Kailash Purryag: The Unmaking of a President

President Kailash Purryag stands on one side maintaining that he is mandated to be in office until 2017. [Photo: The Hindu]
President Kailash Purryag stands on one side maintaining that he is mandated to be in office until 2017. [Photo: The Hindu]

A new year, a new government, but as we speak no new president. Post general elections in Mauritius is seeing some interesting and curious turn of events taking place. On one end we see Kailash Purryag remaining firmly onto his presidential seat and on the other end we see a majority of the Mauritian population eagerly waiting for the supposed new president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, to step into her new role.

But it seems an interesting dynamic has since developed in this entire event that only time will allow for a conclusion. Current president Kailash Purryag stands on one side maintaining that he is mandated to be in office until 2017. Legally and obviously constitutionally, Purryag is protected for having exhibited his presidential duties as was required, giving no reason to be removed from his position. The newly elected government have no rhyme or reason to simply give him the boot and according to an interview carried by Le Mauricien recently, he has not as yet been asked to leave office. He is however using this time to remind everyone that his mandate is only up in 2017 but more than that refuses to comment on any form of hypotheses being posed as questions in his direction. What if he was to remain president until his mandate is up? Would he simply remain the Labour Party watchdog so to speak until the next person was mandated in? Or is this just a man looking after his own political career interests more thoroughly than anyone ever expected him to do?

While we as a nation cannot be sure of the motives behind this latest political move, we can only but wonder if Purryag is waiting around for the same kind of state offering that was given to Dan Callikhan from the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) or a similar one offered to Rundheersing Bheenick that is still pending. Perhaps we, along with the new government, failed to take into account this strategic move on Purryag’s part and in doing so underestimated his ability to stand in the way of a completely new government. Public opinion is varied with some people insisting that since his instalment was done at the hands of the previous national assembly, he no longer has a valid place in this new assembly and as such should know that it is time to step down.

Interestingly enough though, on the other side of this story, president-to-be, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, seems content to keep mum on the entire unfolding saga. In all fairness though, this seems to be a stand she was happy to take from before the elections were finalised when she was first put forward as the candidate as president hopeful. Has Fakim become the token Muslim candidate that is now expected to play her role because elections went in favour of L’Alliance Lepep? There exists strong public opinion in this aspect that this was the plan that was outlined by the new government and that it needs to be adhered to but with even her keeping so quiet, we can only ask why it appears that everyone is now waiting on everyone else before they make their move?

It seems a strange play of events around a position that is largely ceremonial in nature and holds very little actual political power but just goes to show that no-one or nothing need be underestimated when it comes to the game of politics. Perhaps everyone simply assumed that Purryag would go quietly seeing as though the people who placed him in this position were swept clean from the new government’s inner workings. But the turn of events has proved otherwise and what we are left watching is a serious strategic game play about to unfold or blow up in the new government’s face quite frankly.

Is there a solution to this problem? Can the government keep everyone happy in this situation? What will subsequently happen if Purryag is not asked to step down and hand the reigns over to Fakim? Will she object or simply accept the turn of events? What is even more interesting to see though is that should that be the case, the supporters lobbying for her appointment will be more upset than she seemingly will and one needs to ask why this is even the case to begin with?

The question all but needs asking however, is it time to amend the role of the president in Mauritius and if so, how can it or should it be changed? Many people are already of the impression that the largely ceremonial role is a simple pat on the back offering to someone who has served the country well enough to gain the honour of such a title even though the title itself has very little power associated with it. Should the government entitle the president to a more active role or should the role even exist for that matter? All these questions remain unanswered at the end of the day and leave room for a large amount of public speculation.

We are now left waiting for this game to play out eagerly, or not, watching for the outcome to become known. One thing is for sure, the current expectation of the presidential role is not regarded as being as important as it simply existing as a role at all that one section of the Mauritian community needs to fulfil in order for there to be some kind of equal representation.

Are we as a nation just happy to see all sub groups of the community represented rather than questioning the necessity of the presidential role that needs to be filled? After all, the fuss that is now coming from this dynamic is centred on this supposed non-important role. Perhaps president Kailash Purryag is about to make some interesting history surrounding this role, only time is going to tell at this point so I guess all we can really do is watch this space!

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6 thoughts on “Kailash Purryag: The Unmaking of a President

  1. Man do you have a lot of followers! I wish I knew your secret… A few observations:

    1. The President was not a typical political nomination, the whole Assembly elected him. If the MSM et al had an objection why did they not raise it? Ditto when KP was elected Speaker.
    2. As rightly stated, there is no Constitutional requirement for the President to resign. If SAJ insists otherwise, then he is forgetting that even NCR left him in peace in the role.
    3. There is massive under-representation of women in cabinet. Was the proposal of AFG a clever piece of electioneering on the part of IC to mask the woeful lack of female Lepep candidates?
    4. Why is AFG such a worthy candidate? Because she is internationally respected in her field. She is now in the private sector and one of the few contributing to the development of a much needed knowledge economy. Surely the government should be investing in her work rather than trying to gain political capital from proposing her as the next President?
    5. IC is a cunning politician. What is his game? To prevent SAJ retiring to the Presidency? Who will become PM if SAJ dies in post? What is IC’s priority – a sustainable Mauritius or a reunited MMM?

    Watch this space indeed!

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    1. Thanks forsharing your observation doc. It’s enough clear that SAJ was allowed to exert “in peace” by NR because at that time PTr-MSM were in an alliance.

      Today, through eulogising Purryag, SAJ can ensure that the future course of relation between him and President Kailash Purryag remains a smooth one. Purryag has already proved himself as an assertive president, someone which any elected government would have had to deal with caution and wisdom.

      There is, however, a concern. Will the new government, which kick-started very well by implementing good governance and party sustainability strategies, wait until 2017 by working with a president who, though stepped back from active politics, has close link with NR and also has a son-in-law elected as MP from PTr?

      It’s not a Modi-Mukherjee scenario where you can win each other through appreciation. But then the thought comes: keeping Purryag can be a good way for MSM to enter an alliance with PTr in the future.

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      1. If the MSM needs to enter into an alliance with PTr BEFORE the end of KP’s mandate in 2017 then SAJ et al would have to have done a REALLY bad job of running the country. Unless, perhaps, the MSM-PMSD-ML alliance fell to pieces, in which case, calling a general election might be the correct response…

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  2. Mr Athal, if Ptr-MMM had won, Ramgoolam would have installed the 2nd Republic immediately, because, as per the agreement with the MMM, Berenger was supposed to become PM in a couple of months (rather than a couple of years under Remake). So obviously, Purryag would have had to resign prematurely to allow the second republic project to go through. If Ramgoolam was so sure that the second republic would take place soon after the elections, this means he was sure Purryag would resign. This then means Purryag was aware and had given his consent.This further means that Purryag was party to the political deal, as it was also suggested Purryag would then contest the ensuing by-elections in No 5 and return to Parliament. This means Purryag had already devalued the presidency role. Would Pyrryag have told Navin Sorry Boss, my mandate expires in 2017? No. He would have resigned instantly, to please his boss and help put up the 2nd republic project, So what the fuss now? To ti pu demissionner meme ek Navin, be demissioner aster la. nap pa vin dir ki to mandat fini 2017 etc etc.

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    1. Nah… To create the “second Republic”, a change in the Constitution would have been required. This would significantly change the role of the President and the manner of his selection (public election?). Hence KP would have been kicked out, willing or not. In any case, it is fairly unlikely that the Constitutional changes would have been completed in two years.

      As for KP being NCR’s man. I didn’t notice him objecting to the removal of all of those political nominees in the parastatals did you? He seemed to comply with every one of SAJ’s requests in sending letters of dismissal. If he starts criticising SAJ as the latter criticised NCR then it would be correct to expect him to resign.

      If SAJ really wants to get rid of him then he too should change the Constitution. But that would set a pretty bad precedent…

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