Every general election takes place in its own particular economic, political and social context. To be able to understand LALIT’s participation in the elections, it helps to also understand LALIT’s analysis of the overall situation, as well as the proposals in our program. Our participation in the elections is not just for the duration of the campaign and the elections, but also closely linked to the ongoing struggle afterwards. What exactly is at stake in this general election, in our view?
The Labour-MMM Alliance
In the coming election, the Labour-MMM Alliance represents three different political “agendas” rolled up together. Let’s look at these:
1. Furthering the agenda of the Bourgeoisie during the crisis
Firstly, the Labour-MMM alliance is the political representation of the economic agenda of the capitalist class. All the spokesmen of the bosses have said as much. Ramgoolam and Bérenger claim they need “a strong Government”.The Alliance’s aim is to implement ultra-liberalist politicies, through and through, just as the capitalists want it to do. This means privatization, the elimination of subsidies on rice, flour and gas, the replacement of universal Welfare State benefits by the “targeting” of social services, and the imposition of austerity measures on working people and the poor, as the crisis bites.
2. Restoring a Balance between the Two Main Sections of the Bourgeoisie
The equilibrium between the Historic Bourgeoisie (sugar oligarchy, hotel bosses, bankers, heavy goods importers) and the State Bourgeoisie (those capitalists that get into the big-time league through State favours) has been skewed by the Labour Party’s so-called “democratization of the economy” over the past 9 years. This has favoured the State bourgeoisie and provoked an investment strike by the rest of the bourgeoisie. The MMM has, since 1982, increasingly come to represent the interests of neo-liberalism and the Historical Bourgeoisie against what they see as the “crony capitalism” of Labour. The alliance thus represents a re-unification, and a new balance of forces between the two sections of the bourgeoisie.
3.Satisfying the Ramgoolam Presidential and the Bérenger Prime Ministerial Ambitions
This alliance, unlike others, was not negotiated between two parties, but rather between a Prime Minister Ramgoolam and an Opposition Leader Bérenger. The pretext for this anomaly was supposed to have been the need for a three-quarter majority in the out-going Parliament in order to bring in electoral reform. But the said electoral reform turned out to have been a dishonest means of luring Bérenger into the negotiations, when Ramgoolam had no intention of bringing the electoral reforms before general elections. Instead all they voted was a temporary mini-amendment to the Constitution to satisfy UN Human Rights Committee ruling that candidates not be barred from standing for the next elections on the basis of refusal to fill in one of the four communities required by the Constitution. Yet, all negotiations were done in a Government building, Clarisse House, and there was even the bizarre situation of the Prime Minister’s Office issuing a communiqué to report on negotiations between the two leaders! Ramgoolam really thinks, “L’Etat c’est moi!”
The “”Toxic Bundle” Alliance
The alliance contains a number of elements that are dangerous:
- First, there is the proposition for electoral reform that maintains the communal Best Loser System, with political leaders like Ramgoolam and Bérenger set to nominate a certain number of MPs after general elections, according to stated communal, sub-communal and casteist criteria.
- Second, there is the proposed 2nd Republic, which includes a President with extended powers to be elected by universal suffrage for a 7-year mandate, which locks the democracy into a strait-jacket beyond the 5-year general elections.
- Third, this 2nd Republic involves a communally-based power-sharing between Prime Minister-to-be Bérenger and President-to-be Ramgoolam, with each of the other high-up State offices allotted on the basis of Bérenger-style scientific communalism. This carries the risk of locking Mauritius into this communal logic for years to come.
- Fourthly, the 2nd Republic sets up a “semi-Presidential” State that is a mis-match with the existing Parliamentary democracy, and that is a step way backwards in democratic terms. Today the Prime Minister’s powers, though too great, are limited by his constant accountability to a Parliament that the people elected. The Prime Minister and other Ministers, who represent the Executive, have to answer questions in Parliament constantly on all and any of their actions and decisions. Whereas the planned President elected for 7 years by the electorate does not have to account to anybody. He will exercise executive powers without any democratic control whatsoever.
- The proposed system with its two centres of power is a recipe for constant and useless political and institutional strife, which seems designed to promote dangerous communal polarization.
Suspension of Parliament and Arrogance
The Labour-MMM alliance has already exposed its authoritarian and even totalitarian tendencies. During the Ramgoolam-Bérenger negotiations, they just closed Parliament down. Otherwise the situation of an Opposition Leader being well-nigh in Government would have been just too humiliating for Bérenger. Knowing that Parliament represents the voice of the people, the enormity of their action in closing it down is clear.
Ramgoolam and Bérenger have shown the degree of their arrogance when their electoral agreement is only viable if they win three-quarters of seats. They only have a “Plan A”, and the electorate is supposed to give them a three-quarters majority and then at some later date vote in Ramgoolam as President. They have no Plan B, for an electoral victory but without a three-quarter’ majority for constitutional changes, nor for what would happen if Ramgoolam were not elected President.
Their pathological intolerance of any criticism is also of concern. They insult and threaten individual journalist like no other politicians have ever done. And anyone who Bérenger does not agree with is immediately a “donkey”.
We see the Labour-MMM Alliance as a grave danger for the broad masses of the people whether at an economic or democratic level. LALIT’s campaign is to oppose this threat, but without duping ourselves that all the opposition parties can just ally together, left and right all on one platform. The recently cobbled together “Lalyans Lepep”, with Ramgoolam’s last two Finance Ministers at the helm, can hardly be an “alternative”. It is barely “alternance”. Its program is populist, not in any way socialist, despite the MSM’s name.
Our aim in LALIT is not just an electoral resistance. What is needed is a Political Program that at the same time exposes and denounces the two bourgeois Alliances, while also proposing genuine economic and democratic alternatives: socialist alternatives. In the coming campaign, during the election and afterwards that is what LALIT is proposing. This is the best way of opposing the dangers that the Labour-MMM alliance represent.