Back to Politics as Usual

The political configuration is changing. No one has a clear idea what exactly it will come to.

Last Sunday, there was a show of force by some of the political blocs. The MMM gathered its supporters to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the beginnings of the party on Sunday. It was able to put together a reasonably impressive crowd, so soon after its utter rejection by voters in the 2014 polls. The message was that the party should now go to the elections on its own, without an alliance with another party. It appeared that this message – which followers have been longing for ever since – was favourably echoed by the supporters. They have always wanted to join forces to thrash for good all the rest of the motley crowd on the “other side” they historically think they are opposed to.

Not to be outdone by the currently dynamic political re-configuration on the way, the PMSD called a rally of its young supporters on the same Sunday in Ebène. As in the case of the MMM, the PMSD proved equally successful in pulling a big and enthusiastic young crowd for the occasion. Like the MMM, it was in the process of giving itself its separate and independent identity as a political party to supporters. Xavier Duval, the party’s leader, used the occasion to project an image of his calm assurance in the face of a political situation which for some time now has seemed to be becoming increasingly stormy and dysfunctional. If Paul Bérenger can stake a claim to prime ministership, Xavier Duval asserts that he has the calm, depth and poise to put up a similar claim, no less.

On the other hand, Navin Ramgoolam, the former Prime Minister, had been slowly gathering forces post his electoral debacle of 2014 in an alliance with the MMM. He has cleverly been riding above the storm of unpopularity he was projected into, not only for his inept handling of the country’s affairs while in power and for having sought to amend the Constitution in an unwarranted manner: he has also been overcoming the bad image of himself projected in public by the new regime for personal misconduct and unaccounted-for substantial funds found by the police at his place. A week earlier, in the wake of the celebrations of SSR’s birth anniversary, he gathered an unexpectedly large and enthusiastic crowd in Triolet, the constituency which badly rejected him in the last elections. It cheered him as if it was in denial of all that he had been accused of and that led to his downfall.

Are we then back to politics as usual? A situation in which voters, disgruntled at the performance – or the lack of it — of incumbents of power are prepared to publicly show their spite by adhering by default to whatever alternative is on offer? Are the MMM and the PMSD – sensing this feeling of rejection against the government lost in serial contradictions and lacking in achievement – differentiating themselves as something better than the governing team, of which the PMSD is paradoxically a partner? Are voters prepared to once again take the risk, short of anything better?

Be that as it may, all this commotion by Labour, the MMM and the PMSD on the political arena has not been without reaction from the MSM which – together with ML and the PMSD — is in power. Opposition parties had already launched a public debate on the issue of whether Pravind Jugnauth (PJ) should succeed as PM after Sir Anerood Jugnauth lately made a public announcement to this effect.

PJ has also been going to different parts of the country – as if to answer the criticism being levelled against this proposition by SAJ – but in reality to mark his presence and to still all the hullabaloo being raised against a government having created the public perception of having become dysfunctional. A perception also of partners wanting to leave the sinking ship.

His mission is to give back the assurance that the government is still in command. A lot of the public perception about an underperforming government was created shortly after the government embarked early last year, without good judgement or thought about nasty consequences of its actions, on what was essentially a self-destructive public campaign to humiliate and dismantle those perceived to be close to Labour. In so doing, it alienated thoughtlessly those historically associated with Labour who had just given it their votes.

It was all too clear how public institutions were then being instrumentalised for pure political gain. Internal dissensions – especially when PJ’s hands were tied due to a court case he was involved in and could not exert ministerial influence — projected also how the government was tearing itself apart from inside. PJ’s mission currently is not only to overcome all this handicap. He has to make the government do its work with confidence to restore faith in its ability to “deliver the goods”.

This is where the MMM, the PMSD and Labour are coming in to dig deep into the mishaps which the government has burdened itself with and, to crown it all, a beleaguered and uncertain leadership. It will be a Herculean task for PJ to extricate the government from all the troubles it has entangled itself in and the costly consequences of ill-inspired decisions it took to shake the very foundation of confidence in the economy.

It is possible that the other political parties may differentiate themselves from the government’s bad decision-making of the past. It may well be that they may convince their followers that they care or will care for the future better than the government has done. Some will no doubt allow themselves to be so convinced.

But this country now also has a bank of serious non-opportunistic swing voters which, once bitten are twice shy and may not open up as much as parties which have had their heyday already would want them believe. It is they who have either been massively abstaining from voting or been forming the silent majority which will not be fooled once again by classic politics. It appears that despite the recent show of force by various political parties, options are still open for a truly new orientation of our politics.

M.K.

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