With only about two months left before the by-election in Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes, political parties have started to intensify their campaigns. While most opposition parties were hoping for snap general elections, the by-election will give them an opportunity to gauge themselves. However, there are some important facts that can help shed some light on the stakes of this by-election and its democratic process.
First of all, it is looking likely that there will be no candidate from the ruling coalition consisting of the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM) and the Muvman Liberater (ML). As a result, it will probably remain the only constituency in Mauritius that does not have a member of parliament from the government. The ruling coalition had a similar situation at the beginning of their mandate in Savanne and Black River but have since recruited Joe Lesjongard in their ranks.
The timing of the by-election also raises a significant issue with regards to parliamentary representation for the constituency. Roshi Bhadain resigned as an MP back in June of this year. By the time the by-election is held, the parliament session for this year is likely to be over. Therefore, it will only be in March next year – when parliament usually resumes – that the constituency will have three MPs again in parliament. It will mean that Belle Rose- Quatre Bornes will be left with two MPs for nearly nine months.
The democratic process has also created some confusion. Since the announcement of the by-election, some registered voters wondered whether they could still vote if they did not have the biometric ID card. According to the Electoral Commissioner’s Office, the old laminated ID card cannot be used to vote. It will represent the first major event where ID is required to participate since the old laminated ID was outlawed. However, passports, driving licences and even bus passes for students can be accepted as valid ID to cast your ballot.
With the opposition set to battle it out during the by-election, the result could lead to major changes in parliament. A win for Arvin Boolell would probably mean him taking over from Shakeel Mohamed to lead the Labour Party in parliament. On the other hand, a win for the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) would give them eight seats in parliament, having recently recruited Danielle Selvon. That is one seat away from the nine seats of the Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD). With the likes of Alan Ganoo, Jean-Claude Barbier and Kavi Ramano, all former members of the MMM, still in parliament, an opposition coalition could still see Paul Bérenger return as leader of the opposition.
The performance of the smaller parties is also worth keeping an eye on. Tania Diolle, representing the Mouvement Patriotique, is seeking to cause an upset. Kugan Parapen, from Rezistans ek Alternativ, is also a popular figure in the constituency, having performed well during the 2014 general election. Jack Bizlall, veteran from the political scene, is also likely to take some votes away from the mainstream parties.
Finally, a loss for Roshi Bhadain in the by-election could put a serious dent on his political aspirations. If he manages to win, it remains to be seen how he plans to stop the Metro Express project, which is the main reason why he resigned in the first place.