Towards an MSM-MMM government?

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A vote for the MMM is a vote for the MSM. This was the leader of the Labour Party Navin Ramgoolam this week. The spectre that’s increasingly haunting the Labour Party is that of a post-electoral tie-up between the MSM and the MMM to keep the Labour Party from power.

Ramgoolam is right to be fearful. It stems from his knowledge that this time what happens after the election will be more important than the election itself and there – despite all the chest-thumping and bravado of the campaign – he is actually at a severe disadvantage vis-à-vis his rival, Pravind Jugnauth.

Imagine this scenario: the MMM fuelled by the enthusiasm of its partisans who for once are not tied down by a controversial alliance end up with between 10 and 12 seats. Who they choose will form the next government, whom they reject will be left out in the cold.  From the MMM’s point of view, a coalition is necessary since it does not want to spend five more years in the opposition if it does not have to. In this game, Pravind Jugnauth is at an advantage: wary of a repeat of the confusion of 2014 that led to electoral defeat, Navin Ramgoolam has rejected any possibility of sharing the prime ministership. For Pravind Juganuth, on the other hand, splitting the top job with Bérenger would be a small price to pay to save his party from a vengeful Ramgoolam back in power. Pravind Jugnauth also has the precedent of his own father, Anerood Jugnauth, splitting the job with Bérenger between 2000 and 2005 to make such a deal more palatable to his party. If the father could do it, why not the son?

Another disadvantage is that Ramgoolam has already promised the Finance Ministry and the No.2 position in government to Xavier Duval and the PMSD. Would Bérenger and the MMM be content playing third fiddle behind the PMSD? Unlikely. Pravind Jugnauth, on the other hand, has no real allies save for grupuscules and desperadoes whom he could chuck out without a second thought to make way for the MMM.

If the MSM and the MMM collectively end up with more seats than Labour-PMSD, there is no realistic reason for them to languish in the opposition under a minority government. The objections to a marriage between the MMM and the MSM rest more on moral objections than cold-blooded political realism that has marked the MMM’s alliance choices.

One example of this is the idea that the MSM until recently tried to weaken the MMM by poaching its members. The answer to that is that the MSM itself is a breakaway faction of the MMM that did not stop an alliance between the two in 1991. The MSM encouraged the RMM to break away in 1993; that did not stop an alliance with the MMM in 2000 either. Rashid Beebeejaun being in Labour did not stop the Labour-MMM alliance in 2014. If turncoats were an impediment to alliances, there would be no alliances in the country. Another example: the MSM has been horrible in government, so an alliance would mean pulling its chestnuts out of the fire. The presumption being that the MMM out of decency would stay away from the MSM and suffer five more years out of power. The MSM has already started the tango by denying tickets to its more controversial members. The MMM will rely on that to convince its own supporters. And in any case, a sharp sense of realism has always trumped morality at the MMM. Indeed, in any party in Mauritius.  Politics is the art of capturing and wielding state power, not the noble suicide. And after surviving so long out of power, the MMM does not look particularly suicidal.

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