Recent polls in the United Kingdom suggest that the outcome of the general elections could well be a hung Parliament. Should the predictions of the polls materialize, there is every possibility to see the Liberal Democrats in power. This is the first time since the Liberal Democratic Party was founded that there is this sentiment that power is within its grasp. No wonder that the leader of the Lib Dem Nick Clegg is being courted by politicians from UK’s two biggest political parties, Labour and Conservative for an alliance.
The Lib Dem was formed in 1988by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party. The two parties had formed the electoral SDP-Liberal Alliance for seven years before then. Promoting social liberalism the Liberal Democrats voice strong support for constitutional reform, civil liberties and higher tax for public services. The values propounded by John Stuart Mill in his book ‘On Liberty’ still constitute the moral compass that guide the Lib Dem today. Although the party objects to State limitations on individual rights, it does favour a welfare state that provides for the necessities and amenities of life. Liberal Democrats support multilateral foreign policy and opposed British participation in the war in Iraq. It has strong environmentalist values that favour renewable energy and commitment to deeper cuts in greenhouse gases.
The situation in Mauritius may not be the same as that in UK. Nevertheless, it is important to see how the leader of the Lib Dem Nick Clegg is reacting to the flirtatious attention he is receiving from his political opponents. In a speech he made last Sunday at a party conference, he insisted that he had no secret plans to help either Gordon Brown or David Cameron into Downing Street, reminding his party at the same time that he is not a kingmaker and that on election day voters are the real “kingmakers”.
Mr Klegg has therefore turned down all negotiations for an alliance and has made it clear that he prefers a three-cornered fight and reserves the right to support the party with the strongest mandate after the elections. Mr Clegg is of course a politician with an agenda, but he makes an important point when he says that “I am not the kingmaker, the 45 million voters of Britain are the kingmakers. “They even give the politicians their marching orders and not the other way round,” he added, “and it is called democracy, and I kind of like it.”
Labour, MMM and MSM should pay close attention to what Clegg is saying. The kingmaker is the electorate, not the politicians. In the case of the MSM, its leader has already seen himself as kingmaker and waiting for the highest bidder. As regards the Labour Party, many consider that an alliance with the MMM is a clear 60-0. It is too facile a conclusion. The voter is fickle-minded, but he also hates the idea of being taken for granted or that his vote is not worth a great deal at election time. Labour should draw the right conclusions from one of its worst electoral defeats at the Triolet by-election at a time when it was assumed that Triolet was a safe seat and a novice like Dev Virahsawmy could not be elected.
Mr Bodha may have a point when he says that the leader of the opposition is an old hand at sowing the seeds of instability. The discussions between Labour and the MMM have so far centered on the distribution of seats, ministerial and ambassadorial posts but no mention that a common policy to take Mauritius to the next decade has been discussed.
Political parties should spend their time more constructively, debating on issues that affect the future of the ordinary Mauritian citizen. There are still fundamental reforms to be made if we want a fairer Mauritius. But who really cares?