The general elections are at our door-steps. The population is holding its breath…and its frustrations. The common man gets a sense of his importance now, like he does every 5 years. From the tip of his pencil on polling day, the fate of some will hang. The common man, voter for one day, will decide on whether the actual government will walk through a third mandate or whether a new team will be elected. A ‘new team’ so to say, but still composed of the same dinosaurs who have reigned on the political scene for decades. Change, wherever it occurs, always bring its dose of uncertainty. You can always blame or congratulate past performance, but in the unknown lie some strange feelings: fear, doubt, hope… The common Mauritian is called to vote – general elections are on 10 December 2014.
Many of the expatriates living on paradise island will be living this experience for the first time. Foreign investors may have some apprehension (justified) with regards to the security of their investment. Questions are normal at this stage. This is a strange period where nothing apparently functions in the public sector. I thought of writing this article to bring a different view of the landscape to my expatriate friends and help you to understand, from my perspective, what to expect. This article is more on the folklore….not on the technical (and dirty) side of politics.
There is no political school of thought on the island. No right or left wing, no republicans or democrats. Here it is just a simple question of alliances. Which pair will go to Church, which party will rather go for a threesome… which ones need a divorce? It’s more of a soap opera or a sports match, providing decent entertainment to a country where the leisure industry is not really happening. Like in every sports team, you have some die-hard fans who are naturally deficient of thinking abilities. They are glued to one party, whether it does well or not is not even a matter of the slightest concern. Then you have the volatile electors, a minority. Those who really think and cast their vote according to their judgment and appreciation of a party’s manifesto and programme. In Mauritius it is this minority who decides in whose hands power will move to. The born-without-a-brain diehard fans will accept anything from their parties; supernatural alliances, transmutations and transformations (Eg: abrupt sega-dancer hormones suddenly appear in a minister’s body). It is very unfortunate to see a lot of people who usually are filled with common sense suddenly turn into die-hard fans during a political context. This is not a football match, it is the country’s future at stake! Anyway, you have to have brains to understand this, a lot don’t.
They usually are present in every political meeting. With their ravanes and dholoks, dancing and singing. They do not even pay attention to the speakers (their Gods and angels) on the microphone. Once they hear a change of tone, they will usually jubilate with some olés – like automated puppets (which they really are). They will vote the same party and it usually goes down from one generation to the other in their families. I guess brain-deficiency is a genetic problem that can walk down generations. On our island, the leisure industry is a poor child; where it is available it is generally for tourists – expensive or irrelevant to locals. Just to say that the lack of decent leisure gives elections (and electoral campaigns) quite an interesting place in the hearts of joyful Mauritius. Elections are soap operas, if not a sports match. It is gossip time. La fiesta!
During electoral campaigns, the country will be decorated. Nature’s dull green will soon vanish and be replaced by a kaleidoscope of colors. The battle of colours will invade the whole country, not sparing the black tar on roads, tree trunks, buildings and clean walls. The world will seem colourful to its maximum- very sad. The actual or future Minister of Environment does not seem disturbed, colours and colours, everywhere. Almost every immovable thing will be painted –they can’t complain anyway, so who cares?
Passion for elections is not what this all means; lack of leisure is more it. Once elections are gone and the thrones duly allocated to almost-almighty ministers, the population will continue its everyday life; lamenting or enjoying it all, depending on which side one is from.
There is one thing that always bring me back to my village childhood days. It was only during electoral campaigns that we would get a chance of seeing sexy cars in our small lanes. German brands will grace our streets; we would even touch them very hesitantly. This has not changed today. Village roads are normally full of black bicycles that get passed down from one generation another. It is indeed during electoral campaigns that ex and future ministers explore the country in depth. You sometimes feel the urge to greet them with a punch (not the drink, of course). At this time, you can also discover many boot-licking talents on show. The hope of reward induces tail-wagging reactions which are uncontrollable. It was never a surprise to me to see my macho neighbors turning into docile lambs in front of politicians. It still happens and it still amuses me. These expeditions in the deep of Mauritius are usually accompanied by the spirit of Santa Claus. Pressure-cookers, pasta, mobile phones, bank notes… Santa showers the gifts, disguised as a politician desperately trying to grab a vote here and there. All of this is mostly drama and role-play.
It is quite understandable that politicians need close protection, like any common mortal who feels he’s gone wrong, very wrong, somewhere. So natural and human. Protection means bodyguards and in Mauritius it translates into bouncers. These ironmen usually operate as private security guards in discos. Time for the night-owls to show themselves to a larger public; those who are dumb enough to sleep when intelligent people are busy getting drunk on dance floors.
Bouncers are part of local electoral scene. The indecent demonstration of force is exciting for many. It shows that something is happening (at last) on the island. The services offered to a politician offers high return on investment to the bouncers. They can easily shift from simple bouncers to a Security Company with interesting contracts. Some politicians are literally aping late Michael Jackson. They are surrounded by so many bouncers that even their shadows have difficulty following them. They have less security when they become minister, strange! So seeing so many strong men on the island might surprise foreigners, you never thought that we had so many muscles on our soil, did you? Seeing them during sunlight may affect your eyes, do not look too closely though (don’t stare at all), it might have adverse effects on your face. These Popeye-after-the-spinach are also very exposed to nissa and might have unexpected reactions.
Well my expatriate friends, here is what to expect during this festive time. Another key advice I would give though: be careful while choosing your dress colors. It is not intelligent to wear red while standing in an orange crowd. The nissa is known to turn people deaf. By the time you have explained your choice of color and made yourself understood, you would be naked with no other choice than closing your eyes and experience your own invisibility powers. For a wiser wardrobe color strategy, the two major duos are Red–Purple and Orange-White-Blue. So if you see a red or purple crowd, better be camouflaged in your orange, white or blue!
The situation is not dramatic though. Every now and then, some fights erupt, again to let people know that something is ‘happening’ on paradise-island. After elections, two more days of nissa- one on the counting day and another at the final ‘thanksgiving’ public meetings. It is after all, like being in the stadium during a hot-match. You can choose to sit among highly-excited supporters or among sports-lovers. It all depends on the experience you choose to live.
Enjoy …for once the beaches and the sun will carry less ‘nissa’.