Electoral bribery

Political Caricatures

By L.E. Pep

Electoral bribery is an ancient phenomenon, but its manifestations and flaws can only be understood in the context of particular electoral norms and political practices. Electoral bribery is the offense committed by one who gives, promises or offers money or any valuable inducement to an elector – in order to corruptly induce the latter to vote in a particular way or to abstain from voting, or as a reward to the voter for having voted in a particular way or abstained from voting.

The electoral bribe is not well defined in the law, according to Rajen Narsingen, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Mauritius. He is of the opinion that the Prime Minister’s announcement of an increase in the Basic Retirement Pension would amount to an “electoral blackmail”. For him, the law relating to electoral bribery needs to be revisited because it contains many shortcomings. Non-partisan thinking by lawyers and experts to correct the “legal vacuum” and ambiguities of the law is necessary, he adds.

In the same breath, shouldn’t we also look into the recruitments made by this government in governmental and parastatal bodies which have a whiff of favouritism and patronage? It is alleged that the delegation of powers to ministries by the PSC has become the main mode of recruitment in the run-up to elections, whereas it is supposed to be resorted to in extremely urgent cases. It is also alleged that the lists of the unemployed, usually obtained from the employment offices, are modified to include mostly candidates who have been recommended by the Ministers or the party. Job seekers who have been registering for years are excluded to the benefit of relatives, friends and partisans.

Hundreds of such recruitments have taken place since 2015, and a simple audit will reveal the extent of favouritism, if any, in these exercises at the expense of more qualified and deserving candidates. Such practices, it is said, have become part and parcel of the regime’s well-planned strategy to win voters to its side. The offerings being dangled have become more and more juicier with each passing week as a direct consequence of the regime’s dipping popularity. However, to rid ourselves of this disquieting state of affairs, it’s ultimately for voters to send a clear signal that their votes cannot be bought.

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ReA: 20 candidates, one per constituency

Kugan Parapen a member of the national committee of Rezistans ek Alternativ (ReA), announced this week that the party will align one candidate per constituency – as in 2014. He explains: ‘We will propose 20 candidates, not because we do not have 60 candidates, but because we believe that one candidate per constituency is more than enough to offer an alternative to voters.’ He also said that the significantly higher number of registered parties (72) which will field a large number of candidates calls for a review of ReA’s political strategy; it must adapt to this new configuration as well as to the changing vote pattern as the ‘vot blok’ practice has shown its flaws over the years, he adds.

ReA also released a partial list of its candidates for the November 7 general elections. ‘Rest assured,’ he said, ‘there will be a butterfly in every constituency and we are ready to face these elections.’

The Supreme Court has now decided that it will hear the application of the ReA contesting the need for the declaration of community appurtenance for electoral purposes after Nomination Day. This means that Rezistans et Alternativ will not be able to field any candidate, but it maintains that it will stay firm on its principles.

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“Serenitygate”: Is this the nth scandal of this government?

Blocked and censored, the exclusive TOP TV video-cum-investigation is creating a buzz and has reached more than 500,000 viewers since it went viral last Friday on various online platforms of TOP TV and other online publications. It is also available on YouTube.

Top TV Mauritius’s investigation, ‘In the bowels of power, Episode 1 – We are never better served than by ourselves’, alleges that Pravind Jugnauth would have provided, in his capacity of Finance Minister, concessions under the Film Rebate Scheme to the American promoters of the Hollywood film ‘Serenity’ in Mauritius. That would have happened following lobbying by one of his relatives who acted as intermediary in this matter.

Pravind Jugnauth, quite irritated by this video, has drawn attention to other film promoters who have benefited from that same scheme, and who had arranged for the stay of some the film crew personnel at hotels belonging to opposition members. But matters seem to be getting worse, if not more complicated.

Mr Akil Bissessur, a lawyer close to the Labour Party, has demanded an investigation from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) into the Serenity saga of an alleged swindling of a jackpot of Rs 214 million at the expense of taxpayers. He has called for an independent investigation to be carried out after e-mails reporting the negotiations held to raise the Film Rebate Scheme from 30% to 40% had been leaked out to the public in the run-up to the elections.

Top FM Director, Balkrishna Kaunhye, has filed a complaint against Pravind Jugnauth with the CCID. He believes that the remarks made by the Prime Minister in meetings in Triolet and Goodlands could harm the safety of his journalists, especially during this election period.

Affaire à suivre…

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Raiding the BOM’s reserves

The repayment of the public debt using funds from the Special Reserve Fund of the Bank of Mauritius (BoM), which had been criticised by several observers and economists, continues to be commented upon especially after the Deputy Governor – who, it is said, has been advising government in favour of such a move – has resigned to join the ranks of the Alliance Morisien.

Dan Maraye, former governor of the BoM, who had been in favour of the measure (announced in the budget by Pravind Jugnauth) to use the reserves of the BoM to repay part of the external debt (Rs 18 billion) of the country, stated last week that in 1994, the then Minister of Finance, Rama Sithanen had transferred 50% of the BoM’s foreign currency reserves to the Ministry of Finance, despite opposition from the then Governor, Sir Indur Ramphul. The BoM had even obtained ‘legal advice’ that it went contrary to the Bank of Mauritius Act. And finally, instead of amending the law, the government took a Cabinet decision to transfer those funds.

Readers will recall that Dan Maraye was one of the few commentators who had agreed with the measure to transfer Rs 18 billion from the Special Reserve Fund. He justified his argument by referring to the recent Report of the Expert Committee to Review the Extant Economic Capital Framework, under the chairmanship of Dr Bimal Jalan, released by the Reserve Bank of India on 27 August 2019.

Dan Maraye is wrong; he is confusing the Special Reserve Fund with the foreign exchange reserves. The Bimal Jalan report does recommend a limit (and a one-off surplus reserve transfer) to the transfer of funds from the Special Reserve Fund. Actually, the main points of the report could be translated in our context as: (a) Mauritius should set a minimum economic capital reserves requirement too, and (b) Mauritius should also forbid distribution of unrealized valuation reserves to Government.

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Another sector that is failing: Tourism

The ex-Minister of Tourism was expecting the sector to pick up with the availability of new carriers on certain routes, the attraction of the Indian Ocean Games and the visit of the Pope, but the latest figures released for the first nine months of the year show a negative growth of -1.4%. From January to September 2018, the country had registered 961,000 visitors while for the same period this year, the number has come down to 948,000.

Just for September, there is a drop of -7% from Germany, -8% from the United Kingdom, -0.7% from South Africa, -22% from Asia and -9% from Australia. Tourism receipts also fell by -5%. Last year, the figure was Rs 38 billion, while this year it is Rs 35.9 billion.

A new tourism is emerging – one that is sustainable, environmentally and socially responsible, and characterised by flexibility and choice. A new type of tourism is driving it: more educated, experienced, independent, conservation-minded travellers, who are respectful of cultures, and insistent on value for money. To remain competitive, tourism destinations and industry players alike must adapt.

The outgoing regime has failed to rise to the new challenge and formulate sector policies that best reflect the changes taking place in this sector and ensure that the benefits from tourism activities are spread more evenly throughout our society.

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Another blow to our Financial Sector

A new rule announced by the market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), is that only Foreign Portfolio Investments (FPIs) located in FATF countries or managed by an entity based in a FATF jurisdiction will be allowed to deal in participatory notes (PNs), i.e. offshore derivative instruments with Indian stocks, futures and options as underliers.

This is likely to severely impact foreign funds from jurisdictions like Mauritius, Cayman Islands and Cyprus which do not belong to the 39-member club of Financial Action Task Force. FATF is an inter-governmental policymaking body which was set up at the 1989 Paris summit of G7 due to rising concerns over money laundering.

Mauritius and Cayman Islands, serving as key offshore bases for foreign investors trading on Indian exchanges, seemed to have again come under the watch of the Securities and Exchange Board of India, reports The Economic Times.

“Sebi’s decision will not go down well with Mauritius, which may see a flight of funds and businesses to Singapore — a FATF member country which, like Mauritius, has a tax treaty with India,” states the report. Indeed, this new Rule is expected to impact many public equity funds and hedge funds.

This is yet another challenge for the FSC which comes at an inopportune moment when it is without a chairman who has opted to join the political arena and a CEO who seems to be always operating offshore – that is from wherever he would be during his foreign tours. In such circumstances, we cannot expect much from the FSC than the customary mediocre response of sending yet another delegation to negotiate with SEBI officials.

Prior to the blacklisting by SEBI, the CEO and another FSC official were to Mumbai to meet its officials. A second delegation, led again by the CEO, went to India from 10 to 13 October. No communique has so far been issued either by MOFED or the FSC on the outcome of these negotiations.

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The sidelined MPs of the MSM are fuming

It took PKJ nearly five years to discover that he had almost 20 bungling ministers and MPs in his team. Sudhir Seesungkur was full of bitterness and disappointment and was very critical of some of the newly chosen candidates for the forthcoming elections. “Today we are bringing in singers, showmen and ‘segatiers’. An economist is discarded to make room for an ‘animateur’. The National Assembly will become a ‘concert’. We are not against diversity, but there are people who put questions to us,” he stressed, adding that we need professionals and not ti marsan’ to run the country. He also added that it is not by copying the slogan of Nicolas Sarkozy or by taking inspiration from the style of Narendra Modi that “ou pu kas ene gran pake”.

Another sidelined MP, Bashir Jahangeer, has resigned from the MSM and is now lifting the lid on past attempts by government ministers to muzzle him in Parliament; he has even named Ministers Ashit Gungah and Etienne Sinatambou as the ones who would have regularly asked him to withdraw his embarrassing parliamentary questions.

Bashir Jahangeer is in touch with his other sidelined colleagues – Vikash Oree, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, Ravi Rutnah, etc, who have all expressed their disgust and are thinking of making a move…

Another affaire à suivre!

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Quote: Ashok Subron

« C’est Krouink, symbole du mauricianisme aux JIOI, qu’on assassine… »

* Published in print edition on 18 October 2019

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