The purpose of this paper is to examine the factors that made the Mauritus citizens decide to give a full vote to the MMM/PSM coalition led by Anerood Jugnauth against the MPL/PMSD alliance led by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam in the 1982 General Election.
The 1982 General Election witnessed the participation of 34 political parties and 360 candidates to fill 70 seats in the National Assembly-62 directly elected on first pass the post basis and 8 according to communal representation in the Assembly. This system is to ensure a balance representation in the National Assembly- a democratic process to give the minority a voice in the Assembly.
Prior to the election the ruling party ,the MPL led alliance was weakened with the defection of his allied partner the PMSD, while the Muslim Committee of Action declined to contest the Election leaving the road safe for the MMM/PSM coalition to exploit.
The MMM coalition with the PSM was a strategic thinking as the PSM was used to pull the Hindu votes in support of the coalition.
The MMM/PSM coalition created history by winning all the seats.The MMM/PSM gathered 64.16 % of the votes and all elected seats-42 MMM candidates ,18 PSM candidates and two for the allied Organisation du people Rodriguais(OPR). Voters turned out was 87.3% with 471196 out of an electorate of 540,000 casting their votes for the 34 parties contesting the 62 elected seats.
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The Mauritius labour party which had dominated the Mauritius Political landscape since 1948 got no candidates elected despite securing 25.78 percentages of the votes. The PMSD did even worst receiving only 7.79% of the votes cast. The MPL and the PMSD each did receive two seats in the parliament under the best loser system. Even the leader Sir SeewoosagurRamgoolam failed to be elected in his “bastion”.
According to larry W Bowman, the 1982 election was a powerful endorsement of the democratic process governing election process. It was open ,free and fair election in which an aging elite which had run out of ideas was replaced by a much younger and basically untested group of individuals who promised new programmes and new hopes. It was a democratic transformation of remarkable proportions and suggested that Mauritius was beginning to move beyond intensively communal politics. Accordingly this paper first briefly reviews the causes of the defeat, followed by an appraisal of the factors.
Another school of thoughts believed that the MPL lose the election because of rising inflation, absolute poverty, unemployment which led to a wave of change sweeping the country. Added to all these factors was the publication of the Pay Research Bureau Report , long awaited by the Civil Servant. The Report was burnt in the Public place. The whole Civil service turn out against the Government of the day and hence the defeat of the MPL led alliance was already on the wall. The MMM controlled most of the trade unions in strategic areas such as the transport industry, the port areas, the sugar industry and the Civil service. External factors that contributed was the price of Oil on the market.
The period between 1880 to 1936 was very crucial in the development of Mauritius. Infact this period in the history of Mauritius was marked by changes in the socio-economic structure of the Island. It ushered a new dawn . It gave rise to political movement on the island, which is argued led to political emancipation and struggle for independence. The seed was sown and need to be nurtured until it would have stood on strong foundation with the emergence of visionary political leaders.
The year 1880 also witnessed an unprecedented economic upheaval – a fall in the price of sugar ewhich led to the parcellisation of land and the centralization of sugar mills. New land owners emerged among the indentured labourers known as small planters- an expression still very much alive today, that we have the Small Planters welfare Fund under the aegis of the Ministry of Agro industry and food security.
From plantation to politics
New found wealth made some of the small planters prosperous and started to invest in the education of the children. Many of whom were professionals educated in British universities. On their return to the island they join political movements and emerged as leading political figures among whom were the Bissoondial brothers, Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Boolell and others. The children of planters moved from plantation to politics and later as Ministers.
It is argued that the arrival of Sir John Pope- Henessy as new governor that boosted the campaign for representative Government, which led to constitutional amendments to accommodate the new proposal. Governor Henessy coined the term Mauritius for Mauritian at a prize giving ceremony at Royal College. A reform movement started and the Reformers wanted the right to share in the administration and finance of the island.
The first council of Government was thus established in 1825 and consisted of the Governor and four officials.In 1831 following a representation made by AdrienD`Epinay on behalf of the “Comite colonial “the constitution was amended to include unofficial members in the Council of Government.Under the new constitution the Council was composed of seven officials and the same number of unofficial chosen by the Governor from the chief landed proprietor and principals merchants of the island. The Constitution was not amended until 1885.The new Constitution established by Letters Patent in 1885 provided for a council of Government consisting of the Governor, eight ex-officio members, nine members nominated by the Governor and ten members elected on a restricted franchise requiring both literacy andeither ownership of immovable property of a minimum value or payment of rent for immovable property of a minimum amount or payment f a license duty or receipt of a minimum salary. Of the elected members, two represented Port Louis the capital of the island and eight the rural districts.
It was until 1933 that the constitution was again amended in any significant manner. In that year the proportion of nominated members of the council not holding public office was raised to two thirds and although no provision to that effect was made in the Letters Patent, there was an understanding that these nominated non-official members were to be allowed a free vote on all occasions. There was no change in the franchise.
The nominal life of the Council of Government was five years but the council formed in 1936 endured till948 because of the world war between 1939-1945 and partly because of delay in reaching a final decision on a new and more liberal constitution.
In 1947 the Governor Sir Donald Mackenzie Kennedy submitted a new proposal to the Secretary of the State which was accepted- The Council of Government was replaced by a Legislative Council composed of nineteen members elected in five multi- member constituencies on what was basically a simple literacy franchise, twelve members nominated by the Governor and three ex-officio members.The Governor presided over the legislative Council, with a vice president elected by and from among the members of the council. The widened franchise was estimated to raise the number of voters from under 12,000 to about 80,000 in fact 71,723 qualified to vote in the 1948 election.
In August 1948 a general election was held and the first legislative council met on 1st September 1948. The result was a transformation of the composition of the legislature: only 4 members of the old council of Government were elected, 11 of the elected members were Hindus, and the Mauritius labour party grouped 13 of the elected members. Three members of the Labour party including DrRamgoolam and one nominated member were selected by the legislative Council for appointment in the Executive Council and the Governor added another member of the Labour party and one of the muslim nominated member as no muslim was elected.
In 1953 a motion was passed in the legislative council by the president of the labour Party requesting the Secretary of State to receive a delegation in London to discuss constitutional issues. In 1955 agreement was reached on a number of proposal to improve and strengthen the machinery of Government on the need for a change in the status and powers of members of the legislative council. Members of the executive council were to be known as Ministers-Universal adult suffrage was introduced, but coupled with a form of proportional representation and multi-member constituencies, an increase in the number of elected members of the legislative council from 19 to 25 and a maximum of 12 nominated members.
For the 1958 election, the CAM joined forces with the MLP while the IFB joined forces with the PartiMauricien. The principal of universal suffrage was accepted as well as the ministerial system of Government.There were 159 candidates standing in 39 constituencies. There were 208,726 electors but only 191,676 voted. The Labour Party won 23 out of 40 seats, IFB 6 seats and the CAM 5 seats.
SSR and The Labour Party.
The entry of Ramgoolam into the labour party changed the profile and character of the Party. The personality and popularity of Ramgoolam immediately had its impact on the political landscape pof Mauritius. It was marked by a move from class politic to parliamentary politics. Ramgoolam believed that constitutional changes needed to take place to allow Mauritius to make decisions to undertake the economic and social reforms. Ramgoolam was able to rally around him a large number of politically minded of all religions and ethnic groups.
On 12 March 1964 internal self-Government was introduced with the Governor retaining wide powers. In 1965 Anthony Greenwood, the Secretary of State came to Mauritius to take stock of prevailing situation and following consultation with the population agrred that there was need for further constitutional discussion. Despite the riots of 1965 and the rise of communal politics the colonial office pressed for constitutional reforms and progress.
Registration of Electors
It has been reported that the registration of electors in 1966 was observed by a team of Commonwealth representatives from Jamaica, India, Canada and Malta and that the new registers came into force on 24 January 1967. After consultation with the premier, the Governor dissolved the Legislative assembly on 20 June 1967 and polling in the General Election took place on 7 August 1967 another constitution came into force in the same year.
The council of ministers was responsible to the legislative council.
The Governor no longer had wide powers. Election was announced on 7 August 1967. The Ministry of Information launched an island wide publicity programme to cover the General Election. Appeals of the Governor and leaders of political parties on the radio and T.V. to the public for a disciplined and peaceful electoral campaign, were translated in Hindustani, tape recorded and played back through out the Island. Copies were also made and sent to the press for publication. A poster informing the public the day of polling and the general procedures of voting were prepared and distributed. Copies were placed in conspicuous place in each constituency. A simplified version of the poster in Hindustani was sent to all village and district Councils.
Slogans appealing the Public to exercise their rights and to refrain from creating trouble by word or deeds were fed to the press for publication till Polling Day. A film entitled :How to vote was prepared by the MBC and the Electoral commission was released by the MBC/ TV with comments in French, Creole and Hindustani.
There were 307,908 voters and the election main contention was independence against association. The labour Party in coalition with the CAM and the IFB renamed as the Independence party won the election with 56% of the votes. This gave Ramgoolam the political clout to ask for independence. Mauritius achieved independence on the 12th March 1968.
1982 General Election/ The historical result
This 12th June marked the 30th year since a political alliance in Mauritius harvested its first 60-0 victory following a general election. The country gave a very strong signal to the world of democracy when it voted massively for a MMM/PSM government which lasted for 0nly nine months.
The Labour Party was perceived as an autocratic movement ruled by Sir Seewoosagur who had the support of close old friends. After the 1976 election the LP/PMSD alliance formed a government with 36 parliamentarians facing an opposition of 34 MMM members. It was visible that the Prime minister and leader of the ruling alliance party,SSR had difficulty to manage unity among his troupe.
On the other side, the MMM was very active, controlling the trade unions and excelled at grass-root level in keeping contact with the population. They were also very aggressive in the Legislative Assembly.
At the same time the country, in spite of the sugar boom, could not alleviate poverty, control prices of foodstuffs and fight unemployment. Corruption and fraud showed its ugly face to the profit of a few cronies while at the same time the Labour Party started to show its traditional laisser-faire ‘ attitude during moments of crisis. Indecision, Inaction, and Inattention were ingrained and observers could see that ‘there was a lack of leadership in the governance of Mauritius.
SSR old guard still believed that the people are emotional and would show sympathy to ‘the old man’ during elections. In fact the people, even though did not show its anger, adopted a resigned attitude and waited for the proper time to show that ‘enough is enough,’ while at the same time Paul Bérenger was gathering wind to create a storm.
In this unstable political environment, 16 young members of the Labour Party gathered around Harish Boodhoo to contest the leadership of SSR in the Labour Party.
The 16-member splinter group chose H. Boodhoo as their leader. They started to bring our complaints to the leader of the party and discussed their willingness for change within the four walls of the party headquarters. SSR and his old guards resisted and treated them with contempt. Their pride forbade them to accept their mistakes and particularly newcomers in the party that they had failed, that to there was need for change, that a new Labour ideology should be adopted in the wake of a new wave of industrialisation and the development of tourism.
Thus they were more and more cut off from the population, the realities of the day and the sufferings of the common man. Instead they listened to sycophants and the State Security Service, helped by foreign elements, who deliberately hiding the truth in order not to sufferssr wrath.
All the ingredients were there for his downfall and the recipe for a political disaster was well prepared for the country to welcome a new revolution.
Leaders of socio-cultural organizations who pledged loyalty to him were mainly responsible to have given SSR the fatal blow in 1982 in his own constituency as well as elsewhere. They blackmailed him for gains and changed colours on the eve of Election Day.
At the instigation of Harish Boodhoo the Government intituteda Commission of Enquiry on two sitting ministers. They were found guilty and convicted.
It’s true that after the victory over Daby and Badry another inquiry on 2 other senior ministers were asked for with the result that Gungoosingh, Beedassy and Boodhoo were expelled from the Labour party. Out of 16 members of the ‘contestation group’, there remained only the 3 .; betrayed by the 13 others. The MMM proposed the post of DPM to Bhoodoo. Jugnauth was against the proposal and he was against any alliance as before between the IFB of SookdeoBissoondoyal and the MMM. He could not withstand such alliances as Sookdeo and Harish would have outclassed him by far. Had there been an IFB/MMM alliance in 1976, the Labour party would have lost the election. So, after several working sessions between the the PSM and the MMM, an alliance was concluded- 18 tickets for the PSM with Harish Boodhoo as DPM and 5 Ministries. We went for the June election and won a record 60-0 victory.
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The writing was on the wall since 1976 but Sir SeewoosagurRamgoolam failed to read it or he did not want to see things as they were. Those who asked him to turn his head towards the signs and spoke the naked truth to him were ridiculed and treated with contempt. The atmosphere smelt the rotten, the people were suffocating and there was need for fresh air. New ideas and new attitudes were badly needed. Therefore the people were right at voting for a change and the public gave the world a lesson- the best democratic way to topple a government.
SSR respected the verdict-with magnanimity. It was later realised the big mistake that people had made by not voting for SSR. Yes, that drastic change was all worth it. It gave a lesson to one and all. Never take the people for granted. They are the most important factor in a democracy. However such a strong majority had its own germ of destruction- a political vacuum leads to a form of opposition from within. In a democratic set-up there should be brakes and not only accelerators to press ahead blindly. There should be checks and balances. Those in power should never be given a blank cheque.
There are many reasons. The main ones could be:
-There were problems inside the MMM; they cut off from the masses and from their own people. Some MMM MPs turned out to be arrogant and created tension within their own party. They were behaving just like George Bush Jr after his conquest of Iraq.
Anerood was too weak and hopeless as leader. His powers were not respected by the MMM politburo. Paul was doing all the work and interfering in all ministerial matters; just like in communist Russia it is the politburo governing and as in Libya it is the supreme commander of the military taking all important decisions and where the Constitution loses its supremacy. This situation brought conflicts with Anerood.
The reasons for the defeat were among others unemployment. Unemployment was considered to be one of the worst problems facing the country. There were practically no employment opportunities ,it was as if the economy was stagnet. It was believed that productive jobs rather than relief jobs needed to be created. In post 1982 import substitution industries were promoted which lad to cration of productive jobs.
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Post 1982 Election.
The first tremor was felt when Kader Bhayat, minister of Commerce, had problems with Paul Bérenger, minister of Finance over price control. It followed by a hate campaign. During Cabinet meeting, Anerood could not lead and it was Paul taking all decisions turning ministers wild. There were constant conspirations by some MMM parliamentarians, who aspired to become ministers, to send off the 5 PSM ministers. Permanent Secretaries and heads of departments often dealt directly with Paul Bérenger. Anerood did not like it and felt humiliated. The 1967 anti-Hindu and anti-Independence syndrome raised its head again and wanted revenge by lobbying to have Paul Bérenger as head of government. Paul resisted. But Hindus took it very badly.
It was finally the expulsion of Kader Bhayat and AneroodJugnauth which brought the break in October 1982 followed by violent incidents at the QuatreBornes municipality and the first ‘ transfuges’ KailashRuhee and Jocelyn Seenyen of the PSM were harboured by the MMM. Everybody wanted fresh general elections.
Well, the MMM/PSM alliance itself was based on communalism. It is a Mauritian reality. We should not make a fuss of it. Think of the 1967 general election for Independence or Integration where the anti-Hindu campaign by the private sector and one of the main established religions was openly voiced; the main newspapers belonged to the anti-independence section of the population with their mixed-breed journalists humiliating the Hindus. In 1982, the MMM presented Anerood as Prime Minister, HarishBoodhoo as the VPM and fielded all 60 candidates with profiles so as to satisfy all races, religious beliefs and even castes. That was the time when Libya was close to some MMM prominent members using as base Muslim sensitiveness.
They looted a lot of Libya money. One of them was even caught by Police Intelligence officers within the precincts of the Libyan embassy with a bag full of money. This was followed by socio-cultural organisations lobbying with PSM/MMM leaders for more favours based on their racial denominations and the anti-independence press who wanted to take revenge on the 1967 defeat.
‘ Then all of a sudden CassamUteem, only two months after the 1982 MMM/PSM victory, went to Libya to attend an Islamic conference giving the impression that Mauritius is a religious state when during the electoral campaign underlined that secularism should govern the country. As The mew Government installed itself in various ministries, some wanted to eradicate traditions and cultures inherited from India and Pakistan to establish a firm ‘creole’ culture. Radio and TV local programmes were suddenly changed into creole language; even the main French news bulletin was read in creole language. The section of the Mauritian people belonging to the general population was themselves against such changes. They preferred to go to their African and Malagasy roots whose cultures and traditions were completely lost, wiped out deliberately by the colonizers. And now that they are studying French and English to reach a vertical social mobility, they are asked to keep with the creole language and maintain their servile status.
There is a tendency in Mauritius to tax only Hindus as racist when in fact it is a community that has integrated 100% in the Mauritian society while others fled, leaving their Motherland, thinking that it would end up in famine and underdevelopment! All these were ingredients for a PSM/MMM government failure.
Report on Mauritius 1965
Fokeer A. F. The Reform Movement—1919
Mauritian History- Vijayalaksmi Teelock
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