US President, Abraham Lincoln, defined democracy as:

“Rule of the people, by the people, for the people.”

We would describe the political situation in Mauritius as:

“Rule of the people, by political dynasties, for themselves.”

This is not a description of democracy but of feudalism (or neofeudalism).

A few definitions:

A dynasty is a succession of persons belonging to the same family, who, through various means and forms maintain power, influence or authority over the course of generations. Most often the term has been used to refer to a succession of monarchs or feudal nobles who reign over one or more territories by hereditary right. However a dynasty may also be thought of as a series of related individuals who exercise power or dominance unofficially over a territory or people, or achieve prominence in an industry, academic field, religion, cultural activity, or other sphere of endeavor.

Feudalism is a decentralized sociopolitical structure in which a weak monarchy attempts to control the lands of the realm through reciprocal agreements with regional leaders. In its most classic sense, feudalism refers to the Medieval European political system composed of a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs.

Feudalism was a system of society in which vassals acknowledged and fought for a lord in return for his protection for their persons and land tenure. The lord in turn paid allegiance to a king in return for his granting of their status, though this was very often a disputed relationship. Feudalism was thus a comprehensive social system which defined authority and property rights. It is most closely associated with France between the ninth and thirteenth centuries ad, but most parts of Europe experienced something like a feudal system at some stage of their history and there were similar social systems as far away as Japan.

In Mauritius:

  • The weak monarch is the Prime Minister whom the peasants (people) get to choose every five years. He bestows Ministries upon his knights and other lords that support him.
  • The lords are the party leaders who contest for the monarchy.
  • The knights are party members who aspire to be members of the National Assembly, they must contribute financially to the campaign and swear allegiance to their “lord”.
  • The vassals are party agents who fight in elections and are rewarded with land, political nominations and business opportunities.

Vassals care more for wealth than political power and can be far richer than even their lords and hence able to change their allegiance or even support multiple lords at the same time. The sugar barons were once lords, but are now vassals. The owners of large conglomerates are also very wealthy vassals who serve their lords when called upon, for example, Dawood Rawat, chairman of BA Investment.

The problem arises because of the existence of the fiefdoms (political parties). Political parties usurp the right of the people to rule themselves (“rule by the people”). This is tempered to an extent in Westminster-style democracies where there is some form of democratic process to select the party leader. Pretenders to the position can issue leadership challenges at any time if they have enough support from other party members. In presidential democracies like the US, the presidential candidate is effectively selected by the people during presidential primaries and is quite distinct from the party leadership.

In Mauritius, however, there is not even the pretence of an election to the post of party leader. Like an hereditary title, it is passed on from father to son. The policies of the parties are not determined by a convention of party members, but by the party leaders, acting as dictators. Hence, “rule by the people” is impossible. More worryingly, topping the list of recently re-elected Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam’s manifesto is the ominous phrase: Deuxième République mauricienne. There is no additional explanation but many suspect that he wants to move Mauritius from a parliamentary “democracy” to a presidential one. As party leader and president, the winner could be tempted to extend his power further. This would be similar to what happened to the Weimar Republic in Germany when Adolf Hitler transformed it into the Third Reich.

Our solution to the problem is the dissolution of political parties, once and for all. Soon we will present a new democratic system for the 21st century where political parties are redundant by design.