Weekly (Port Louis)

Mauritius: The Triumph of the Minority

column

"No electoral reform this year," says the prime minister. I hope not. We are nearing Christmas time and changing the electoral system is not like going to the supermarket and picking up a new one off the shelf without even asking us what we would like for dinner. And if we are not going to have a 60+8+20 preposterous national assembly which looks like the Port Louis Bazaar just to allow cronies in through the back door, all the better! Now, how about looking at real issues instead. Those likely to change our lives.

What saddens me is that this talk about electoral reform and doing away with the best loser system has led to worms crawling out of the woodwork. Some demagogues who have become experts at riding on division have been insidiously trying to create a rift between communities, claiming that the majority group is getting the biggest share of the cake through undue privileges while the minorities are sitting and watching it happen. This talk is dangerous. It also diverts our attention from the real issues. Thinking that representation, best loser, changing the electoral system or having more cronies sitting on each other in the national assembly is going to change anything, is day dreaming.

It's important that we understand semantics and not be misled by the terminology used to dupe us into believing fallacies which serve only the interests of the demagogues.

Of course there is a class of people who are constantly gravitating around power. That is the privileged 'minority'.

No community is an innocent by-stander watching from outside this circle. The roder bout has no colour, no religion and no ethnic group. When power changes hands, members of this 'minority' make sure they are always on the right side and they get privileges which the rest of us can not even dream of.

This process is called nepotism. Nepotism and its cognate terms patronage, cronyism and favouritism, discriminates against capable professionals in favour of oftentimes mediocre or even substandard ones. It is a breach of a fundamental ethical obligation owed to us by government. Though Mauritius has a proud recent record of legislating to make discrimination unlawful, all too often policies and laws are exercised in a discriminatory manner.

These are the issues we should be concentrating on. A change in the electoral system will do nothing to change the system of patronage. It is against this system that the fight should be waged; against corruption, improper influence, dishonesty, fraud and graft, irrespective of which community those practising it belong to and no matter which political party is involved.

It is time we all realised who the enemy is. The battle against the system is not easy. It is worse than a battle against Hydra but as long as we keep thinking that a change in the electoral system or having more or fewer best losers will change anything, we will not even start it. Integrity of the selection processes and genuine transparency in hiring, firing and promotions is what we should be pushing for. We want to see the CVs and relevant work experience of those who are entrusted with state responsibilities. Clear and transparent procedures go right to the heart of the issue. If we manage to make those at the helm more accountable through proper checks and balances, who would even remember what the words 'best loser' and 'first past the post' mean? And major changes in our constitution cannot be done in a casual way behind our backs. We should all have a say in the future of our democracy.

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