“Duval’ is a brand, not a dynasty,” the leader of the Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate, Xavier Luc Duval, told Weekly in an interview in our last week’s edition. It was in relation to his son, Adrien, who, to the vast surprise of absolutely nobody, waltzed into the political arena at the age of 23 and managed to secure an investiture. Duval later swatted the protest away with the line we have become so familiar with: everybody else does it, not only in this country but the world over. So move along. Nothing to see here.
This move does not exactly imply that we are now treading into unknown waters. Far from it. The tradition of dynasties is as old as independent Mauritius. We are also prepared to concede that, in some way, the word ‘brand’ is appropriate. After all, the logo of each party revolves around one charismatic personality, surrounded by a few loyal members who stick around through thick and thin. The rest of the membership – as we have seen throughout our short history – sways with the wind, depending on where the grass is greener. Though we always sort of knew this and it has seeped so deep into the country’s pores that we have begun accepting it as part of our lives, what we are witnessing today is a new phenomenon, characteristic of banana republics.
What is eerie about this phenomenon is first, the proportions it is taking. In our cover story this week, we gave a detailed analysis of how we moved from a national assembly made up of 5.7% of dynasties in 1976 – sorry, brands – to a whopping 27.5% in 2010 – a figure which is set to increase drastically in the next election. What this means is not only that the same families keep limping into power through various means but that a huge proportion of arguably more deserving, competent and honest citizens are largely frozen out of the national assembly, making a mockery of the principle of meritocracy you see on each party’s manifesto at election time.
More significant perhaps is the fact that a more literate, educated and – one would assume – enlightened electorate is returning more and more ‘brands’ to parliament, thus encouraging politicians to continue fielding their sons, daughters and cousins. It is a sobering realisation to those who think that dynasties are soooo last century.
But the most worrying aspect of this nastier-than-thou ‘brand’ bidding is the fact that now we are no longer talking about candidates benefitting from the name they bear – a legitimate aspiration, to be honest. We have been witnessing candidates being fielded by and along with their fathers and cousins in the same election! And, for the first time, we have a shadow prime minister and a shadow deputy-prime minister standing for election with their own sons! There is no precedent for that – not here, not anywhere else.
In countries where good practice and ethics are the rule, we are unlikely to ever see this. Over here, before we sank so low, politicians generally resigned from the political arena as soon as their offspring decided to cut their teeth in politics. The second generation of our national assembly in recent years – with one exception – has been made up largely of the sons and daughters of family members of politicians who have either left this world or that of politics. By moving away from that tradition, we have crossed a dangerous line and secured our place in a republic where political parties have turned into pure family businesses. Let’s call it the “Margoze republic”, shall we?