Some are referring to the situation as the “soap opera of Australia” and others are saying “another year, another prime minister”. The jokes are numerous out there as Michael Turnbull was elected the new leader of the Liberals Party, in Australia, only after a little less than 2 years of Tony Abott’s Prime Ministership. Michael Turnbull has become Australia’s 29th Prime Minister elect.
Yes there was a leadership spill. Yes it’s another year, another prime minister. Yes, maybe the Libreals are learning from the Labour Party from the swap Rudd-Gillard-Rudd. BUT how many countries in the world can claim to be able to do the same? In how many countries the party and the leader are not one and same? It is so easy to joke about it but there are so many countries where elections are a remote dream, or countries where there is not a big choice of parties to choose from. We know of so many countries which do not even have the word ‘democracy’ in their vocabulary, and are governed by some senile rulers/dictators. (Did you hear about Mugabe recently making his same old speech to the Parliament and not even being aware of it?)
Let’s compare the situation to one country I know well: Mauritius. Since I was a kid, I’ve heard only about three major parties in Mauritius; they are the Mauritius Labour Party (PTR), the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) and the (Militant Socialist Movement). Elections are held every 5 years in Mauritius and each time if it’s not one party governing, it’s the other or else it’s a coalition between two of the three parties. And guess how many major parties there are at the moment in Mauritius, about 47 years after its independence? Yes, you guessed right! The same three! What’s even more remarkable is the leaders of these parties.
Ramgoolam, father and son (Labour Party)
The PTR was founded by Dr Maurice Cure in 1936 along with other members. When Mauritius gained its independence in 1968 and elections were held, it won and was led by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who stayed Prime Minister for quite a while (1968 to 1982). Then later the party was elected again to be led by his son (1995 to 2000 and 2005 to 2014).
Berenger (Mauritian Militant Movement)
The MMM was founded in 1968 by Paul Berenger and other members as a students’ movement. It officially became MMM one year later. Since then the party has been led by the same, one and only Paul Berenger.
Jugnauth, father and son (Militant Socialist Movement)
From 1983 to 2003, Jugnauth (the father) was the leader of the party then he passed on the leadership to Pravind Jugnauth (his son) who is still assuming that post.
From 1976 to 1982, Sir Aneerood Jugnauth was the Leader of the Opposition and served as Prime Minister from 1982 to 1995 and again from 2000 to 2003; he was then elected President from 2003 to 2012 and once more Prime Minister since December 2014. You DID read right: the PM became President and then PM again!
In summary, it’s very easy to remember. Mauritian PMs since the independence: Ramgoolam, Jugnauth, Ramgoolam, Jugnauth, Berenger, Ramgoolam, Jugnauth.
Now, this is what we can call a soap opera. A democratic country, where political parties are closely linked to a family name and where one party = one person! Even if you lose the election, even if you have complaints filed against you, even if you have court hearings on several accusations, even if you seem to everyone that you are senile, if you are in Mauritius and you have the right name, it is highly probable that you will lead your party till you die. It is worth noting though that the last general election has shown a slight change of mentality of the Mauritian people; the trend to vote for ‘a leader’ has witnessed some change although the PM’s name is still ‘Jugnauth’.
Luckily in Australia the situation is completely different. Questioning the leadership is possible and having the party elect the leader is possible. I wish Mauritian political parties could learn more from countries like Australia. Australians should consider themselves lucky to have a VERY FAIR political/governing system in place and what happened with the election of Michael Turnbull as the new PM is proof of that – although I’m hoping he stays in office till the end of his mandate and there’s not another leadership spill!