Calling for change?

Labour and PMSD have to flesh out a more inspiring future for generations of today and tomorrow. For the vitality of upcoming democratic choices and debates the same applies to the parties in Opposition

The latest opinion survey by DCDM Research published in last week’s l’express dimanche should give all our politicians pause for thought. Conducted over the last four months, with a reasonably-sized sample (although error margins are not indicated), it comes at a time when the Labour party and PMSD alliance in government emerge from probably the worst possible series of events, natural disasters and political agitations. Both parties should analyse the sense of restlessness manifested by the electorate across the board and affecting to some degree all political parties but can take obvious comfort from the fact that soothsayers and predictors of impending gloom and doom are well off the mark, whatever the quality of their crystal ball.

The population seems to appreciate the fact that the Opposition and, in particular, the MMM, plays its expected watchdog role in Parliament, that for which it is paid for, by raising questions of public interest that deserve full attention. Yet, neither the MMM nor the MSM seem to have capitalised on the difficulties of the recent past from the public opinion perspective. As l’express dimanche rightly points out, the MMM has remained at a stable 17-18% of expressed support over the period, the MSM hovering at around 2-3% despite the weekly input of both Sir Anerood Jugnauth and that of the party leader, Pravind Jugnauth. Yet, one may add, both these Opposition parties benefit from an exceptional degree of coverage by the national broadcaster MBC-TV, ranging from their PQs to their somewhat repetitive weekly press conferences, which is a far cry from the treatment meted out unmercifully to the Opposition during the MMM-MSM mandate from 2000 to 2005!

I am sure that behind closed doors, the Opposition politburos would have already analyzed in depth their global ineffectuality as credible political alternatives despite the period’s vicissitudes for those in office at the helm of the country. It’s certainly not for want of leadership, the “on & off” Remake or MedPoint MMM-MSM alliance seems to have more leaders than foot soldiers: from the venerable Leader of the Remake, the leader of the MSM, the leader of the Opposition in Parliament and the leader of the MMM, choosing to stay outside Parliament. Not to mention the various deputy leaders and comrade Secretary-Generals that both parties harbour, all of whom, in effect, should have given them a formidable platform for leadership challenge of the current PM.

Some may feel that many of the front bench faces have been burned out by constant exposure since the eighties to the vagaries and demands of day-to-day politics. They have been down every alley and played every tune to suit the political agenda of the times. Their tantrums, walkouts or querulous shouts have become ingrained as mere movie melodrama. They have failed to renew the stock in time and may be out of touch with those who have outgrown or never known the seventies and the eighties of last century. Undoubtedly they served their time but many are well past their use-by date. Lack of renewal of the political establishment, or wider civil society participation in the political process are questions for all, but they leave Opposition parties more exposed and vulnerable than the LP-PMSD axis.

Others may feel that the related but more vitiating gap is that of credibility where it matters most. For instance, listening to the various Opposition spokespersons on economy three months ago, everybody would have been assured, despite international assessments, that the economy was in shreds and tatters, with rising unemployment and inflation, lack of FDI and an abysmal management by the Vice-Minister of Finance. A few weeks later, after publication of the PRB Report, the same guys rushed to the airwaves to shout that government had the means and should pay “in toto” those recommendations for the suffering public sector! Such dismaying episodes are not meant to raise the acute credibility gap of the Opposition. The population is alive to the international scene of financial havoc and the relative good performance of this remote island in such troubled times, even if in many areas there could be improvements or in others, bolder measures to stimulate growth.

Still another factor that may explain some of the difficulties faced by the Opposition parties is the impression of “déjà vu”. While the Remake banner was superficially attractive communication-wise, it only reminds us all that fifteen years will have elapsed between the MedPoint alliance of 2000 and its possible re-conduction in 2015, notwithstanding its hiccups, its bouts of separations and reconciliations and the frailty of its aging leadership. That alliance played us then the “let’s save the country” melody but, after five years in office, left a country on the rocks, despite boasting of a “dream-team” of top warriors, conjugated by armies of advisers. Trying to market the same storyline in 2015 was always bound to be an uphill struggle.

Much of the country seems to await an agenda of change. They may rate the Opposition well for doing its job but they don’t necessarily buy the mediatised atmosphere of constant drama, allegations, head-rolling or mud-slinging. They understand that “holding the poêlon” is a different proposition altogether from hogging the soap-box and its media dramatics. The incumbents, Labour and PMSD, have to flesh out a more inspiring future for generations of today and tomorrow. For the vitality of upcoming democratic choices and debates the same applies to the parties in Opposition. At least on the institutional front, maybe the White Paper on electoral reform will offer the opportunity for a more mature country to refresh, broaden and modernize its constitutional and political processes.

* Published in print edition on 12 July  2013

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