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Fears of Berenger-Ramgoolam. Entrenchment of Communal Best Loser System


During Paul Berenger's time in Government (2000 to 2005) he was involved in three actions to keep the Best Loser system firmly in place. This anachronistic system, which ensures that the National Assembly has a fairly proportionate representation of different supposed ethno-religious communities of the population, was by then coming under increasing attack. The Best Loser System is the part of the Constitution that gives a "blessing" to the worst communalist politics, because it communalizes the entire National Assembly, and "en aval" the whole of mainstream politics. In 2000, in a case against Lalit's candidates for drawing lots for the "community" to fill in on Nomination Papers, the Supreme Court specifically called on the next Government to do away with the system. Pressure was mounting. But PM Paul Berenger, as we know, did the opposite; while, to mask his support for the Best Loser System, he took a public stand that . . . nothing should be one at all. "It will die," he announced, "a natural death". Since a Constitutional Amendment, no less, is the way to do away with it, "doing nothing" will, of course, preserve it. As Navin Ramgoolam now looks around for how to get a three-quarters majority to amend the Constitution (avowedly to do away with the post of Vice President to save money), and as communal confrontations have mounted over issues like loud-hailers, Lalit fears that Ramgoolam might seek a three-quarter majority to bring Constitutional changes including, inter alia, a curious form of stabilization of the Best Loser System.

1. Berenger set up the Sachs Commission. In a move that shocked everyone, the MMM-MSM Government gave it Terms of Reference specifically excluding reference to the Best Loser System. And, for good measure, the MMM, as a party, attached its own "Brief on proportional representation", in which it instructed the Commission not to touch the Best Loser System. The Sachs Report obliged. So, if the Report were adopted in the context of Ramgoolam's planned Constitutional amendments, the Best Loser System would be left intact, thus effectively stabilized into a brand new electoral reform.

2. When he was Prime Minister, and under pressure from women for better representation, Paul Berenger, came up with an outrageous proposal of a Bill instituting Best Loser seats for women, too. This, had it not been rejected, would have given a veil of legitimacy to the communal Best Loser System. We might see subtler attempts along these lines to stabilize communal best losers.

3. Prime Minister Berenger together with the most ardent supporter of the Best Loser System Yousouf Mohamed threw their political weight behind the Balancy judgment in the Rezistans ek Alternativ case. Balancy was called on to allow candidates who object to self-classification, to avoid it. The weakness of the Balancy judgment is that self-classification by candidates is only a symptom of the iniquity of the Best Loser System, not the iniquity itself. Balancy left the entire sick edifice in place. Right down Berenger's street, that was. All the mainstream and communalist candidates could then just get on with the newly stabilized old system. As Berenger and Subron share platforms on DWC closure and sackings, as well as on targeting for SC and HSC examination fees, it is not surprising that they are both only appear to attack the Best Loser System while in fact objectively stabilizing it.

If PM Ramgoolam, supported by Paul Berenger, bring Amendments including the incorporation of the Balancy judgment into Schedule 1 of the Constitution, Yousouf Mohamed, for one, would whole-heartedly agree.