Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 15 October 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on October 15, 2010

Editorial Click here to read l’Express Weekly


A second republic or opportunities for opportunists

For the time being, there is little to worry about as
well as little to look forward to. The talk about a second
republic is, at this stage, more of a “koz-koze”
than a real project to discuss with the opposition
or to introduce to parliament for approval. It has, however,
launched a debate which is not likely to stop anytime soon.
What is interesting is the way information is being communicated
to us. In the manner of a jigsaw in which the pieces are released
in driblets. From the few pieces of information gleaned here and
there, we can make out that the proposal is for a semi-presidential
democracy, similar to France’s Fifth Republic where the president
commands huge powers and is elected by popular vote. You would
need to add the local sauce to it because, like everything else, it has
to be adapted to our political and cultural realities, and it becomes
a semi-presidential system “à la mauricienne”.
I must say that I personally fi nd nothing inherently wrong with
that: the Fifth Republic in France has provided unprecedented
governmental stability and continuity of policy and France’s institutions
have, irrespective of the popularity of its political leaders
or lack thereof, enjoyed a legitimacy unknown to France since the
The local debate about having a semi-presidential system similar
to France’s Fifth Republic coincides, incidentally, with debate in
France about the creation of a Sixth Republic! Though the proclamation
of the Sixth Republic seems very unlikely, the debate goes
to show that the system we are considering is not fl awless either.
I am not concerned, as I perhaps should be, about the perceived
excessive powers that an eventual president of the republic would
command. The Prime minister, under the Westminster system, has
tremendous powers that a new constitution can hardly increase.
If anything, there is likely to be more power- sharing between the
Prime minister and the president, with all the personality clashes
that it entails. My contention is that the whole debate about a second
republic is, for the time being, centered around the powers
to be conferred on the president as well as the creation of a second
house, the senate, to supposedly limit these powers.
The questions of in what way a second republic would consolidate
the principles of good governance, accountability, meritocracy,
equal opportunity, unity and all the concepts we have heard lip
service paid to so many times do not seem to be part of the picture.
You might again peg me as an irredeemable cynic but let’s look
at it this way: for the politicians who are nearing or have gone past
their expiry date, the prospects of spending the rest of their days
vetting policies and being called “senator” are rather attractive. And
I would not deny them the ambition to retire in dignity. But let’s
be open about it and stop talking about our desire to consolidate
democracy; let’s rather say that what a new constitution will or will
not do for the ordinary citizen is not exactly the driving motivation
behind the proposal; that for many, the merits of a second republic
might be, as Arvin Boolell tersely puts it in the interview he gave us
this week, “widening the circle of opportunities for opportunists.”
We cannot stop powerful people from exercising their power
any more than we can prevent ambitious people from being carried
away by their ambition. All we are asking is for them to be honest
about it.


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