[Opinion] Political Parties in Mauritius: A Brief insight

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The series of recurrent events since the advent of the new regime have drastically changed our political outlook. Power addiction has brought about unprecedented confrontation and conflicts between individuals and groups and given rise to countless scandals in the inner circle of the ruling party. The perceived undemocratic and unfair propulsion to the seat of Prime Minister of the current holder of the position, has antagonized not only political figures whether in the government or in the opposition but also the vast majority of the population. Such intestinal inflammation has badly shaken the very foundation of the actual regime which has started to show signs that have the potential of causing disintegration, with probable catastrophic consequences.

This issue has been the subject of widespread critical comments, not only by politicians themselves, but also by legal experts, trade unionists and analysts both locally and internationally. Does it respond to the call of the nation? Is it constitutionally fit or institutionally adaptable or socially acceptable? What may be constitutionally correct may not necessarily be morally acceptable. But, as they say, “moralité pas rempli ventre”.

The MSM party is one which comprises dissidents mainly from the MMM. It has no “history” as such, unlike the MMM and the Labour Party or even the PMSD. It was formed in the wake of the break in government that occurred in 1983 with the withdrawal of the MMM from the then MMM-PSM government. The PSM headed by Harish Boodhoo, which was itself formed from a dissidence from the Labour Party, was dissolved and its members joined some dissidents from the MMM and a new party was set up under the head of SAJ.

The Labor party is the prime political party born under the colonial regime; a party that has struggled hard to free the Mauritian nation from colonial occupation and in the breaking of the chain of slavery leading ultimately to independence. It is a party born with the struggle for workers’ rights and more social justice which wasn’t easy to acquire with the tough colonial rule.

Whether we accept it or not, it has dominated the political, economic and social system for more than four decades and has left its footprints in every sphere of our daily life. It has not suffered any major structural crack nor any organic amputation despite the fact that it became stagnant for sometimes and survived all political tremors in the wake of rapid intellectual, developmental and social changes. For those who are still in doubt it has not been buried anywhere in the pages of political history. It is a party which was born in womb of the past, brought affectionately in the lap of the present, and represents the future of the population at large. It is still alive, more than ever today.

It survived the political revolutionary storm in the late sixties and early seventies when it was badly shaken by a revolution nurtured and fortified in a period of deficient social justice and gross economic inequality. It was an era marked by growing concern for economic survival. It was a turning point. The importance of other ideals had lost sight and wiped away almost all other existing values in its way. The glaring class difference became the bone of contention and was used as political arguments by some young emerging leaders who ultimately formed the MMM in a political vacuum when the country was being ruled by a coalition government with no opposition at all. With this new party becoming more popular, intestinal conflicts within the Labour stable grew bigger, leading to growing dissidence and the formation of the PSM.

2014 witnessed a major blow to the Labour party and its leader with the perceived political vendetta it underwent under the hands of the uncompromising ruling alliance. With no less than a dozen provisional charges and recurrent arrests of the leader, there is every reason to believe that allegations of bribery, corruption and money laundering were politically motivated. Practically all the charges, except one, have been set aside. The party went through very tough times to the point of nearly losing its credibility in the political scenery. Ironically it seems to have gained another momentum and become stronger since scandals at government level began to show their ugly heads.

The MMM, which incarnated the revolutionary movement, stood up firmly in a specific period of great social unrest. Freshly liberated from the occupation of the British colonial forces the country had to stand on its own feet to face the situation. Powerful voices were raised to bring along fundamental social changes and political reforms to restore hope. With unprecedented revolutionary actions, the MMM gained ground to become one of the most powerful political parties. The struggle became one for “enn sel lepep enn sel nation”. Widespread unrest led to the organization of general elections in 1982 when the MMM and the PSM joined together to match the government led by SSR then leader of the Labour Party and the alliance set up with the PMSD in that context.

A 60-0 tsunami in 1982 swept all in its rise. But the huge waves quickly subsided and the stream thinned down and almost dried. The greatest mistake of the MMM party was that it contracted an unnatural alliance with the PSM party, which started having conflicting ideals leading to cracks and amputation. In substance these two parties had different ideals. While the MMM was advocating a united nation, the PSM seemed to be divided on this issue.

That was a rude blow to the MMM, which was experienced another setback with its alliance with the Labour party at the elections of 2014. The large victory of LEPEP alliance (MSM-PMSD-ML) was yet another hard blow to the MMM with inside agitations against their leadership symbol.

The LEPEP alliance was no more than distinct groupings of dissidents from the major parties with hardly any remarkable political history, except the PMSD, which later left the government upon conflicting stands on the government’s perceived moves to continue dismantling all that is not in its good books.

The Labour Party has survived the test of its isolation. It has known the most dramatic moment on its way with the march of time. It has never ever been thrown in sleeping waste. The monumental mistake of this party was its alliance with the MMM in the election run in December 2014.

The PMSD constituted under the leadership of Sir Gaëtan Duval is one of the most solid rocks in the consolidation of the political edifice and has played a major role in shaping of the political scenery in Mauritius. The charismatic leader had laid the foundation of his party under the boots of British colonialists. It has proved to be at the height of its responsibility in the service of the population and had contributed enormously for the wellbeing of the country. It has suffered a minor amputation but recovered, re-invented and reoriented very fast and joined the race with its adversaries.  It was always solicited by major political parties to lend support to form governments in case of emergencies when “the five cents were missing to make the whole rupee”.  Xavier Duval, who took the leadership of the PMSD after the demise of Sir Gaëtan, used to say: “manque cinq sous pou fer enn roupi rond”. The party is perceived as a « joker » in the political game. Xavier Duval cautiously toiled the ground to win the heart of his electorate and emerged as a powerful and popular leader. This party has also suffered dissidence following conflicting stands on ideals.

We can’t forget the former CAM which also has a remarkable popular history. Led by Sir Abdool Rajack Mohamed the party succeeded in setting up the Best Loser System which guarantees representation of minority ethnic groups in Parliament. Sir Razack participated in the Constitutional reform with his full support to SSR in 1965. He played a major role in the fight for independence of Mauritius. He fought for the rights of minorities in various social and religious fields.  Sir Abdool was an outstanding leader who has left his print in political history in Mauritius. Unfortunately, after his defeat in the seventies his party split and lost grounds. His son Yousouf Mohamed tried his level best to take the lead but with the emergence of the MMM, the CAM was marginalised to extinction. Instead, being a brilliant and eminent lawyer and the son of an unparalleled leader, his personality was forged with almost all the potentials to enable him to dominate the political scene for years.

The political blood flowing in the veins of the Mohamed family, another dynamic and powerful element emerged in the name of Shakeel Abdul Rajack Mohamed. “Wah wa! Ye to baadal ki tarah garajta hai”. We often hear this from the mouth of politicians. His intellectualism, his professionalism, his courage and his clear vision have impressed many, the youngsters in particular. To achieve his goal he has no other choice but to win the heart of the electorate tactfully in a most humble manner.

So it’s no denial that the ruling party and the MSM doesn’t have any popular-base history and has an unnatural imposed leadership in contrast with the other major parties which all have a history of popular struggle in contexts of economic, social and political slumps with natural charismatic leaderships. It’s rather a collection of frustrated dissidents of same related families from various parties who joined together in pursuit of their own personal goals and with unclear objectives for the country. It seems to be set to impose its own agenda against the will of the population.

The above is a very concise picture of the situation regarding the different political actors and parties. The question arises as to whether people will continue giving their blind support to fractured parties with self-centered interests or to more homogeneous ones having national interests albeit with their inherent flaws.

ILMUDDIN KHAYRATTEE

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