Regime change: In with a bang, out…

‘64 million Britons didn’t sign a petition…’; so read one blog last week after an estimated one million Britishers signed a petition against the proposed visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK following an invitation extended to him by the UK Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May when she met him in Washington.

In response to the one-million strong petition, Mrs May maintained that Donald Trump would visit, and this issue is now being debated in the House of Parliament. It may be noted that Mrs May has received support from the MPs to go ahead with arrangements for Brexit. Their view on Trump’s visit is now awaited. Nevertheless, 64 million Britons have already decided…

In the US also, the game of numbers has been played out after the executive order from the presidency regarding entry of foreigners from certain countries. The administration maintains that it is not a so-called ‘Muslim ban’ as is being deliberately portrayed in the media. Rather, the executive order is about restriction of entry to nationals of countries which fail to meet criteria for an entry/immigrant visa which depend on information required from the countries concerned about these individuals. The seven countries falling under this category – which were already under watch by the Obama administration – either do not have a credible registering system that can provide such data, or they are unwilling too.

No need to say that in the outcry that has followed there are pro and con views, both biased in favour of their respective protagonists. In terms of numbers, the US authorities point out that of the 325,000 passengers that alighted at US airports in the first 24 hours after the executive order took effect, only 109 people were barred from entry. In 72 hours, when nearly one million people arrived, only 729 people were either denied entry or prevented from boarding a US flight from their respective countries.

What is required is to maintain a sense of proportion and to shun premature triumphalism. How the situation is going to pan out will depend on the impact of the bang that has followed the installation of Donald Trump in the White House. So far he has been sending shock waves across his country and across the world too. There are some parallels with what followed the election of the Alliance Lepep here in December 2014, toutes proportions gardées.

In both cases, the overwhelming victory was unexpected. As much as Donald Trump was an outlier who came to claim the Republican Party on his own terms, so too was the Lepep an unlikely, belatedly cobbled up alliance of otherwise alienated partners who swept massively to power against their own expectations.

Trump has begun by issuing executive orders one after the other. The difference from his predecessor so far is the publicity and the noise that is surrounding these orders, but Obama’s reign itself was labelled by his critics an ‘imperial presidency’, according to an analysis of his tenure by The Economist. It adds that ‘he did indeed govern more by executive authority than he would have liked and that others have before’. It is also pointed out that ‘What will survive of him… are the wars that he reluctantly fought, and the wars that he declined to. He was awarded the Nobel Peace prize… but on his watch his country has fought ceaselessly’.

Trump is being criticized for curtailing the US’s longstanding engagements and obligations with the rest of the world: NATO, alliance with Japan and South Korea, the EU, and it is too early to say whether his country will fight as ceaselessly during his mandate. On the other hand, though, he has opened several fronts on the home turf: he has sacked the Acting Attorney General Sally Yates who refused to defend his executive order in court; diplomats who refuse to apply the program have been told they can get out, and some of them have already got marching orders after a ‘dissent petition’ which is allowed by law, signed by nearly 1000, went viral, and the 11,000 personnel of the foreign office are nervous about their future. Along with steps to rapidly repeal Obamacare, and making appointments which critics say contravene constitutional provisions, these measures are shaking up America and Americans as has never happened before.

Switch to the local scene post Lepep victory. The December 2014 lull because of the end of year and New Year festivities was soon shattered by a series of the equivalent of US executive orders that saw the tumbling of the BAI empire, the arrest of several prominent politicians and high officials, including the former Prime Minister and Governor of the Bank of Mauritius, an attempt to oust the DPP from an office which has constitutional protection, and a number of other cases that have been widely publicized in the two years that followed, during which not much happened in terms of taking the country forward according to seasoned observers.

Grandstanding plans and projects were presented loudly and apparently with the blessing of the patriarch, only to be disavowed afterwards. The poster boy of Lepep Roshi Bhadain who literally ruled the waves of the MBC, along with his equally unfazed counterpart Soodhun, was all rage and fury at the ills of the previous dispensation.

And suddenly, after the ascent of Pravind Jugnauth to the coveted prime ministerial post, Roshi Bhadain is discovering… America, a land also known for its mafias. Apparently the government he was in was inhabited by one such, and only after he left did he make the discovery.

Comparison with America stops here of course, because of sheer size. While we seem to have entered relatively calmer waters, the US giant is at present convulsing. Will the bang end with a whimper? Will the exercise of executive power strengthen the presidency or weaken it further for, as The Economist further observed about Obama: ‘In truth his presidency demonstrated the erosion of that office’s power, and maybe of the power of America itself’. A similar question may be asked about the Prime Minister’s Office here if executive-like actions were to continue.

TP Saran

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