The Leadership Issue


Rama Sithanen’s proposal for a national unity government (NUG) in light of the challenges facing the country, especially the imminent deterioration in the economic situation in the months ahead due to the Russian-Ukraine war, has, as it was to be expected, been shot down by the main parties concerned, namely the Labour Party and the MMM. An earlier speculation about an imminent NUG was floated in August, last year, following the fortuitous meeting between the MSM leader Pravind Jugnauth and the LP leader Navin Ramgoolam at the Indian High Commission, on the occasion of the celebration of India’s Independence Day. The speculation then was about an alliance between the MSM and the Labour Party, which would rope in Xavier Duval’s PMSD. Neither political leader at the reception denied any such conjectures, and subsequent events and the continuing polarisation between the MSM and the latter’s main challenger, the LP, put those speculations to rest.

That agovernment regrouping recognised competencies outside the narrow MSM fold might be necessary for the country can well be argued for, as proposed by Rama Sithanen in last week’s interview to this paper, in the current difficult economic circumstances, the more so that concerns about a global recession have returned. Such a proposal would also be reassuring for the private sector conglomerates given the guarantee of political stability that such a political arrangement would ensure. They could assume this might provide a much larger majority of the electorate behind it, as opposed to what is presently the case with the current MSM-led government with a popular support of only 37% of voters in 2019 and assailed from different quarters for its questionable management of the affairs of State. But it would take more than wishful thinking to form a national unity government comprising in the main the Labour Party and the MSM, together with the PMSD and the MMM, the more so given that the LP and MMM might still be considering other options and they would therefore wish to keep their cards close to their chest.

On the one hand, it has not become evident that the LP leadership necessarily sees much promise in another alliance with the MMM in light of the disastrous experience of 2014. Neither is it clear whether the electoral arithmetics or ground realities have improved to favour such an alliance. On the other hand, the battle of political leadership of an important section of the electorate have pushed the MSM and the Labour Party apart to such an extent that there now appears to be an unbridgeable chasm between these two parties – even as some interests might be quietly pushing forward this agenda. The Labour Party’s strategyas a national mainstream party on the political spectrum may lie in opposition to the MSM-led government, but the longer it takes to get back to power the higher the risk of the MSM capturing the bulk of the electorate that elects the political party/alliance to power. That is the challenge presently facing the LP and its leadership.

The LP has two strengths which it can count upon: itsfoundational values in favour of a just, caring and democratic society through the establishment of the welfare state, free education, appropriate constitutional safeguards for all irrespective of class or creed, and the absence of dynasty contrary to the MSM and the PMSD – as well as the MMM which seems also to be going in that direction. What remains unaddressed is the leadership of the party. Given the changed times and higher expectations in terms of proper and adequate methods of going about to lead a party, the issue of leadership will have to be thrashed out sooner rather than later. It is therefore important that a solid structure and a relatively acceptable leadership selection process be put in place to ensure that the LP becomes self-sustaining for the future.

There are assuredly many factors at play in the selection of the ideal candidate that has the credibility and authority over the party’s faithful, the charm to win over politburo colleagues and the gravitas necessary to be projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. But further kicking the can down the road may no longer be acceptable. General elections being at least two years away, the LP and its leadership would have the necessary time to dovetail any changes theyrecognise as necessary for the party and its core of faithful followers.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 8 April 2022

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