The by-election in Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes will be held tomorrow, Sunday 17 December, after months of campaigning for the 40 candidates on the ballot paper. With no candidate from the ruling Alliance Lepep coalition, the elected MP will strengthen the opposition benches to maintain the status quo from before the resignation of Roshi Bhadain.
Roshi Bhadain was elected in Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes during the 2014 general election under the Alliance Lepep. However, earlier this year, he left the government following the power handover between Anerood Jugnauth and Pravind Jugnauth. A prominent minister during his first two years in parliament, he joined former ally Xavier-Luc Duval, from the Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD), in making the transition from government to opposition within this mandate.
Bhadain eventually created the Reform Party and made the Metro Express project his banner call. On 23 June, he resigned from parliament, causing a by-election in Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes. At the time, he claimed that he wanted the by-election to act as a referendum for the project.
At the time of his resignation, the opposition was often perceived as acting as a united front when facing the ruling coalition in parliament. When Bhadain resigned – he has made similar suggestions in several interviews since – the leader of the Reform Party was expecting support from the fellow opposition parties in a by-election against a candidate from the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM) or the Muvman Liberater (ML).
That situation failed to materialise. In spite of the suspense until Nomination Day on 4 November, there was no candidate from the government. On the other hand, all opposition parties currently in parliament had their very own candidate to compete with Bhadain for the single seat available.
The Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) surprised many observers by going for a neophyte in Nita Juddoo ahead of stalwarts like Vijay Makhan and Satish Boolell. The PMSD opted for a similar strategy by overlooking the number of veterans in its ranks and chose novice Dhanesh Maraye instead. The Labour Party delved into the huge pool of beaten candidates in 2014 to choose Arvin Boolell for his first venture outside of the Vieux Grand Port and Rose Belle constituency. Finally, the Mouvement Patriotique, which was initially the most vocal supporter of a united opposition candidate, chose Tania Diolle to be on the ballot paper. Diolle was a former municipal councillor from the MMM.
While Bhadain, Boolell, Juddoo, Maraye and Diolle were considered the early favourites, outsiders Jack Bizlall and Kugan Parapen have also been at the forefront during this electoral campaign. While promoting left-wing policies, Parapen, from Rezistans ek Alternativ (ReA) is hoping to build on his performance in 2014, where he came seventh, following from the six candidates from the traditional parties. For veteran Bizlall, from the Muvman Premye Me (MPM) and who has been praised across the board during this campaign, he is hoping to convince voters that he can bring his significant experience into parliament.
On top of these seven candidates, 33 more people have put their name down on Nomination Day to participate on the by-election. Among them are Rajah Madhewoo, Reshma Sumputh-Ramchurn, Cehl Meeah, Alexandre Barbès-Pougnet, Nitish Joganah and Pramode Jadoo.
Bhadain resigned from parliament because of the Metro Express project but he has failed to get all the opposition parties to consider it as the primary concern of the by-election. Even Bhadain himself has now admitted that his options do not include stopping the Metro Express project anymore but rather making sure it does not have the same negative impact on the constituency. On the other hand, most of the other opposition candidates have sought to take this election as a prelude to snap general elections.
Candidates have tried to bring a number of different issues to the table such as the proliferation of drugs, corruption, road accidents, beach grabbing, environmental concerns, the need for a renewal of the political class, social inequality and electoral reforms, among other things. While these are some of the issues candidates have tried to focus on, they have been struggling to resolve another major one for this by-election. Abstention.
The word on the street in Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes is that the abstention rate will reach record heights during this by-election. The lowest abstention rate in the constituency was for the seminal legislative election in 1967 at just 9.2%. For decades, it oscillated around similar figures until the first MMM and Labour Party coalition in 1995, where the abstention rate in Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes reached 24.5%. The record was only broken again in 2014 with another MMM-Labour Party coalition with 26.5% abstention. It is expected that the abstention rate this time around will exceed 30%.
Parliament will only resume at the end of March 2018 so the full effect of the result of this by-election might not be felt until then. However, this could be a precursor for a number of different scenarios. A win for one of the traditional parties could increase their momentum ahead of a general election and give them a stronger bargaining chip during discussions for coalitions. If Bhadain wins, it would remain to be seen what the impact would be on the Metro Express project. Any other positive result for the outsiders would come as a major surprise and could significantly change the political dynamics in the country.
L’express vous propose une série d’articles sur l’élection partielle au n⁰18 , Belle-Rose–Quatre-Bornes. Découvrez, entre autres, les centres de vote, les députés passés et actuels ainsi que les candidats…