Touria Prayag's Blog

By the people, for the politicians 22 August 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on March 22, 2014

History, they say, does not repeat itself. Rubbish! Pay a little visit to our paradise and you will find out just how many times it does. And just when we think there is something new out there, we realise we’ve been taken for a ride.

The White Paper about electoral reform which everyone with a short memory is awaiting with bated breath is no exception to the rule. It is the same old story of politicians thinking about how to get to or remain in power while pretending to be interested in furthering democracy for the benefit of the people.

Yes, the White Paper will come out soon enough – that much we are prepared to believe. And the prime minister will announce it with a gentle if superior look. Sort of Moses gazing at a sceptic after the Red Sea opened. But I would be very surprised if it contained anything that is genuinely aimed at getting us to play a more participative role in the running of this country.

The debates which will follow and the negotiations which will lurch into motion will be eerily similar to the ones we have had in the past and will be about anything except furthering our democracy. In fact, even before the White Paper has come out, the Remake has already – unwittingly perhaps – given us a taste of things to come. “The MMM should not be duped by the Labour Party”. Really? We thought this was about the people of this country! Sorry for misunderstanding!

Real democracy is about choice. Something we do not currently have. The first thing which should go is pre-election alliances. Cassam Uteem dropped hints about that this week in a radio interview. Every political party should face the electorate on their own strength – or weakness – and let the people decide who they want to be governed by. Having parties which share nothing except self-interest shoved down our throats defeats the whole purpose of democracy. Worse, pre-election alliances – without fail – are based on a sick ethnic logic which no Mauritian should accept.

Then the game of musical chairs should be stopped. We should no longer have non-descript MPs bargaining their way into high positions by crossing the floor and others acquiring illegitimate powers simply by threatening to go to an opposition all too eager to turn them into the best thing since sliced bread.

The Best Loser System should not be a negotiable condition. Although we are not naïve enough to believe that eliminating it would change our archaic mentalities, keeping it in our constitution is a form of legal acceptance which we can no longer afford.

The number of mandates for ministers has to be limited and those who have occupied positions at the helm of the country and are already drawing a pension from the state should not be allowed to go back into politics. In other words, new blood should be allowed to flow into the veins of our antiquated country.

Will the White Paper contain reforms along these lines? Will the opposition be looking out for this kind of reform or will it be happy to allow the important issues to drift along as before as long as each one gets their boutte? Will we end up with a system worsened by a disproportionate number of MPs paid from public funds? And finally, are we really heading for more democracy? In that too, history repeats itself: Arrete rever kamarade!

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