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Budget speech and upcoming elections, an explosive cocktail

3 juin 2024, 18:42


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Budget speech and upcoming elections, an explosive cocktail

PM Pravind Jugnauth (L) and finance minister Padayachy meeting the press just after Budget speech on June 2, 2023.

The National Assembly will meet on Friday June 7 for the last Budget speech of finance minister Renganaden Padayachy. No parliamentary sessions have been held for two weeks to allow ministers and officials to prepare this highlight of the year for Mauritians. Meanwhile the forthcoming polls have seen a flurry of activities of the electoral commission and political parties… while the public is rife with expectations and speculations

Those who missed the deadline of May 30 to register as electors will not be able to vote in the upcoming general elections. The voter list will be published by August 16 and there are two ways to verify your registration. You can send an SMS to 789 by typing "Elec", leaving a space, and then entering your ID card number. The electoral commissioner (EC), Irfan Rahman, has expressed satisfaction with the exercise that began on May 16. "More than 200,000 people have verified their registration via SMS."

Meanwhile, he has had consultations over the past weeks with most opposition parties/alliances, including Rezistans ek Alternativ, Linion Moris, PMSD, the PTr/MMM/ND alliance, the Reform Party, etc. The consensus so far is about vote counting on the same day as the polls, just as for the 2020 village elections and the Rodrigues Regional Assembly elections. However, positions differ. Some, including PMSD, do not want counting to take place in polling stations to prevent political parties from knowing which region favoured them. Others, like the PTr/MMM/ND alliance, do not want ballot boxes moved to other centres for counting, to avoid the risk of tampering.

Irfan Rahman and co.jpg

(EC Rahman meeting last week with officials of the LP-MMM-ND opposition alliance.)

The government is also in favour of vote counting the same day as the poll. On July 21, in Parliament, the prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, stated that this "presents many advantages, but the issue must be addressed to avoid perception or doubt in the minds of candidates, political parties, and the public that certain things might happen." The government has identified several obstacles, including the officials authorized to reject ballots, the presence of candidates and "election agents" in the counting rooms during the examination of ballots, amongst others. Moreover, trade unions have expressed concern about the issue of civil servants involved and the length of their working day… After all these talks, the EC will now submit his report to the Electoral Supervisory Commission, which will in turn send its recommendations to the president who in consultation with the prime minister issues the relevant decisions on that issue.

Electoral impact on Padayachy’s budget

The weekly decryption podcast with LSL Director of Publications, Nad Sivaramen, political analyst and press veteran Subash Gobine, and journalist Shelly Carpayen, focused on the upcoming Budget to be delivered by finance minister Renganaden Padayachy on Friday June 7. The onus of the discussions were on the expectations of voters and the stakes for the country’s economy. The show started with economist Eric Ng's viewpoint on the government's room for manoeuvre and if the Budget "gifts" would be enough for it to win a third mandate.

According to Nad Sivaramen, in 2019, there was the ‘macaroni’ episode with Arvin Boolell who was elected, but without his team in government. He also recalled the famous ‘tempo’ gift in constituency No. 9 and Xavier Duval's cinema tickets. There are, he said, visible and invisible gifts. But it encourages bidding. People tend to seek "even more". For Subash Gobine, this is part and parcel of the political folklore, which establishes "goodwill" for the giver, for example, Kavy Ramano or Ganoo. These politicians thus gain esteem, but the recipients tend to hope they remain in power to continue receiving gifts. Consequently, the political analyst argues, the move to make voters believe that, once in power, Ramgoolam would get rid of pension and other benefits given.

Commenting on electoral bribes mentioned by Suren Dayal in his petition before the Privy Council, Nad Sivaramen noted that the latter prefers not to intervene in the internal affairs of a country. Subash Gobine argued that there are only 21 days to prepare a petition, and in the past, it took less time to be heard, as in 1959 with Gaëtan Duval. Now, the new trend is to drag on petitions until the next general elections. Moreover, the political analyst stated that now "the sky is the limit," for electoral bribes, with no more constraints or government apprehensions. Following Ramgoolam's 20 measures announced on May 1, Padayachy would be tempted to outbid him.

Could this budget be a political marketing tool? According to Nad Sivaramen, what should be a purely accounting exercise between expenses and revenues might turn into an electoral manifesto. In some democracies, he said, during an election year, the government does not present a budget. He considers that Padayachy should balance his last budget for this legislature, between "poor and rich" and ensure that young people stay in the country. He concluded by saying that we should move away from the welfare state to become a more competitive state, as we have lost our productivity and need to work on long-term strategies for the next 25 or 50 years.

Fake ‘constituency clerk’ : Accused ex-minister walks free, witness credibility condemned

With a broad smile on his face, ex-minister and MSM MP Yogida Sawmynaden triumphantly left the Intermediate Court last Thursday. “The truth has triumphed. I have always believed in God, and I want to thank my family, my friends, and my constituents for their full support,” he t reacted after his acquittal. When asked by l’express about the possibility of suing Simla Kistnen, he quoted Mahatma Gandhi on forgiveness just before his death, which is actually a quote of Jesus Christ on the cross. He added that he had suffered from the allegations and thanked his lawyers who had believed in his innocence, adding as a warning, “There is a lesson to be learned for politicians from all sides. We receive many visitors and we offer our help.”


( A smiling Sawmynaden leaves the court on Thursday after his «triumphant victory».)

Magistrate Anusha Rawoah, who delivered a 39-page judgment in the Constituency Clerk (CC) case, has been very critical of witness Simla Kistnen. "The testimony of Witness No. 3 (W3) is riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions on matters of substance. I find that the unexplained shortcomings in W3’s testimony, when taken as a whole and considered in their entirety, affect her credibility." Accused of forgery in the CC application form dated January 28, 2020, by declaring Simla Kistnen, W3, was employed from January 2020 and using said falsified document, Sawmynaden was granted the benefit of the doubt and both charges dismissed.

His lawyer, Raouf Gulbul, told the press there is a lesson to be learned from this judgment. “It is the court of justice that delivers a judgment. But because of the allegations, a person can lose his job, and may have problems with his family.” He then cited large excerpts from the judgment regarding Simla Kistnen’s testimony, calling her a “blatant liar”. The fact that his client chose to remain silent in the box is *“a constitutional right because it is up to the prosecution to prove its case and not the accused to prove his innocence.” *

Gulbul also criticized the ‘Avengers’ for their absence in court. Lawyer Rama Valayden replied that they never abandoned Simla Kistnen. “I know there are some crazy cops, but now we have crazy lawyers!” He considers it a very sad day for the truth. “In this trial, she has been treated as the accused and the convicted, while she is the victim of her husband’s murder and of the CC case. It’s unbelievable, and I hope the person who was acquitted can live in peace.” Lawyer Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, the ‘watching brief’, laments the limitations of his role. “We were unable to ask relevant questions to the witnesses. The private prosecution against Sawmynaden should have been authorized by the DPP after the corruption charges mentioned by magistrate Vidya Mungroo-Jugurnath in the judicial enquiry on Kistnen’s murder. “The result would certainly have been different.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions has 21 days to appeal this judgement. The coming days might bring new elements… What will be next move of the Avengers? Will Sawnynaden secure a ticket for the next elections? The ex-minister refused to comment, but emphasized that he has always been present in the field.