Will ‘Political Disobedience’ affect our Body Politic?

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The false dawn of an Arab democratic renaissance following the Arab uprising in the spring of 2011, the ongoing financial crisis gripping Europe and the USA with stagnant economic growth despite tough austerity measures, the failure of economic dogmas to address these issues, the resurgence of right wing political parties and emergence of protest movements could augur the demise of politics as we have known it over the ages.

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement of 2011, which took everyone by surprise including the occupiers themselves, was a manifestation of protest against traditional politics, rejecting the existing political order entirely as inherently corrupt, and calling for the complete reinvention of a new order. Of course the OWS movement was short-lived as it was a coalition of conflicting interests united only in disobeying the conventional political grammar. Political disobedience differs from civil disobedience in that civilly disobedient activists accept the consequences of breaking selected laws in order to highlight the injustice of those laws. Political disobedience refuses to engage with the existing political order at all and looks for alternative ways to express its dissatisfaction. At the last February Italian general elections, more than 25 % of the electorate opted for the anti-establishment Star Movement of TV comic Beppe Grillo. Fascist parties have made major inroads in the Greek Parliament, Front National of Marine LePen is siphoning support from mainstream political parties in France, and the UK Independent Party – a racist protest movement is poised to make significant gains at this week’s local elections in the UK.

This brings us back to the title question. Is there any public disaffection with our Mauritian political system? Why has less than half of the electorate turned out to vote at the last Municipal elections, which were two years overdue? The cascade of scandals infecting our society is unending. Craven lobbyists snatching juicy contracts through unsolicited bids, complicit regulators such as the Bank of Mauritius, Financial Services Commission, Financial Intelligence Unit, ICAC etc. unashamedly passing the buck to each other on the Ponzi rip off, institutions protected by the Constitution failing in their mission, unquestioning and servile media, with a few notable exceptions, accommodating the excesses of the authority, the young and the aged at the mercy of their predators – the list appears to be endless and yet this politics of impunity seems to shock only a few!

Our political order needs readjustment. Our youth should be enticed back to mainstream politics, enriching the public discourse with new ideas, articulating innovative approaches to politics in an age of instant communication and social media. Our major political parties must modernise their structure and mode of operation. Traditional mass rallies must be supplemented with specialized Focus Group Discussions, confrontational debates on issues of public interest, honest analysis of the social and economic policies advocated by each party. Standing Orders of our National Assembly must be revised to allow for proper parliamentary scrutiny of the policies of the Executive. This list is by no means exhaustive. If we ignore the current political alienation presently threatening traditional democracies, we should not be surprised of the likes of Parti Malin outperforming Beppo Grillo in our next general elections!

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