Making a mockery of democracy?

By TP Saran

Democracy is not the best, but the least bad among the available political options of governing a country. So had opined Winston Churchill, a prime minister of the UK. The current situation in Mauritius seems to confirm this quasi-truism. For example, in Syria also there is a democratically elected leader, but see what is happening there. And a number of other countries across the continents could be similarly cited.

On the other hand, though, look at Singapore. Its ex-Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, was criticized for ruling his country with an iron hand, and likened to a dictatorship in particular as regards human rights issues. And yet, Singapore has surged from being an underdeveloped country at the time of its independence about half a century ago to advanced nation status under the enlightened leadership of the same man. His regime and style came to be qualified as ‘benign paternalism.’ Nearly 5 million people live in peace in one third the area of Mauritius. Everything in Singapore is of the highest international standard. And the country as diverse ethnically, racially and culturally as Mauritius has largely overcome polarization and divides, managed to maintain balance among its various peoples and has seen to it that meritocracy prevails.

The point sought to be made here is that elections only do not make a democracy and, going by the above, it is clear that at the end of the day it is leadership that makes or mars democracy. And leadership boils down to a leader. It would be fair to say that somewhere along the line in there has been a weakening or a failure of leadership in this country, it being held hostage to more of a greater than a lesser degree, after the demise of the first prime minister and Father of the Nation. The slide began with the advent of the MMM in the saddle of the Executive, and the trademark coustiks of the chronic Leader of the Opposition have been forever allowed to tarnish the country’s political face.

The specialty of Paul Bérenger has been to jump in and out of political marriages with the only two available suitors that he has actively courted: the MSM and Labour Party. He has used these parties and their leadership to obtain concessions and advantages for the equally chronic rent-seekers that he has defended all the time. And it must be acknowledged also that those leaderships have been complaint partners, witness the Illovo ‘mari deal’, which is reckoned by those in the know, namely experts in evaluation of land, as the greatest land scam ever in this country.

Further, there is a seeming mystery about his position regarding the Best Loser System. It is no mystery at all: the MMM depends on the additional seats thus obtained to consolidate its position, because the logic of the MMM has been simple: garner the ‘minorities’ votes, and add to that the ones ploughed from the ‘majority’ – and this amounts to a comfortable chunk that has remained a steady percentage of votes garnered by the MMM in all general elections to date. The elite from the ‘minorities’ surreptitiously supported Bérenger, and the ‘minorities’ exacted their demands: a perfect combination of Best Losers being Major Winners.

Meanwhile, having rent the ground asunder between the three elephants, he is enjoying the show as they tear each other further apart. Except that, in this case, it is not only the grass – the vulnerable people – that will get crushed: the elephants will so gore themselves that they will fall exhausted and Bérenger will then trample on and trump them politically.

Unless the leadership of the country takes proper stock by making a serious analysis of its weaknesses being cleverly exploited, there is the greatest risk that Mauritius finds itself rudderless and adrift. Then democracy will lose its meaning and be truly a mockery.

* Published in print edition on 16 March 2012

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