full of energy and ideas, as well as intention: he claims to be doing whatever he is doing for the good of the country.

Another favourable factor is that, unlike the Ensam Nou Capav group, the Reform Party has more time to build and consolidate itself until the next general election, as it is looking more and more likely that this new government will complete its remaining mandate of about three years.

Thus, with time on its side, youthful dynamism with a track record of some political and institutional experience, the question that arises for the Reform Party is whether it can turn these assets into a genuine force to reckon with in the foreseeable future? Can it obtain the trust of Mauritians, a majority of if not all Mauritians?

This is where there is a flip side. As several analysts have underlined, Roshi Bhadain has generated controversies in the past two years during the unfolding of the events that shook up the polity and with which he appeared to have been directly associated in one way or the other.

John Grisham, in l’express last week, even went to the extent of suggesting that he was now trying to claim himself as a virgin, and gave examples of why this was untenable. His alleged ‘KGB methods’ of going about have not been appreciated for their intrusiveness and brutality, and the fact that practically all the people who had been charged in the law courts in this trail have not been found guilty of these charges, speaks volumes against the failures and failings of the expeditious investigative methods that were used.

Before attempting to reform Mauritius, therefore, there is a big uphill task of self-reform to be carried out.

Will the Reform Party morph into a genuine third force which can work for the greater good of Mauritians? New blood is required, sure, but it must be tempered with wisdom, which is not the forte of youth. Wisely, it has been said, ‘si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait’.

Any party that has the ambition to transform the polity will have to find the right balance so that strength and dynamism can be channeled in the right direction, guided by a larger, transcending vision that encompasses more than just the political dimension.

If the modus operandi that became the brand of the Ministry of Good Governance and Financial Affairs under Roshi Bhadain is any indication of the different way of doing politics that is intended, then we are afraid that the Reform Party may have a long, long way to go yet.

TP Saran

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