Unintended Consequences

M.K. —

For reasons better known to himself, Roshi Bhadain decided to bring further embarrassment on the government than he has already inflicted by resigning his seat in Quatre Bornes. His hope was perhaps that the whole of the opposition would unite and field him as its sole candidate to defy a so far non-performing government. He would thereby be vindicated, in case he came out a winner in the by-election provoked by his resignation.

His lack of experience of politics showed up quite quickly. Labour surprised the whole political establishment by choosing Arvin Boolell as its candidate for the by-election. The MMM has decided that it will participate. Tactically, perhaps, it has yet to identify its candidate, though names of potential ones have been cited. It has stated that its choice of candidate will be made shortly.

That leaves the PMSD to decide whether it will still insist on a “unique” candidate for a united opposition – its previous stand – or whether, given the quick evolution of the situation, it will announce who will be its own candidate. By delaying a decision in this regard, or even if it were to come out with a decision to contest the by-election, it is putting itself in a shrewd bargaining position for the forthcoming general elections vis-à-vis whoever will court it to form an alliance.

The MSM-ML government appears to have gone on the sidelines, keeping its option open whether to field a candidate or not in the by-election. Its decision may depend on whether it is contemplating a tacit alliance with another political party for the general elections, in which case it would make it easy for such a potential ally to win by throwing its electoral weight in that party’s favour.

Time will tell whether it feels it will be doing itself a service in risking to lose in the by-election by also taking part. If it doesn’t actually field its own candidate, it will deny Roshi Bhadain what he would have been looking forward to through a direct electoral confrontation with the government’s candidate. That would give the latter another proof of how miscalculated his move to resign his seat has been.

If on top of this everyone-for-himself approach adopted by major political parties in this round, smaller political groups like Resistans ek Alternativ and the MP decided to field their own candidates, this will further paint the picture of an opposition which is as disunited as possible. Not that the government would thus have a field day, but it will project the shape of things to come for the next general elections.

As matters stand, it would be unimaginable to expect Labour and the MSM to join forces for those elections. They’ve never been so much at daggers’ drawn as since the general elections of 2014. The embittered fight for political supremacy between the two parties has never been so strong. One can therefore rule out a political alliance between them.

It is also unthinkable that the MMM would want to join forces with Labour under the leadership of Navin Ramgoolam. MMM traditional supporters would give such an alliance its final blow and Paul Bérenger would end his political career in disaster. But the MMM would still have such an option in the event of a change in the Labour leadership.

This is the background against which the major parties will re-define their political alliances for the next general elections. One assumes that neither the MSM nor Labour would want to take the risk of not being allied with a complementary political party on the political chessboard. If they want to put all the chances on their side, they will look out for a convenient ally.

For, should Labour and the MSM each go their way in the general elections, without any ally, the MMM would find it a golden opportunity to rally its traditional supporters towards a potential stand-alone political victory. However, chances are that the major parties will not take the serious risk of being washed out altogether by not having worked out a convenient pre-electoral alliance with one or the other of the major political parties.

The most plausible scenario in the event appears to be a Labour-PMSD alliance, on the one hand. Sharing of tickets in such a case would depend on the type of leadership each party would have given itself and the ‘rapport des forces’ prevailing in the political field. That leaves the MMM to seek a ‘Remake’ of the 2000-05 type, either under a shared power arrangement or based on extracting enough electoral reform concessions to be able to consolidate its long-term strategy of winning forthcoming elections on a stand-alone basis. If the MSM-ML government goes on weakening itself, it can have little choice than to form an alliance with the MMM in such an eventuality, from a weaker position.

Such appears to be the outcome of the political playout in the context of the by-election provoked by Roshi Bhadain’s resignation of his seat in Quatre Bornes. Voters will decide on who to trust again while conferring political power.

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