In this week’s series on the turbulence that is hitting countries with a democratic system, we look at Mauritius.
Saturday last, a massive crowd shocked the regime in power in Port Louis. The 50,000 or more people, organisers say it was around 150,000, that descended to Port Louis sent a message to PM Pravind Jugnauth.
However, the latter came on national television and defended his rule, insisting that he is a democratically elected PM.
Mauritians are not mincing their words. They say he may be democratically elected but he is not acting like a democrat.
In my comments on social media, I said he is acting like a demagogue. But what is certain is that Pravind Jugnauth, the accidental PM, is on the defensive.
In Port Louis and across the country, there are two major view points. The rally is a show of force of democratic forces in the country that are attempting to stop the government’s attack on institutions.
The other view point is that this group of people are trying to bolt an elected regime out of power.
Most Mauritians share the second view point. The pro-government supporters are urging the authorities to crack down on the protests.
But the PM on TV saluted the participants and hailed them for upholding the democratic principle of demonstrating peacefully.
Nevertheless, the signs of a crackdown are already here with a so-called social activist’s police report against the organiser of the ‘Marche Citoyen’.
Vikash Mohun, claiming to be a social worker, made a police report against the organisers.
His grudges are mostly about the fist printed in the national flag and showcased by the demonstrators. Mr Vikash insists this is a dangerous precedent and should not be allowed.
The views are divided over whether the government will eventually crack down on Mr Bruneau Laurette the organiser of the Saturday, Aug 30 rally.
As for Mr Laurette, his group says the sign is in respect of Mandela’s peaceful fight for democracy in South Africa.
Them using the sign means they want peaceful upholding of their democratic rights in Mauritius.
On the defensive, Pravind Jugnauth is not handling the situation with tact.
While he claimed he is democratically elected thus should not follow the call by the protestors to resign, his address to the nation did not calm the nerves.
Many in the country are commenting that he is not behaving like a democrat.
On the contrary, people are saying he is acting like a dictator and they fear a crackdown on the movement headed by Laurette is imiminent.
While Jugnauth seem to have the support of a majority of the Hindu community, support from the Muslims and the Christian communities has slipped.
His party in alliance with the Movement Liberateur and rogue elements from the MMM of Paul Berenger, won the elections with a large majority of seats.
However, the MSM of Jugnauth and its allies failed to garner a majority of the popular vote.
They won 37.68% of votes, 38 seats and 4 best losers, giving them a total of 42 seats in Parliament. The Parliament has 70 seats.
This is reflecting in the anti-MSM-anti-Jugnauth push across the country, say observers.
It is also putting pressure on the government and the Prime Minister. They are aware it is a government with minority support from the public.
While the majority of the population, almost 55% of the voters, voted for the opposition parties in the December 2019 elections.
OIL SPILL EFFECT
The tens of thousands of Mauritians who protested last Saturday in the capital over the government’s handling of a giant oil spill off its pristine Indian Ocean coast also wants the regime to resign.
The Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio crashed into a reef off southeastern Mauritius last month.
While there was a lack of action from the authorities, the wreck started spewing more than 1,000 tonnes of oil into waters.
This threatened mangrove forests and endangered species.
The boat split in two. The larger piece was towed out to sea and sunk, but the smaller section remains stranded on the reef.