I was at Radio One this morning and was Finlay Salesse’s guest on a show about the political communication of local parties, especially in the context of Labour Day meetings.
We talked about the techniques and strategies used by our politicians to communicate with their audiences, their posters, their communication advisers, their websites, their willingness (or lack thereof) to participate in live debates on private radios, etc. and compared the Mauritian style of political communication with that of more advanced countries.
In sum, my main point was that our local politicians are completely archaic in their approach to communication. I tend to think that they need to rely on basic and superficial means that are loud, aggressive and even vulgar in order to mask the vacuum in terms of ideas and messages.
Treating us like dumb
Labour Day meetings are a complete waste of time, energy and resources. They don’t serve any constructive purpose and in fact, they do not contribute to the enlightenment of the masses, rather they treat ordinary citizens like dumb children who need to be cajoled, policed but never addressed in an intelligent manner. It is true that our voters do act in an immature way but do our decision-makers provide possibilities for acting differently? Do they treat the electorate as intelligent and capable of making their own judgements based on facts, ideas and more importantly to question the super-leaders?
Even within the parties themselves, there is not much space for democracy. There might be temporary attempts at intelligent debates but it is not part of the DNA of our local political scene too accustomed to low-level arguments and the notion that super-leaders are ‘ene tigin pli tipti ki bon dié’. Our parties are run like archaic, medieval structures and even would-be ‘ténors’ within them toe the line for fear of losing their chances of climbing the hierarchy and get that so desirable possibility to be a candidate and later grab a ministry.
Young people are fed up with this situation and rightly so. It’s not the crowds of people in rallies/meetings that reflect what the masses think. Just like polls are not fool-proof. The grassroots are bored and tired. The only thing they can actually do is choose parties (not even candidates — as goes the local saying, ‘prend ene pié banane, peine li couleur parti ki pé gagner, li pou éli’) which are the least worst according to their personal judgement. A sad situation indeed for our democracry…
sundeep tengur says
totally agree with you.
but for argument’s sake, is it not the masses that give cue to politicians to behave the way they do? See, these politicians however crapulous they can be are also fine tacticians. They only say what people like to hear; example in a hindu gathering = “blanc pa bon, zot craz ti lepep”. In a cocktail ceremony with tourims stakeholder = “vous contribuez si bien a notre economie”.
If our politicians are such hypocrites and so filty, it is only a reflection of our society. That’s where they come from by the way. Thing is, why is our society so segrated in the core? why have we been conditioned to think of us as members of a community first, instead of a nation? why don’t we all blend to achieve positive things? (utopia..) est-ce la faute aux politiciens ou a nous meme?
In mauritius the crowd is emotive and votes with sympathy rather than with intellect. It had to be that one (NR) comes back to power for them to remember how corrupt and incompetent a regime can be. therefore, little ground for change..
in short, my point is that the politicians won’t change until WE change. Et c’est pas demain la veille.. sadly so!
Ongoing comments are also on my Facebook page:
It seems years have gone by and politicians are the same. Zot tou menteur and sak zaco kasiete so montagne. Yes, young people are probably fed up but then that would be the first step. Usually the second step would be do something. Anyway, I doubt a revolution would be better than a democracy.
You are right to a certain extent. As likes to say Avinash, we get the leaders we deserve. So if the masses are segregated and racist, leaders can only carry on with the same attitude and behaviour.
But then if we stick to that belief, that would mean that no progress can be achieved. True leaders are those who are able to break the mould and dare to go against so-called ‘crowd wisdom’ from time to time.
Also, I would like to believe that the masses are not so homogeneous we tend to think. There are groups of people who think differently (don’t we?) and these groups can grow and masses are like children that will follow the leading thinkers/speakers.
In a sense, I’d like to think that blogging and online communities are a starting point in this quiet revolution. They just need to become more influential and more in the public eye.
As I said, I wish to believe this because otherwise, we’d better get ourselves hanged 😉
BTW, some comments seem to be going into the spam category so I’m sorry if any valid comments do not appear at times cos I’m not always regularly checking the spam comments. There are so many of them…
Akismet is being a tad overzealous I guess.
Paul Raymond says
Well to understand the intricacies of political communication, to sit in an Air-Con studio or travel in an Air-Con car and even meditate in an Air-Con office is a highly laudable initiative and ought to publish in a journal on the result achieved, and of course not to forget to mention the methodology used!!!!. Well I totally agree that the communication strategy is obsolete, may I remind my fellow readers, our dear PM launched a “campaign a la Europeen” with slogan “Vivons Unis Vivons Mieux” with political strategiest from Euro-RSG (just an anecdote every campaign they have implemented were blatant fiasco)which resulted in “Lev Pake Aller”. The Mauritian culture is vastly different Europe or America, I made a trip to India recently and was astonished and bewildered to find billboard of politicians who posed them in Iconic picture such as Shivaji the great, well it was quite shocking to me but to the local people it was part and parcel of the culture there.
Interestingly I found many so called proponents of democracy critical of what’s happening in Russia, President Poutine now to become the Prime Minister, well it might seems awkward to many of us but in Russia where Poutine is seen as the stabilizing factor in the country which was totally shaken by the collapse of the soviet empire. Times Magazine was totally right to award his the Title Man of the Year, he deserved the credit of affirming the sovereignty of the state over the rule of a few oligarch.
Back to Mauritian, lepep admirable need to find motto which convenes to the mindset of the ti-dimoune, when Labour slogan “Bizin Changement” was propagated in the last General election it was appealing to the masses, though I personnally found the MSM-MMM govt has fared pretty well in terms of achievement; reform of the education sector, the ICT sector not to mention the Cybercity and various other projects but they have failed to find the something that “tick” in the mind of the masses.
The now slogan of the MMM “Pays dans dife, Bizin MMM” is rightly choosen since many of the working classes dan dife at the end of the month with rising prices and the stagnating salary. Any political party who would choose to opt the way politics is done in either Europe or America would be political suicidal in the Mauritian context but I agree this a need for change for constructive debate on the political manifest. Let hope to hear something more!!!!!!!
Paul Raymond, you agree with me for once. But, your spirit of contradiction forces you to write a few nasty lines as intro (or am I mistaken? Frankly, it all seems a bit muddy to me!)
The agency is EURO-RSCG not EURO-RSG and yes, they did get hired for the 2000 elections by the Labour Party. They seem to have a history of trying to diversify their activities on the African continent and for having failed significantly as well. That’s because they don’t know anything about the local cultures…
Having said that, this does not mean that we need to reject everything that comes from the Occidental world just like we should not import everything as is.
The idea I defend is that all local parties are in dire need of a drastic reform and that May Day meetings need to be reviewed. Instead of creating a lot of aggressive noise, why can’t we have intelligent and sober exposés that can enlighten the masses just a bit? I’m not saying that we have to do away with meetings but that it’s time politicians start treating their audiences as people who have brains and can use them. Brains need training not numbing in order to improve their performance.
I suppose I am being a bit utopian. But I think I need to be this way or I will become a cynic…
Paul Raymond says
The reason I was a bit sarcastic as an intro, was to have heard your deliberations on Radio One whilst tuning my Radio set, which seems to be the perennial out of the touch of the reality approach of “individuals” who seems to the propagators of enlightenment of the masses. I have a few questions to ask concerning political communication in Paradise Island;
1) Have you ever participated in a political rally of one the major political parties?
2) Have you ever been to one of the numerous evening political gathering held sporadically around the island?
3) Have you ever meddle with the crowd (I left this choice optional, you might be hypochondriac) to understand their expectations, apprehensions, their “raison d’etre” at the gathering (of course not taking into consideration free alcohol given in gogo and toto)
Having said that;
Politics is all about power, even in most advanced democracies, during the last presidential runoff; the now President Sarkozy proudly declared;
“Je serai le President du pouvoir d’achat”
“Que voulez-vous que je fasse, je vide les caisses deja vide”
To understand political communication in Paradise Island, we have to comprehend the society(masses), elections is made by masses not by the whims and fancies of a few intellectuals. Down memory lane, many argued how an overtly racist party such as the Nazis gained power in a country so culturally advanced in Europe. Whilst not entering into a historical debate, my point is, elections are made when the masses (proletariat) are tilted. In Paradise Island where a approx 200,000 people don’t know even how to read or write, and further 200,000 barely understand the complex terminologies. So how will you make a debate to explain macroeconomics variable based on econometrics calculations to explain the masses, the economy is moving forward but the prices of basic commodities will continue to rise despite continued and increased subsidies.
Having said that;
We should not of course underestimate the intelligence of lepep admirable, having been quite a few times at evening political gathering (of course not for the free alcohol or a partisan) but as a keen observer of the Mauritian society. I observed people were looking for entertainment, this is the big reason “why” Boris Johnson won the mayorship of London despite brilliant performances by the former mayor Ken Livingstone. When our “beloved” politicians were on the “caisse savon”, it was much more like a theatrical set where people after a day of toil labour were looking for distraction.
French seasoned politician Jack Lang once notoriously said;
“Je suis un homme de theatre”
The enlightnement of the masses should of course by means of the media, but unfortunately with state control TV is not helping a lot but with private radio, it a small step but a big step towards the democratization of information.
Last but not least, many individual even self-proclaimed “intellectual” confound realism with cynicism, as a matter of fact, I prefer a be a cynic rather be like Peter Pan who never grows up.
NB Just in between I have nothing personal just was surfing the web and came across your blog which is indeed a noble initiative but was flabbergasted to see every one here to agree with the agreeable!!!!!
@ Paul Raymond
Your comment was sitting in the spam queue. I guess you’d better shorten your comments to avoid that. I cannot guarantee I’ll be able to check the spam queue regularly…
Who are you to accuse me of being out of touch? You don’t know me so don’t make gratuitious statements about me. I don’t make any about you, so please respect my opinion. As I said, earlier, you have the right to think differently and to express your opinions on MY blog but please respect my rights as well.
And, yes I have been to political meetings, rallies, gatherings and I meddle with the crowd. And I have been poor too, if you want to know…
Again, some of your points are similar to mine but unfortunately it looks like you don’t feel happy about agreeing with anyone, especially me, so you feel the need to insinuate that I am a self-proclaimed intellectual confounding realism with cynicism. I could easily tag you with the same you know…
Chritina, as the local guru for political communucations, you are fully au fait that the meetings in Mauritius are important vehicles for political parties to rally their already converted supporters. This year, evryone was gauging the amount of people attending. It’s a waste of time, but it’s also a leisure experience, which all supporter enjoy.
The babalisation and the frivolity of these meetings are self-evident, but the masses do take great pleasure to be associated with the political parties. Of course, the young people are disenfranchised by such events, but I’ve noticed a degree of polaristion amongst the young, who are being exploited by the politics of communalism.
If the young people are fed up such political parties, why do they continue to support them. Yong one are suffering form a policy of benign neglect from all the political parties. The latter may use the new media as means for communication1
Who said that I am ‘the local guru for political communication’?
Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.
Sanjay Jagatsingh says
Christina, I think every right-thinking Mauritian would tend to agree with your analysis. As far as debating goes, we have probably hit an all-time low. Everyone remembers Sithanen’s reaction when he was supposed to have a debate with his ‘Grand Cousin’ Vishnu. He avoided the debate because he did not want to get trounced — his policies are contradictory and are ample proof that he doesn’t get it. The only debates he agreed to were the one before last June budget (with one journalist being in ‘les secrets des dieux’ about a dinosaur called the Empowerment Fund that was going to do something major — change its name) and the one after the budget with 1st year university students. Apparently next year will be a little more serious: televised debate prior to budget will be done with Form IV students while post-budget debate will be done with Standard I pupils!
P.S: If you wish to get the real story about the economic policies implemented in Mauritius please check out morisk.blogspot.com and our new platform kozelidir.blogspot.com.
You’re right. Our local politicians are notorious for their aversion of public debates when they are in power and their hot pursuit of such debates when in opposition… Even if they do agree to any debate, these will necessarily be set up to avoid any possible embarrassments, which would explain the use of young immature audiences (made even more immature by our education system btw).
And even if the ministers have not specifically asked for such precautions, the MBC will ensure that no potentially disruptive agent gets onboard and their journalists will be so meek they’ll make us cry out of frustration. In sum, they’ll serve us a tasteless version of the popular telenovelas so that their journalism looks more like low-cost fiction than the real thing.