L'Express (Port Louis)

Mauritius: Best Loser System Revisited

opinion

Let's call a spade a spade: The ruling by the Human Rights Commission on the Best Loser System (BLS) is one of the dumbest ever and undeserving of any respect.

The requirement that a candidate for political office declare his religion, creed, way of life or whatever people are thinking of calling it is not wrong because the census is outdated. It is wrong because it is wrong to be imposing this requirement in the Mauritius of the 21st century.

Having said that, politicians know that giving something to a share of the electorate is easy. Taking it back is hell. BLS was achieved through a grand bargain which has withstood the test of time. One has only to visit Sri Lanka to understand how much strife we averted by providing minorities with a sense that they matter. To take back the protections that these communities enjoy is not only politically problematic but unjust as well. We are not at a moment in time where we can say unequivocally that discrimination doesn't exist. The BLS offers a measure of relief.

The fact that there is so much hand wringing even after so many expert studies and reports only goes to show that jettisoning the BLS is an idea whose time has come and gone. It is clear that given current circumstances, if electoral reform is to be pursued, it has to encompass the BLS, a prospect that is getting more and more unlikely.

In Logic, we often talk of the Law of the Excluded Middle. Either something is true or it is false. Politics, on the other hand, is said to be the art of the possible. We don't have to buy into the argument that doing away with the religious affiliation disclosure necessarily means the abandonment of the BLS. National leaders have a duty, like doctors, to do no harm. Since it is quite certain that the Supreme Court of Mauritius will someday find that the affiliation declaration is no longer sustainable, and since it is quite certain that there will not be consensus on the removal of the BLS in the foreseeable future, the parties should agree on doing what is necessary at this time to let candidates participate in election irrespective of their willingness to declare their way of life.

It is time for politicians of all stripes to stand up and be counted.

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