Last Tango in Rodrigues


Next to the plight of the besieged Palestinians, unspeakable inhumanity in Papua, living-nightmare in Iraq, ethnic-cleansing in Dafur … to bring up Rodrigues’ recent election is a bit like farting in church. But I guess a toothache, to the one on the end of it, is as important as the whole of Pompeii being encased in volcanic ash.


On Dec 10th 2006, Rodrigues had an election – or hatchet job, depending on who you talk to. Five months ago, following the defection of two OPR (Organisation du peuple Rodriguais) commissioners, the then opposition party of MR (Mouvement Rodriguais) suddenly found itself with a majority in the Assembly. Pre-empting a motion of no confidence, OPR commissioners resigned en bloc. Consequently, MR formed an interim ‘government’, which was later elected in its own right.


Let me describe step by odd step, how this was played out. It all began with the 2002 decision, to load Rodrigues with a proportional electoral system. To that end, the Political Intelligentsia, hmm, (excuse the oxymoron) commissioned experts and, an experimental system of FPTP (first-past-the-post) hybridized with party-list PR (proportional representation) was eventually concocted.


By and large, proportional systems are intended to give minority groups a degree of representation in the government. But, in the context of Rodrigues’ homogeneous population and its handful of seats, our model though well-intentioned, was unsuitable. In the meantime, it inadvertently affords the parties the option of burying their less popular candidates in the party list, thereby making them less accountable to the electorate.


As a potential future template for Mauritius, the proportional received the leper’s welcome. Even so it was considered good-enough – for Rodrigues. Thus, our people were enlisted to be its guinea pigs.


Few Rodriguans understood it, fewer wanted it and, fewest of all had any say in it; yet, it was reported to have had unanimous support.


In the wake of the 2002 and ‘06 elections, it proved to be more of a poison chalice than a gift horse, for example: in 2002 with 55% of the FPTP (first-past-the-post) vote, OPR won 8 seats and MR with 44% won 4. After deciphering the proportional, OPR with 67%, got 2 seats, while MR with 33%, was given 4 seats.

Fast forward to 2006: in FPTP, both parties are tied on 6 seats each; this time, MR wins the majority of the proportional – OPR gets 2 seats, while MR still manages 4 seats. System seems a tad skewed? You betcha! Heads I win – Tails you lose.


Speaking of a stacked deck, let’s take a look at the show election that pitted brother against brother and village against village in 2006 ... and for what? As is customary, when in campaign mode, the parties mobilise their mindless apparatchiks and dependable hangers-on, to spread the party line. That is, to criticize opponents with abandon at every opportunity and, promise everything and anything to anyone, silly enough to listen. Admittedly, this practice is not so different the world over.

Frenzied pork-barrelling has always been the norm – no surprises there either. But, this time around, from the incumbency of office, the speed and gusto with which MR jumped off its supposed moral high ground, to embrace it, left many a jaw agape.


By all accounts, this is the first time that we have had a boatload of people brought across from Mauritius to vote. And certainly, the level of grubby-money that poured into the country, to help MR fatten the pig on market day – was unprecedented.


Naturally, when one deals with … ‘loose canons’, there is always a downside. As the old saying goes, when those who pay the piper come for their pound of flesh – they usually want to call the tune too. Come to think of it, what’s a few more or less, our people have been dodging werewolves, in one form or another, for 300 years anyway.


One-party dictators, warlords, monarchs … even cannibals, like to parade their obeisance to Democracy, or at least to a soupcon of it. This is de rigueur – the times demand it. By hook or by crook, homage must be paid to the all-pervading capitalist-warlock ... or else. In the colonial outpost of Rodrigues, where self-determination seems as remote as ever, our poster child for the demi-god Democracy, is a charade in a charade, moderated by a big stick. To put image to thought, imagine: factions of prisoners in old Alcatraz tearing each other apart, in a fit to choose the governor’s factotum from within their ranks. That too, is Democracy. Hail Caesar!


Perhaps, Nietzsche was right all along – we do need lies … in order to live. Outside the make-believe realm of second-hand politics and all its empty promises and facile solutions – in the real world, for the long-suffering men and women of this country, whose culture is on the cusp of completely crumbling, for them, the simple truth is – nothing has changed. Port-Louis still commands and Port-Mathurin straw hat under the arm, still obeys – the continued immiseration of our people is assured.


In years to come, when we can remember the future, most Rodriguans will rue this accursed day in 2006, when we swapped a bulwark of this country’s culture for a hopelessly-neutered stick-fetching Vichy-style client.


When MR and its fellow travellers are done … all the wailing and all the mea culpas in all of Rodriguestan, will not be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.


If, and I mean if, our people’s wishes have been truly represented, then, in the slightly altered words, of the nineteenth century political philosopher Pierre Joseph Prouhdon, “The people want to be governed by loups-garous, they shall be; I’m ashamed of my own kind”.


Alain Leveque

January 02nd 2007


P.S: Given that MR firmly believes an agrarian economy to be an obsolescent proposition in 21st century Rodrigues; given that it has spent a decade criticizing OPR for encouraging young Rodriguans to work the lands of their fathers and, since online diplomas and Mickey-mouse degrees from dumbed-down universities will not feed our people – What rain dance will its high priests now perform, to summon the ghost of globalisation and its magic potion to Rodrigues?