This Election Calls for A Strategic Voting Approach
After all the koz koze, alliance-making, electoral reform, etc, that have gone on over the last several months, we are now on the way to an all important election that will determine the future years of our country. In many ways, this next election is not like previous ones because of what is at stake. The results of the next election will clearly impact the future direction of Mauritius in very significant ways. In that light, how should we then vote? People usually vote in one of three ways – traditionally, policy-based and strategic voting.
Traditional voting is when we vote for a particular person, party or alliance simply because we have always voted for that person, party or alliance or because our parents have always voted for them. We follow tradition. We may not necessarily know the issues or policies involved but we already know who we will vote for beforehand. Traditional voting was common several generations and decades ago but in contemporary times, loyalty to traditions or to parties for loyalty sake or tradition sake does not have the same premium it once had. In our day, people want to have the freedom to be detached from traditions if they consider it appropriate, to be more objective and to form their own judgment.
Policy-based voting implies looking and analyzing the various issues, policies and proposals being presented by the competing parties or alliances such as reducing poverty, increasing job opportunities, cuts or increases in health care or education, etc. This method of voting means that we vote for the party whose policies and proposals best meet our particular needs and wishes at this particular point of our lives. We consider what the priorities are for our situation and vote according to what best seem to fit our priorities. Those priorities are likely going to be different for a young person starting off in a career than for a family with young children at school for example.
Strategic voting is voting with an end goal in mind. It is more purpose-oriented and assumes that one understands the main issue at stake knows what they desire as the outcome of the election. They are clear about what are at stake, what they wish to see happen, and have gone through the mental process of sifting through priorities and available options. Strategic voting often entails putting aside personal preferences or sacrificing a lesser good for a higher good in order to achieve the desired outcome. It implies deliberate choices, compromise and flexibility all with the clear purpose of achieving the desired end result or goal.
Traditional voting has its place but is to a large extent considered by many contemporaries in modern countries as outmoded and no longer appropriate. Policy-based voting is the general and most common approach to voting in most modern countries. Generally at elections, most people go through a process of evaluating and analyzing the various policies and proposals before casting their votes. Also generally the voter’s personal and social situations often dictate how they vote. Strategic voting on the other hand, is most often the approach used by people in elections that have an all important issue at stake, where outcomes of an election are likely to have life-changing implications or impact for a group of people or for a country as a whole. Our own 1967 election would be an example of a situation where strategic voting was likely the voting approach used by many. Voters had a clear end goal in mind, either they were for or against independence as proposed.
Why does the next national election in Mauritius calls for strategic voting? Or, why is strategic voting the most appropriate or best approach for the next election?
It is clear to everyone that the coming election in Mauritius has at stake a core, central overarching issue that is controversial, divisive among voters and implies profound changes to our social and political structures. This central and overarching issue at stake is whether we want the next government to change the constitution of our country by giving new powers to the Office of President and that of the Prime Minister or do we want the next government not to tamper with and not change our constitution? This is the core, bottom line issue that our vote will fundamentally and ultimately count for.
In reference to this all important issue, Xavier Duval recently referred to the next election as ‘elections referendum’. And at a recent press conference, Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo also identified this one central, overarching issue as the main reason and motivation for his comeback and for joining the Lepep alliance, the alliance against constitutional reform.
As voters, we should not have any mishaps about what will happen in our society and to our way of life as a result of who wins the next election! The two main alliances have made their election platforms very clear on this one central issue. The Ptr/MMM alliance wants to change the constitution once in office and the MSM/PMSD/ML (Lepep alliance) wants to keep the constitution as it is and not change it.
For those among us who feel that they don’t really understand why changing or not changing our constitution is of such importance and what the implications will be, should begin now to get better informed on the issue before voting.
What about all the newly formed, smaller parties that represent new blood, fresh ideas and desire to bring innovative changes? Many have very worthwhile proposals for restructuring our society and political system for the better and for doing politics in a different way. However, the strategic question to ask is – how will voting for one of the newly formed party impact on the core, central issue at stake? How will it make a difference to the desired outcome, either for or against the 2nd republic?
By way of analogy, imagine seeing your house on fire – what should you do? The only rational, strategic thing to do is to do everything in your power to put the fire out in order to save your house. At that point, it certainly would not be the appropriate time to be discussing renovation ideas and plans. The principle of ‘First things First’ would apply. Save your house and then the time will come to look at renovation plans and ideas later.
I think the above analogy accurately represents our current political situation. The proposed constitutional reform represents our house being on fire for a large number of voters. New, fresh and innovative ideas for change being proposed by new parties represent renovation plans for the house. The plans are good and worthwhile but if the analogy holds, it is simply not the appropriate time (due to the house burning down) to be addressing those issues. The situation before us calls for a strategic approach to our voting because there is an all important issue at stake and each person’s vote ultimately is in favor of or against this one central issue. All other campaign issues have to be considered as secondary in the context, and as far as being asked to consider new ways and new ideas at this crucial hour would be simply distracting from what is primordial, and this, would be inconsistent with and contrary to a strategic approach of voting.
A strategic approach to voting in the current situation essentially requires us to: 1) be well informed on the primordial issue at stake, and 2) determine which party best represents our personal views and convictions on that issue. It implies the exercise of our personal judgment. To vote otherwise would be not good sense, not rational and not strategic.