News on Sunday

In the event of General Elections : 2019 May Day’s tightrope political walk

In the past, May Day was indissolubly bound up with the struggle for workers’ rights. This year, in Mauritius, it will be the struggle of our four main political parties for attracting the maximum of diehards and supporters in their respective rallies. Contrary to the four previous years, the crowds’ comparison will be of paramount importance for the Labour Party, MSM, MMM and PMSD being in an electoral year. Without any doubt and as usual, they will all overinflate the figures, as this year’s crowd battle will alter the balance of power, which will be the cornerstone of alliance negotiations for the next general elections. 

Given the vital importance of this crowd battle, leaders of these four main political parties will not skimp on the means to gather as many people as possible. None will take the risk to cut corners, especially on the expenses. They will even take the liberty to overspend. Through close encounter activities, they have focused mainly on diehards who are more trustworthy to turn out on 1st May. As usual, transportation facilities will be put at their disposal to attend the rally before going to have a picnic at the seaside. To put icing on the cake, even food is given for free, more frequently a takeaway of ‘briani’ and a soft drink. In some cases, even pocket money is given on top of all these facilities. Alcoholic drinks are provided after the political gathering to some supporters. On that day, supporters will be kings. Politicians feel neither embarrassed nor will they gnash their teeth for having to bend down in front of supporters who are very demanding because the only goal of May Day is to generate a much larger crowd.

The size of rallies matters a lot in this electoral year. It will be an indication of the popularity of each political party afoot the coming general elections. Political observers and the public at large will fix their attention on the composition of the crowds. Which party will have a more compact and amped-up crowd and which one will have a listless crowd? And from then on, which party will be able to head start the campaign?  All political parties will do their utmost best so that their rally can motivate the base, create excitement and momentum among swing voters. Believe it or not, this event will mark the unofficial launching of the electoral campaign. It will be the kick-off of the electoral dynamics and by July, they will be rolling down the campaign trail with a well-oiled machinery.

The stakes of the crowd battle will be two-staged. On the one hand, there will be a raw and raucous battle between the MSM and the PTr, each concerned to establish itself as the favorite locomotive for the coming general elections. The party, which will succeed in reuniting the biggest crowd, will present itself as the potential winner in the next elections. And by ricochet, it will be able to seduce the silent majority whose vote will be decisive. In the same stride, the size of the crowd will determine the bargaining power of the Labour Party and the MSM towards minor partners.

On the flip side, the two potential minor partners, the MMM and the PMSD, will have to fight hard for an obvious reason. The MMM is forced to attract a larger crowd than the PMSD to demonstrate that there has been no drain of its supporters towards the PMSD, the MP and the PM. In short, there is no free fall, as claimed by its opponents. Otherwise, Paul Bérenger will not be able to convince neither Pravind Jugnauth nor Navin Ramgoolam that the MMM has the right to an equal sharing of tickets, ministries and embassies, which constitute the nitty gritty of the crucial phase of negotiation. 

For its part, after its debacle in the by-election in constituency No. 18 in December 2018, it is compelling for the PMSD to prove that its base is still intact. Otherwise, it will not be a piece of cake for Xavier-Luc Duval to be able to obtain 14 tickets as in 2014. And it seems to be a mere dream to have 4 ministries.

In fact, the outcome of the 1st May rallies will redesign the political landscape but not from scratch after Pravind Jugnauth, Navin Ramgoolam, Xavier-Luc Duval and Paul Bérenger had walked on the May Day tightrope. Who will be the winners and the losers? We will have the answer next week. Be patient.

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