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Mauritius - Politics

Mauritian politics are vibrant and characterized by coalition and alliance building. All parties are centrist and reflect a national consensus that supports democratic politics and a relatively open economy with a strong private sector. People want a more meritocratic society and are less willing to accept the status quo.

Since independence from Britain in 1968, the island's political culture has relied heavily on rotating alliances among a tight-knit political class, and when leaders are defeated, they have typically launched comeback after comeback. Alone or in coalition, the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP) ruled from 1947 through 1982 and returned to power in 1995. This carousel-like system has made politicians reluctant to challenge one another, especially on issues in which all parties may be implicated.

Mauritius became an independent state and joined the Commonwealth in 1968. Negotiations for political autonomy in the 1960s were led by Seewoosagur Ramgoolan, leader of the Labour Party. He went on to become the first prime minister of Mauritius.

The government of Ramgoolan refused to allow the general election due in 1972 to go ahead, concerned as they were about the growing strength of the socialist Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM). A state of emergency was declared and MMM and union members leaders were imprisoned.

In 1982 the MMM, in alliance with Labour break-away group the Parti Socialiste Mauricien (PSM), won all the elected seats in the National Assembly. Although the MMM in government was less radical than it had been in the early 1970s, the alliance broke down within a year. Anerood Jugnauth, prime minister and president of the MMM, then broke away from the MMM to form a new party, the Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien (MSM). At the head of a new alliance of parties, the MSM won the elections of 1983, leaving the old MMM in opposition.

The Mauritian Militant Movement/Mauritian Socialist Party (MMM/PSM) alliance won the 1982 election. In 1983, defectors from the MMM joined with the PSM to form the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and won a working majority. In July 1990, the MSM realigned with the MMM, and in September 1991, national elections won 59 of the 62 directly elected seats in parliament. In December 1995, the MLP returned to power, this time in coalition with the MMM. Labor's Navinchandra Ramgoolam, son of the country's first prime minister, became prime minister himself. Ramgoolam dismissed his MMM coalition partners in mid-1997, leaving Labor in power except for several small parties allied with it.

Elections in September 2000 saw the re-emergence of the MSM-MMM as a winning alliance, as the coalition garnered 51.7% of the vote, and Sir Anerood Jugnauth once again became the prime minister with the caveat that mid-term, the leader of the MMM party would take over as prime minister. In September 2003, in keeping with the campaign promise which forged the coalition, Jugnauth stepped down from office and Deputy Prime Minister Paul Raymond Berenger became prime minister. One month later, Sir Anerood Jugnauth was sworn in as President of the Republic. Berenger became the first Catholic, Franco-Mauritian to head the government. The move created an historic precedent of having a non-Hindu, non-majority member head the national government.

In the July 2005 general election, the opposition Social Alliance (with 38 seats) defeated the governing alliance; Labour Party leader Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam became prime minister. He was the son of Seewoosagur Ramgoolan, the first prime minister of Mauritius. The 2005 parliamentary elections returned Navinchandra Ramgoolam to office as prime minister, and he retained that position following the 2010 elections.

The general election in 2010 was won by Navinchandra Ramgoolam’s newly formed Alliance of the Future, with 41 of the 62 National Assembly seats.

International and local observers characterized National Assembly elections held in December 2014 as free and fair. The constitution provides for filling 62 of the up to 70 National Assembly seats by election. It also provides for the Electoral Supervisory Commission to allocate up to eight additional seats to unsuccessful candidates from any potentially unrepresented community, based on the 1972 census statistics through a system known as the Best Loser System (BLS).

Various political observers claimed the BLS undermined national unity and promoted discrimination. In 2012 the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that a requirement obliging citizens running for election to declare their ethnic and religious status violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In response to that ruling, the government amended the constitution in July 2014 to exempt candidates in the 2014 legislative elections from having to declare themselves as belonging to one of four recognized “communities”: Hindu, Muslim, Sino-Mauritian, or General Population (those who do not belong to one of the other three categories). The growth of the Muslim and General Population groups relative to the other two communities since 1972 was a particular source of concern, and critics proposed reforms to eliminate the BLS system altogether after the 2014 election. Candidates who did not declare their membership in a specific community during the most recent election were not eligible for a BLS seat.

International observers of the 2014 legislative elections noted some problems. These included unequal representation because of the failure to redraw electoral district lines to reflect population changes since 1999, the low number of female candidates, inequitable access to media to promote wider coverage of candidates, counting ballots on the day after elections, and the absence of legislation effectively governing the financing of political parties and candidates.

As the country's prime minister since 2005 - as well as having served a term from 1995-2000 - Navin Ramgoolam called early elections for 10 December 2014. As part of a new coalition, Ramgoolam was widely expected to run away with the victory, with some even suggesting the coalition might win every single seat in parliament. The plan after the polls was to change the constitution to confer more powers on the presidency, for which Ramgoolam would then run in turn. However, the public turned sharply against the incumbent, leading the opposition Alliance Lepep to victory in a landslide. Ramgoolam even lost his own parliamentary seat and, a week later, was replaced by 84-year-old Anerood Jugnauth, who returned to the premiership for his sixth term since 1982.

With its open and critical press and active political culture, the tiny paradisiacal island of Mauritius has long been one of the region's most vibrant democracies. But this liveliness reached an all new level since a new government surprisingly swept into power in December 2014, and allegations of conspiracy, money-laundering, and cronyism under the old leadership have unfolded in public like a political soap opera. Almost every day, Mauritians have been treated to fresh intrigue as former top officials are questioned over lucrative government deals, piles of cash found at the homes of senior figures are counted by police, and allegedly illicit foreign bank accounts are traced.

The prime minister of Mauritius officially handed over the office to his son January 23, 2017 in a controversial transition of power. Outgoing Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth, 86, said "The job of prime minister involves great responsibility. It is a great burden. I have carried it, but now it is time to make way for the youth...." Pravind Jugnauth, the new prime minister, is 55, and was the finance minister before the handover. The transition was made without the benefit of an election, prompting accusations of nepotism and calls for a new election. "Everywhere on the island it can be seen that the population is against the 'father and son deal' which has not gone through an election," said Paul Berenger, a former prime minister and a member of the opposition Mauritian Militant Movement.

Nearly a million people were registered to vote in the parliamentary election in Mauritius, a stable democracy in the Indian Ocean, on 07 November 2019. The more than 300 polling stations opened at 6am local time (02:00 GMT) and were due to close at 6pm local time (14:00 GMT) Mauritians had their first chance to decide if Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth should continue to rule since he was hand-picked for the job when his father stepped down more than two years ago. Jugnauth succeeded his father, Anerood Jugnauth, as prime minister without a popular vote when the older man stood down in 2017, two years ahead of schedule. The 57-year-old is asking voters to judge him on his short time in office, pointing to his record on modernising public infrastructure and economic reforms in the former British colony. But he faced two opponents who say his appointment to the island's top job amounted to little more than nepotism.

For the first time in decades, three distinct political blocs vied for power in the legislative elections. New alliances could be likely if none can clinch an absolute majority. Jugnauth heads the centre-right Morisian Alliance, Navin Ramgoolam, a two-time former prime minister leads the centre-left National Alliance and one of his former allies, Paul Berenger, is going out alone with his Mauritian Militant Movement. Berenger, who briefly served as prime minister from 2003 to 2005, has also denounced dynastic politics and accused Jugnauth of presiding over "scandals of all kinds". The prime minister has banked on the strength of the Mauritius economy - it grew 3.8 percent in 2018 - and key reforms such as introducing a minimum wage and hiking pensions.

Voterschose 62 MPs - 60 from the main island of Mauritius, and two from Rodrigues, a small island some 600 kilometres (370 miles) to the east. The Electoral Commission then appoints eight other representatives from among those not elected, but who received a high number of votes, to rebalance the distribution of seats between parties and communities in the national assembly.

Elections are scheduled at least every 5 years.

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Page last modified: 07-11-2019 19:01:53 ZULU