A former student of the Collège du St Esprit, founder of the National Forum for Colleges and Tanzania's Students Coalition on Climate, the country where he currently studies, Mathieu Dacruz is involved in various citizen initiatives such as the fight against climate change. He shares his analysis of the recent May 1 mobilization and expresses his expectations of the political class.

Of the speeches given by the main political blocs during the traditional May 1 rallies, which ones convinced you the most as a young person?
Let us remember that May 1 is above all Workers' Day, a time when we pay tribute to those who fought for the working class and where we must continue essential struggles. This should, under no circumstances, be subject to co-opting by partisan politics.

That being said, as a young person, populist speeches seeking to attract all possible voices ahead of the next legislative elections will not convince me. Beyond the speeches carried away by the usual political fervor of May 1, I think that many young people are waiting to see the substance of the programs proposed by the different political groups before settling on their preference for the next elections.

The speeches during the May 1 rallies nevertheless give an indication of the priorities of the different alliances. In terms of form, I really liked the presence of a sign language translator at the Linion Moris gathering. This reflects a form of meaningful inclusion and desired change in Parliament, for example.

Basically, the government majority was not particularly interesting; successive ministers congratulated themselves on what was done during their mandate, while omitting the scandals that affected them. The PTr/MMM/ND alliance presented its 20 flagship measures, which, I think, give it a little more credibility and substance.

As for Linion Moris and Rezistans ek Alternativ, their gatherings were, for me, the most interesting, not afraid of offending by raising fundamental issues.

Extra-parliamentary parties have one main advantage: they have nothing to lose.

How important do you think political traditions like May Day rallies are in today's electoral landscape?
The country has a rich political history that is essential to recognize. A large part of this story was built on the ground, which is why I firmly believe in proximity politics. It's the best way to meet people and feel the pulse of the population. I therefore think that we absolutely must not lose these traditions, because these moments allow the population to express their political affiliation in an open and free manner, and to listen to those who represent us.

However, whether we accept it or not, technology will have a significant impact on the next election. I was surprised to see the Reform Party's e-meeting, which is not common, but is nevertheless interesting. We can already see the enthusiasm for the use of social networks – TikTok, Instagram, Facebook… – among the Prime Minister, or even among certain PPS posing proudly offering footballs to young people or inspecting drains, on Facebook .

All Mauritians also like to follow political news on the networks and comment on it. There will therefore be a real impact on the next legislative elections, hopefully without deviations.

May 1 also saw extra-parliamentary actors such as Linion Moris organize a rally. What is your assessment of their work regarding the political, social and economic aspects of the country?
These extra-parliamentary actors occupy an important place in the Mauritian political landscape. Linion Moris, made up of the Mauritius Rally of Nanda Bodha, 100% Citizens of Dev Sunnasy and Linion Pep Morisien of Rama Valayden, is therefore only partially extra-parliamentary because Nando Bodha still occupies a seat in Parliament.

However, these parties, as well as Rezistans ek Alternativ, the Reform Party or even En Avant Moris, have one main advantage: they have nothing to lose. They are not tied to parliamentary office and do not feel the need for outrageous populism.

I think that politics, real politics, is seen more and more in these extra-parliamentary actors. They bring fundamental ideas to the heart of the national political scene, and contribute significantly to the political debate, which is above all a societal debate. I am therefore delighted to see the commitment of several extra-parliamentary parties, and I hope to see them reach Parliament during the next legislative elections.

We should first teach young people what politics is, a societal project based on deep ideologies”

To what extent do the initiatives of extra-parliamentary groups respond to the needs and concerns of young citizens?
I think that extra-parliamentary parties try as best they can to attract young people. However, there is a national trend to follow traditional parties, which young people cannot escape.

In my entourage, I have noticed a growing interest among young people in finding out about politics and listening to messages from all sides. Extra-parliamentary groups interest young people and their initiatives are very popular.

However, all political parties in Mauritius can do better to convince us.

It was mainly the PTr/MMM/ND alliance which made its mark in terms of proposals which sparked a lot of debate, with the 20 measures presented. Proposals that are attracting attention include free internet for all, free transport for all, but also one year of maternity leave for mothers. Do these proposals meet the aspirations of Mauritians and young people, or are they only populist measures, in your opinion?
These measures partly meet the expectations of the population, but it is true that it is quite populist. It is obvious that this alliance wants to do everything to attract the widest possible electorate, which, in itself, is not wrong. It is up to everyone to discern realistic measures from electoral promises that cannot be kept, because these promises exist on all sides.

In the current economic state of the country, criticized by this alliance, it seems improbable to me that all these promises can be kept while meeting the real needs of the country. We can question the need for an anti-defector law. We should first teach young people what politics is, a societal project based on deep ideologies, and not a question of “who will win the next elections”. This could be done by introducing civics lessons at school.

Additionally, the introduction of menstrual leave is a good thing, although many are also waiting for the introduction of free sanitary products in all schools, a cause championed by several NGOs for years.

As for the environmental aspect of these proposals, I find it a little light. A more firm and realistic measure, such as removing the exclusive prerogative of the minister to grant EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), could please more Mauritians.

Parliamentary debates effectively provide an overview of the state of our democracy, which is unfortunately in decline.

How do you assess the measures taken by the government? This highlights its record, particularly in the social area where it managed to preserve employment during the COVID crisis, while distributing various social allowances, including Rs 20,000 to young people aged 18. All these initiatives seem to reinforce the government's idea that, despite criticism, the silent mass strongly approves of its policies. What do you think ?
It is true that the government in place has “delivered”. Infrastructure in the country has improved, and social benefits have resonated favorably with many citizens. As for saving jobs during COVID, I don't think it's anything to brag about because COVID was a global crisis, and economic recovery was expected to be an international effort.

However, the number of scandals this government has faced cannot be ignored by the population. Furthermore, the decline in the purchasing power of Mauritians and the growing gap between the rich and the poor in this country are not positive arguments in favor of the government's record. The government should therefore not rest on its laurels, thinking that the silent masses approve of its policies, because this is false.

What, in your opinion, are the main challenges that the Mauritian government is currently facing on the economic and social levels?
The purchasing power of Mauritians should be the government's primary concern. It is unacceptable that some people fill their pockets while so many others have to tighten their belts. The government should establish a realistic 2024-25 Budget, which aligns with the main challenges facing Mauritians, and which will not put the country on the brink.

As a young person who plans to return to the country after his studies, the socio-economic state of the country can only worry me. If this purchasing power problem is not resolved, social injustices will only increase, creating a climate of tension in the country.

The government should not rest on its laurels, thinking that the silent masses approve of its policies, because that is false.

The parliamentary debates were marked by repeated expulsions of opposition members, as well as by criticism of the Speaker's perceived aggressive behavior. What are your impressions of these exchanges in Parliament?
I am currently not based in Mauritius and, having seen these exchanges, I showed them to a few friends, mainly European, who couldn't help but laugh. I had never felt such shame for my country. I think that says it all…

Parliament, the true temple of our democracy, must be respected. It's the least we can do for those who are paid, with our money, to represent us there. What is happening in Parliament is a total lack of respect for the entire population, and some should be ashamed, starting with the Speaker.

As a young person, do you think that parliamentary debates influence your political engagement and your perception of democracy?
Not necessarily, I like to follow parliamentary debates to be informed of the next laws that will be adopted in the country, but the level of these debates is sometimes aberrant. I am waiting for the day when parliamentary debates will be held in Creole, a courteous and respectful Creole, which would reflect our Mauritianism. I think that Mauritians find this forced English and these insults in Creole that ring out from time to time ridiculous.

My political commitment, which is deep, personal and based on my convictions, is therefore not influenced by parliamentary debates. However, parliamentary debates do provide an overview of the state of our democracy, which is unfortunately in decline.

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