New Political Alliances On The Horizon

Editorials —

 Last week, Roshi Bhadain who was elected in Constituency No 18 on an MSM ticket in December 2014, announced that he would submit his resignation by the end of this week, that is after he would have intervened during the Committee of Supply’s scrutiny of Budget 2017-18 detailed proposals. The reason: a disagreement over the government’s decision to go ahead with the Metro Express project.

Assuming he gives effect to this announcement, there will take place within the prescribed time a by-election in No 18. It is possible Bhadain himself would stand as one of the candidates for election along with others who are being lined up by other political parties. Some observers consider that the outcome of such a by-election, if it were held, could indicate the trend for the next general elections.

It is astounding that we have come to such a situation on the political arena. A little over two years earlier, voters unexpectedly elected the Alliance Lepep (a coalition of the MSM, the PMSD and the ML parties) to power with a strong majority. The government is now at mid-term in its mandate. Having little concrete realisation to its credit, it embarked on a serious course to fritter away the goodwill it had earned during the 2014 elections.

The expectation was that, given that the formidable Labour-MMM alliance on paper had been stiffly rejected by voters, the Lepep government was strong enough to deliver on its electoral promises. Instead of that, the new government started focusing on the political agenda.

The objective apparently was to do away for good with Labour’s leader and his financial supporters. Such misplaced priorities obscured from view the work needing to be undertaken to fulfil electoral promises for the country’s redress. A number of blunders were committed, the consequences of which are being seen in the Betamax and BAI affairs.

As if that were not enough, an internal struggle for power ensued within the ranks of Lepep. More specifically, the MSM itself became victim of internal squabbles. Some Ministers were either suspended or forced to shift portfolios in the context of this power struggle. Other than hitting each other below the belt by employing devious methods verging at times on illegality, a series of gaffes were committed due to excess of zeal shown by some of the party’s members.

Thus, the focus on the political agenda and the overbearing individual ambitions of certain members of the government led to factions within the government undermining it. By December 2016, the PMSD had decided to quit the government.

Not happy seemingly with the distribution of ministerial responsibilities in the Cabinet reshuffle after Pravind Jugnauth was appointed Prime Minister this year, Roshi Bhadain resigned from the MSM. He joined the ranks of the opposition. And now, he has raised the prospect of a by-election by possibly resigning his seat.

While the outcome of the possible by-election should be interesting in itself, if it took place, there is emerging the prospect of new political alliances on the horizon in the wake of all these tumults. Clearly, the MSM-ML government is coming out weakened from all this misdirected focus on political ambitions. The likelihood that it will deliver on its electoral promises is diminishing, the more there are tumults of the sort.

As things stand at present, it is unlikely that it would carry conviction vis-à-vis voters on a stand-alone basis in a future election. It carries a public image of a party which has torn itself apart from inside.

Given this and the fact that it may not turn around the present situation to its advantage in the near term, it would see chances of its re-election only in an alliance with another party. That party can’t be Labour, its avowed staunch adversary. The ML, a split-away from the MMM, is unlikely to do better than several others which split away from the MMM in the past. The PMSD having already quit it in December last year in the hope perhaps that it will be a linchpin in the formation of the next government, can be ruled out.

The MSM is thus left with the MMM as a potential partner in coalition for the next elections. What are the options open to the MMM itself? Not much. Its traditional supporters would be revolted if it were to contemplate yet another alliance with Navin Ramgoolam’s Labour. It cannot join with the PMSD which the MMM has always seen as the antithesis of its political action. This would explain the nostalgia of Paul Berenger, expressed a few weeks ago, for the 2000-05 MSM-MMM government.

This situation seems to indicate, as Lindsay Rivière stated to this newspaper in an interview last week, that an MSM-MMM rapprochement appeared to be a plausible arrangement in view of the next elections. Such a scenario would obviously imply that Labour and the PMSD would be thrown into each other’s arms for that electoral bout.

Depending on how weak a position a potential coalition partner would find itself in, electoral arrangements among parties will exact the price each one will have to pay to the other. In 2014, Labour had to make overturning proportional representation concessions in the electoral system to the MMM.

It is true that we have seen a series of the most unexpected coalitions in Mauritius over a long stretch of time. The electoral system is so designed as to force such coalitions of political parties, mostly decided on a pre-election basis.

Coalition governments have quite often proved to be a stabilising force in the country. Some have even been productive towards advances made by the country; others have simply remained in power without contributing concretely to the national edifice.

Coalition partners have exacted significant prices for being together, at times leading to premature breakups of the coalitions. While that is a reality of coalition politics, one cannot help reminding oneself the saying: “So much goes the jug to the water that in the end, it breaks.” The coalition partner may ask more than its fair share of acceptable concessions, calling on occasion for Constitutional changes to satisfy its overwhelming long term appetite. Thus, an arrangement that might have been good for the country fails to materialize.

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As we were going to press the judgement in the case of the DPP about the Medpoint case was delivered, Their Lordships, considering that consider ‘that the issues raised by the applicant are of great general or

public importance which ought to be submitted to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council’ have therefore granted leave to the DPP to submit accordingly. Of course we cannot pre-empt the conclusion that the Privy Council will reach. But should it go along with the judgement of the Intermediate Court in the matter, there are likely to be serious political consequences that the country must anticipate.

M.K.

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