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!