Mauritius: Curtailing democratic powers?October 23, 2014
Politicians representing the caretaker rulers of the tiny Indian Ocean Republic of Mauritius are aiming high at a ‘Second Republic’, a move that risk concentrating powers into the hands of a political class for a long time to come.
However, a movement is building up that may halt the ambitious plans of Paul Berenger and Navin Ramgoolam to bid for the concentration of political powers into the hands of a few.
“Mauritius has a long history of democracy, and in this regard may be considered to be one of the few countries outside the realm of the Western world to be considered a true democracy, the project for the second republic may not be what Mauritius need, as it will curtail Parliamentary powers,” said a political analyst to Wfol.tv.
The need for constitutional changes, the reasoning for a 2nd republic – following the French style of republic – and the supposed division of powers between two men at the top of the executive sounds like an attempt to usurp powers, to many.
However, for the Labour-MMM alliance, the plan is being pushed as the survival plan for Mauritius which they say is in danger of sinking in a chaotic situation, and become ungovernable due to corrupt practices.
in order to bring the constitutional changes to the fore, the Labour Party dumped the Movement Socialist Militant (MSM), after a fall-out on perceived corruption by ministers of the MSM, thus ending a coalition that won the 2010 General Elections by a sufficiently large margin against the MMM.
Today, many observers believe the throwing of the MSM out of the ruling coalition was to consolidate the Labour party’s hold on power, giving it total control of the government apparatus.
The MSM was then boosted by the resignation of Sir Aneerood Jugnauth – stalwart political figure of Mauritius credited for the economic boom of the 1980-1995 era – who was then betrayed by Paul Berenger.
Jugnauth has, since his resignation as President, made unheeded calls to stop the Labour party and its leader Navin Ramgoolam from turning the country into a crony state, where only the friends of the ruling party get government contracts and other freebies.
Before calling off the well planned ‘remake’ of the year 2000 coalition that defeated Ramgoolam’s Labour party in the general elections held in that year, Berenger secretly arranged for an alliance with the Labour Party.
This happened only after Navin agreed to the terms of the new republic and the changes to be brought to the constitution under the ‘second republic’.
However, Navin was adamant that he has to be the very first elected president of the country, with sufficient powers, while Berenger would become a Prime Minister with limited powers, sources said.
Mauritius has a parliamentary democracy, where the Parliament of 70 MP’s holds the power to legislate while the Prime Minister runs the country and the President has the role of rubber stamping the laws passed by the Parliamentarians.
In the current scenario, the people are protected and the country’s democratic institutions are untouched, but observers and opponents claim corruption has settled in the system and this is damaging the country’s hold on democracy.
Under the new constitution, the Prime Minister will have the power to appoint 20 members of the Parliament, which is considered an abuse of authority and could lead to corrupt practices, said observers.
“With the sharing of powers between the Prime Minister and the President, it is clear the Parliament will be made redundant. It risk becoming a simple rubber stamping of laws entity,” said an observer.
He said the country’s democracy was now hanging on the how the SAJ ‘Alliance le Pep’ or the people’s alliance defends its arguments, in its bid to stop the MMM-Labour alliance from going ahead with their constitutional plans.
“Aneerood should use all the tools available to him, that is communal and popular measures to cause a dent in the MMM-Labour chances to win the next general elections,” the observer said.
A group of young Mauritians has also created a social media page on Facebook calling for the young generation of Mauritians to stand for their rights.
The group called the ‘United Young Mauritians’ is currently active in putting together an action plan that will be presented to the major political parties in the country, urging them to focus on preserving the rights of the youth to get jobs after university.
“Claiming they do not want to go against any parties in the next general election campaign, they should also raise democratic issues to the party leaders,” said the observer.
This way, he said, the politicians will know that the younger generations are not in favor of changes without consultation with the population.