The Municipal Elections were characterized by two years of postponement, a short campaign, low turnout, lack of enthusiasm, and then a result that was very close. It is as though the pro-capitalist parties like the PT-PMSD-MSM-MMM are all waning, while the broad masses of people are not yet ready for a new wave of struggle behind a clear program like LALIT’s. When there is a severe crisis, as there is today, this is a dangerous situation.
Let’s look at two sets of facts about the elections, and then at the grave problems facing Mauritius’ cities.
First, the PT-PMSD Alliance, which had control of all five Municipalities, lost three of them, or rather four – since the MMSD “controls” Curepipe. This defeat is despite Navin Ramgoolam throwing his weight into the campaign, the IBA muzzling radios, the MBC’s broadcasting propaganda, new electoral boundaries, macaroni hand-outs, and dire threats to those who don’t vote for “Government-Municipality synergy”. Or maybe they lost because of these factors. Their defeat is also despite their adversaries, MSM-MMM Re-Make, not getting off the ground, despite MSM-MMM having no clear program for re-vitalizing the cities, despite their worn-out slogan “eleksyon koreksyon”, and despite their inability to analyse their defeats in 2005; the MMM just blamed Pravind Jugnauth’s “pas faire le poids” , instead of proper auto-criticism.
Second, the MSM-MMM did not manage more than a “draw” in Curepipe, a majority of one in Quatre Bornes, a majority of two in Port Louis, and did not win Vacoas-Phoenix at all, when the MMM alone controlled the Municipalities from 1977 to 2005. This incapacity to win decisively was despite the PT-PMSD Government bringing Mauritius to the edge of economic ruin: with no plan for job creation for the people nor even for food security, and certainly with no intention of saving the cities from being stifled.
What is a city centre?
Cities are great because they are centres full of theatres, museums, libraries, galleries, bazaars, markets, gardens, cinemas, shops, restaurants – places everyone wants to be, just to be with “all the other people”.
The two main theatres in the country are dying for lack of care. The museum has never grown properly. The Mauritius Institute which used to be a feature has been lost into a nebulous National Archives, half of which is no longer in the city centre. The Municipal Libraries stagnate. There are no big municipal developments in city centres. The markets in all the cities are strangled by the malls and supermarkets suddenly pasted upon the countryside – Bagatelle, Cascavelle, La Croisette – and even street vendors have lost business. Once thriving shops in city centres are now without customers, some even boarded up.
Nothing is being done to prevent this catastrophe. No city streets have been declared pedestrian areas, with trees planted down the middle, to make them fun places to be. No proper transport has been developed to decrease infernal traffic jams. Buses that used to run until 11:00 pm don’t anymore.
All this needs to be addressed urgently.
Neither the MMM-MSM nor the PT-PMSD are even pretending to do so.
( Article published in Le Mauricien of 11th December 2012)