Whatever Happened to the 2019 Missing Electors?


The missing in action of 50,000 electors in 2019 are still missing from the 2023 register!

By Jan Arden

It goes without saying that the first prerequisite of our democratic processes is an impartial and independent system to register electors and conduct, with all safeguards, regional or general election processes in our 21 Constituencies with the minimum of controversies, and a strong level of public confidence. It must be admitted that this had been the case generally since independence and under the stewardship of Electoral Commissioner Irfan Abdool Rahman as well for the past 25 years.

That being said, and independently of the fate of long drawn-out court petitions, there is no doubt that both the registration of electors and the actual conduct of the general elections of 2019 in our constituencies, have been the subject of many criticisms and controversies from election watchers, media observers and Opposition parties.

With the benefit of hindsight, the three Opposition parties seem to have got their best election watchers together to try and sort out with the Electoral Commissioner conditions that would avoid such or other discrepancies and anomalies in the lead-up to the 2024 general elections. Amongst other things, no computer rooms, no private trucks to ferry ballot boxes, no counting discrepancies, no wandering ballots, no use of private printers for ballots and same day counting for less than a million voters should have been high on their discussion agenda. Neither the registration of electors nor the conduct of elections should ever come under the widespread shrouds and unanswered questions of 2019.

Unfortunately, either through his legal or other constraints, many have been left somewhat baffled by the perceived lack of transparency in the Commissioner’s public answers when answering those queries and the lack of public disclosure on any investigations it might have undertaken following those controversies. We will consider here only the published records of electors registered for the next general elections from the website of the Electoral Commission.

Common sense or electors enrolment statistics tells us and the Commission to expect a growth of some 12-13,000 new electors annually, when migrations and deaths are accounted for. And this is indeed reflected in the increases in registered electors between 2006 to 2010 (at 53,393 or 13,348 per year) and again between 2010 to 2014 (at 61,176 or 15,294 per year).

The corresponding increase in registered electors between 2014 to 2019 from the Electoral Commission’s published data, came in at a shockingly absurd 4,744 or an increase of only 1,186 per year.

Increase in registered electors
Between 2006 to 2010: 53,393

Between 2010 to 2014: 61,176

Between 2014 to 2019: 4,744

In other words, some 50,000 electors had virtually disappeared from our ordinary expectations without, to our knowledge, any sensible explanation from the Commission.

In possession of such data well before the elections of 2019, there are no reasons why a staggering departure from that the recurrent trend in the increase in the number of electors from one election to the other (which defies logic) should not have prompted the Electoral Commission into a substantial investigation.

What is more disquieting is that those 50,000 « Missing in Action » electors have not been retraced – and reinstated – if we again stick to the Electoral Commission’s latest 2023 figures. The registered increase between the next four-year period, 2019 – 2023, rises up now mysteriously to its pre-2019 trend (49,608 or 12,402 per year) without raising eyebrows at the august and respected institution. But as these are comparative with 2019, the missing in action of 50,000 electors in 2019 are still missing from the 2023 register!

Any agency worth its salt, and we believe the Electoral Commission’s department is one of them, would have its sleuths out to rummage every nook and cranny of Mauritius to understand what unexplainable vagaries they and the population have been submitted to.

We trust they will report their findings within the shortest possible time…

* * *

I.N.D.I.A or Bharat?

The perspective that the BJP and its NDA partners may again, for the third time, walk away with India’s Lok sabha elections in 2024, has precipitated the widest 28 opposition political party alliance, many of which have been fighting each other in their regional states, run like fiefdoms (e.g., Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal, Kashmir, etc). That opposition alliance termed itself I.N.D.I.A., but the tricky questions of ticket sharing, the consensus face for a prime ministerial candidate at those future hustings, and a unified narrative that goes beyond ousting Narendra Modi or BJP and papers over many divergences, regional or ideological, were always going to test their credibility, ready to be exposed and exploited by the BJP cadres and leadership.

Sensing that those issues could easily jeopardise the alliance, I.N.D.I.A. set up a Ticket Sharing Committee of stalwarts, and the Congress party has refrained from projecting their own national figurehead, Rahul Gandhi, as the future Opposition PM. This has left it struggling for answers against a clear BJP figurehead, PM Modi, who has twice before shown his mettle and impressive connect with the Indian population on the national and even international stage. The BJP was quick to jump at early misfirings or divisive statements from any of the top leadership of I.N.D.I.A. and their innate ability to raise controversies around each and every initiative that should receive a national perspective and level-headed analyses. Many of these abound, from India’s successful space exploration and satellite missions to its presidency of the G20 summit in the new impressive setting purpose-built in New Delhi, through India’s hosting of the Cricket World Cup in the coming weeks.

Yet, the recent statement of Tamil actor, minister and son of leader M.K. Stalin calling for the “eradication” of Sanatan Dharma, equated with dengue or coronavirus, has already raised a storm, with millions of devout hindus deeply hurt and leaving I.N.D.I.A. leaders floundering between support for their Tamilian party, their own belief systems, and the heat of popular sentiment against such crude attacks on their faith. Protests that have been lodged to the police and Courts on the basis of these controversial statements that verge on hate speech (that will surely be fully exploited by the BJP), have sent I.N.D.I.A. leaders running helter-skelter. That looks set to keep the pressure on their alliance for months to come.

Almost simultaneously, the BJP is suspected to add more fuel to their symbolic moves for reconnecting with India’s vast and rich civilisational ethos. A world-class infrastructure for the New Delhi Parliament, pride of place to the Sengol in its inauguration, removal of statues celebrating British empire builders, renaming of streets and towns, naming the Moon lander spot “Shiv Shakti” for eternity and, somewhat inevitably, winding back or lamenting some elements of the legacy of Jawarharlal Nehru’s policies, were already apt to raise temperatures in the Congress circles. Those moves have elicited some puerile criticisms and BJP’s unrepentant nationalism may throw more divides between shaky I.N.D.I.A. bedfellows.

The Presidential invitation to G20 summit leaders from “President of Bharat” rather than India threw another bait to Opposition leaders who did not fail to get their divisiveness into shrill mode, not even realising that article 1 of the country’s Constitution reads “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. Both terms have deeper roots in the country’s rich culture and ancestry. India, favoured by the British and corrupted from the earliest « Sapta Sindhu », being a geographical reference by iranians and foreign rulers, can be said to have a powerful symbolic significance of its own. Bharat derives also from an ancient and respected lineage in most sacred texts, which explains why the framers of the Constitution preferred to make both terms equivalent. Every sign then of a storm in a chai-cup!

The BJP’s proposed recall of the National Assembly for four days may or may not be about legitimating one name at the expense of the other. But it is certainly keeping the Opposition bubbling heatedly on issues that distract from what were their main planks: unemployment, cost of living and inflation. By continuing to react, often in divided mode, and allowing the BJP to impose its narrative and agenda is certainly going to complicate an already wobbly walk for I.N.D.I.A. to next year’s general elections.

* * *

Jeux des Iles 2023

This past Monday was held the colourful closing ceremony of the 11th edition of the generally successful edition Indian Ocean Island Games in the iconic Mahamasina Stadium. It was the third time in the history of the games (after 1990 and 2007) that our big brother has put aside its economic difficulties and socio-political differences to welcome their brothers and sisters from the Indian Ocean including para-athletes, a commendable feat. The torch has been duly transmitted to the Comoros, which hopefully, will muster the necessary resources to host such an important gathering in 2027.

There were organisational hiccups as reported by the press including the tragic stampede that cost more than a dozen lives and hundreds of injured, mostly children, that could have caused a postponement of the Games, but the consensus was to continue despite the grief. As for the several other controversies, some trivial, others less so, they seem to have marked other editions as well and will do so in all likelihood at the Comoros.

The bilan of these 11th games edition has been amply commented in the press and there are numerous reasons for our island to be satisfied and proud of its participants, hauling in the max number of total medals (283 against 272 for the host nation and 244 for sister island Reunion) while Madagascar ran away with the more prized gold category (121 against 91 for second placed Mauritius and 80 for Reunion).

Mauritius can also be happy with its achievements and records in several disciplines where it was not necessarily expected to outshine its neighbours (e.g., athletics, cycling or para-athletics) and behind each laurel there are fantastic individual stories and narratives of constant sacrifices and training, with the help of federations. So, while the spirit of friendly competition between athletes of our sister islands and the tally of medals are inevitable, let us also focus on our athletes as healthy role models round our countryside and the decentralisation of more sports infrastructures.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 8 September 2023

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