Neither the MMM nor the PMSD has any business in deciding who should be the leader of the Labour Party (LP), and so too is the reverse. On the other hand, what is acceptable among party alliances is the space accorded to party leaders to influence or reject the choice of candidates on their respective ally’s party list for general elections. Paul Berenger would have learned the futility of his indiscretion in years gone by when he tried to impose upon Pravind Jugnauth his choice of Ashok Jugnauth as leader of the MSM following the 2010 elections and as prime ministerial candidate for a future MSM-MMM alliance.
If the MMM and the PMSD have found some comfort in the urban constituencies in the past, the 2019 elections have reduced both these two parties to an unenviable size with a parliamentary representation of 9 MPs for the MMM, 5 for the PMSD as against the LP’s 12. Things will not get any better for both parties with the presence of the Linion Sitwayin of Bruneau Laurette on the political spectrum and with the Rama Valayden-led Avengers joining the fray in the days ahead. Their only hope for electoral success laid in hitching a piggyback ride from the LP, which still commands a strong following in rural constituencies in the main despite the 2019 electoral defeat.
That was before Nando Bodha, the MSM’s long-time Secretary General since the days of Sir Anerood Jugnauth, resigned from his ministerial post and the party to join the opposition – a development that has changed the political equation within the ‘Entente LP-MMM-PMSD’ itself. Paul Berenger may have finally found his candidate for the prime ministerial post in an eventual alliance with Bodha for the next elections, the more so in the context of the controversy stirred by Eshan Juman’s statement a few days back about the Labour Party’s capability to go it alone for the next municipal elections.
It has now come out that the real reason for the current malaise which has gripped the ‘Entente LP-MMM-PMSD’ has to do with the leadership of the Labour Party. Both Paul Berenger and Xavier Duval would seem to believe the Navin Ramgoolam would constitute the best agent for the MSM next time round and that he should step down as LP leader to ensure electoral success. Time will tell if Nando Bodha will be able to make any dent in the vote bank in Constituencies 4 to 14 – the constituencies that elect the party/alliance to power, or whether Paul Berenger has again got his political calculations wrong. There is still a long way to go for Nando Bodha to prove convincingly that he could and will be the best bet for the MMM-PMSD combine – and one that could help dilute the ethno-centric colouring of an alliance between these two latter parties.
What becomes of the Labour Party in the new political situation that has provoked its ouster from the erstwhile ‘Entente LP-MMM-PMSD’, ironically inspired by the LP leader himself?
In an interview to this paper a few months following the debacle of the LP at the 2019 elections, Rama Sithanen expressed the view that the “LP has arguably a very simple choice to make. The interests of the party, of its electorate and the country must prevail over personal considerations. Either it adapts and reforms and becomes electable again or it runs the risk of staying in the opposition and be marginalized… It must do its self-introspection and embrace a new paradigm in terms of leadership, people, ideas and policies… to become an attractive, effective and electable alternative to the MSM… With the current leadership of the Labour Party, I believe it will be a repeat of the last four elections… Many support the LP but not its current leadership. The interests of the party should prevail over personal ambition.”
Rama Sithanen was voicing out publicly what had been said earlier by Yousuf Mohamed regarding the need for the current leadership to give way to another generation of leaders. It’s for the Party to do its introspection and decide what is in its best interests in the present circumstances in view of the generational change that has taken place amongst its following that, unlike earlier generations of Labourites, may not be as emotionally, politically and therefore unconditionally bound to the Party.
It bears repeating what we have earlier written about the new political situation in the country which dictates that parties which want to survive should abide by a higher internal democratisation process. Fostering internal debate, adopting clear rules of governance and operating as transparently as possible, promoting meritocracy within the party – that is the level of internal democratisation which is absolutely necessary to cope with an external environment which is becoming increasingly complex by the day as well as cruel in view of the political culture that animates some of its adversaries on the political ring.
Unfortunately nothing has changed. The same “tactics” that have allowed leaders to remain saddled in their posts have been employed to shy away any contestant – so much so that the Labour Party which has dominated the political landscape for many decades and to 2014, has today been reduced to becoming dependent on the Linion Sitwayin to rally a sizeable crowd.
Like the MMM and the PMSD, which have already made up their minds, rightly or wrongly, about their electoral prospects in an alliance with the current LP, one wonders whether this apprehension will not gain traction with future potential Labour Party candidates.
* Published in print edition on 26 February 2021