The electoral campaign for the by-election in Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes is officially in full swing following the Nomination Day on Saturday 4 November. The election will be held on 17 December with 40 candidates on the ballot and the major opposition parties expected to battle for the parliamentary seat.
There were no surprises on Nomination Day. The opposition parties stuck with their candidates, having announced them for several weeks now. The ruling coalition opted out of the by-election by not fielding any candidate in the only constituency in the country where they don't have a member of parliament. The candidates on the fringes of the mainstream parties were also present in large numbers with the expectation that they can take away some of the disgruntled votes.
Xavier-Luc Duval, leader of the Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD), is hoping that his footing in the constituency will help the party candidate, Dhanesh Maraye. The leader of the PMSD is the only member of parliament from Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes campaigning for the by-election with the other one, Kavi Ramano, now sitting as an independent member of parliament. Duval came out on top in the constituency during the 2014 general election but with a different set of circumstances this time around, a different candidate and fresh from the Mahmad Kodabaccus imbroglio, the PMSD will have its work cut out.
The Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) will hope to stop its electoral losing streak with its candidate, Nita Juddoo. The party had an elected MP in the constituency in Ramano but its base in Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes was in tatters when the latter left. The party has also been plagued with constant rumours of a future coalition with the ruling Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM), an issue that Paul Bérenger, leader of the party, has to dismiss almost every week in his press conferences.
For the Labour Party, this by-election is an opportunity to get back on the saddle after the thrashing it received in the 2014 general election and its decision not to participate in the 2015 municipal elections. With party stalwart Arvin Boolell hoping to get back into parliament after his two-year hiatus, he is also expected to face significant obstacles. His adversaries in the election were keen to point out the fact that if he won, Boolell's stint in the constituency would not last, with a return to Vieux Grand Port-Rose Belle very much on the cards for the next general election. The impact of Navin Ramgoolam, leader of the party, also remains to be seen.
Roshi Bhadain, leader of the Reform Party and whose resignation is the cause for this by-election, will hope that the momentum his party has built in the constituency will play into his hands. Bhadain has remained confident that he will upset the odds and defeat the mainstream political parties in the by-election by maintaining his focus on the Metro Express project. However, with the other opposition parties preferring to focus on different issues - with no lack of scandals originating from the government to choose from - the leader of the Reform Party seems to be playing in a league of his own. If the people of Belle Rose - Quatre Bornes are keen to see the project stopped, they could be tempted by Bhadain's rhetoric. The main concern remains that this is only a by-election and that a victory for Bhadain would only give him back his seat for a status quo of the political situation from a few months ago.
The Mouvement Patriotique (MP) is also fighting for its long-term survival with this by-election and its candidate Tania Diolle. The post-electoral offshoot of the MMM has faced major structural issues since its inception in 2015 without even contesting an election yet. The party made a bold choice by going for a young and politically literate candidate, however, it has since been revealed that there was a strong preference for some members of the party to back a candidate from another party instead. This is a major issue with the MP given that it does not have a national appeal yet and is expected to join forces with one of the mainstream parties ahead of the next general election.
Kugan Parapen from Rezistans ek Alternativ and Jack Bizlall from Muvman Premye Me will likely be the voices of the more left-leaning voters in the constituency. Both Parapen and Bizlall could also prove popular among young voters willing to move away from the political elites towards a different kind of representation in parliament. As a matter of fact, Parapen won 2093 votes during the last general election in the same constituency while Bizlall managed a respectable 3479 votes in Beau Bassin-Petite Rivière.
With a total of 40 candidates on the ballot, the biggest outcome of this by-election could be more than just the winner. Voter tendency to go with candidates outside of the major parties could be indicative of a new trend within the political landscape even though that would not necessary be representative of all the constituencies in the island.