Mauritius election 1999

Both sides confident as Mauritius polls close.

By David Fox

PORT LOUIS, Sept 11 (Reuters) – Both the government and opposition claimed victory on Monday as polling stations closed following a big turnout in general elections on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

Navin Ramgoolam

Electoral commission officials said over 75 percent of the country’s 750,000 registered voters had cast their ballots in an election which pitted the political old guard against a beleaguered ruling younger generation.

The race was chiefly between an alliance of Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam’s Labour Party and Xavier-Luc Duval’s small Mauritian Party and an opposition alliance of former Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth’s Socialist Militant party (MSM) and Paul Berenger’s Militant Movement (MMM).

“I am very confident that we will win,” Ramgoolam told Reuters after polling stations closed. “I am very confident of a great victory.”

But Jugnauth was equally bullish and predicted a landslide.

“I am confident we are stronger than the ruling alliance,” he told Reuters. “The score will be…60-0.”

More than 500 candidates were standing in 21 constituencies for 62 seats in the national assembly – 60 from the main island and two from neighbouring Rodrigues.

At stake is control of a small but prosperous economy and the opportunity to position the island in the new world order.

Jugnauth and Berenger are widely credited with transforming Mauritius in the 1980s from a sleepy backwater known chiefly for sugar and tourism into a modern manufacturing centre which is fast emerging as a financial services base.

PROMISES OF REFORM

But Jugnauth was voted out of office after 13 years in power in 1995 when the youthful Ramgoolam – with kingmaker Berenger’s short-lived backing – won the election on a platform of constitutional reform and economic liberalisation.

Berenger has now joined forces with Jugnauth in an alliance that would see the former premier rule for three years before being appointed president with beefed-up powers modelled on India’s constitution.

Berenger would be finance minister until taking over the premiership in 2003. His priorities, he told Reuters last week, are to speed up the privatisation of state enterprises and revitalise the export processing zone.

Ramgoolam’s government has been hit by corruption scandals in the past few months and ethnic riots last year also undermined his support.

A straw poll of voters carried out in his own constituency of working-class labourers and plantation workers suggested the tide was turning against him.

“He has done nothing for us small planters and labourers,” said Sanjay Rughoobar. “He worked only for Muslims. Hindus and Creoles will note vote for the Labour Party.”

“Our working conditions have remained the same and the cost of living has increased,” added Bulmick Boodhoo.

But Lall Singh, a 69-year-old small-scale farmer, disagreed.

“He has given us loan facilities with low interest rates to buy equipment,” he said. “I think he will again become prime minister.”

Mauritian society is dominated by a complex system of race, class and caste, which was likely to influence the outcome.

Both alliances draw support from ethnic Indians who make up the majority of the island’s 1.2 million people. Fifty percent are Hindus, while ethnic Indian Muslims make up a further 16 percent and Chinese three percent.

The remaining 30 percent are chiefly Afro-Creole, the mixed blood descendants of former slaves, or white Franco or Anglo descendants of colonial settlers. It is this bloc that could swing the election.

Counting begins on Tuesday and is expected to be complete within the day.

————————————————–

Premier concedes defeat in Mauritius election.

By David Fox

PORT LOUIS, Sept 12 (Reuters) – Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam on Tuesday conceded defeat in the Indian Ocean island’s general election, paving the way for former premier Anerood Jugnauth to return to power.

“I recognise my party’s defeat,” he told reporters as the latest tally showed the alliance he heads was being comprehensively beaten by an opposition coalition in the race for 62 seats from 21 constituencies.

“I recognise that my message has not been understood…(but) I will play my role in the opposition fully,” he added.

Although only 10 constituency results had been officially announced from Monday’s ballot – giving Ramgoolam’s alliance just four seats against the opposition’s 26 – running tallies from the rest show a landslide defeat.

The opposition alliance is made up of the Socialist Militant party (MSM) of former prime minister Jugnauth and the Militant Movement (MMM) of political kingmaker Paul Berenger.

Three members of the national assembly are elected from each of 20 constituencies on the main island. Neighbouring Rodrigues island chooses two others and up to eight “best losers” are selected by the electoral commission.

An alliance of Ramgoolam’s Labour Party and Berenger’s MMM won a landslide in the last elections in 1995, but their coalition was short-lived and Berenger took his faction into opposition.

This time Berenger rejoined forces with the MSM of Jugnauth who will again become premier in their power-sharing deal.

Anerood Jugnauth

Berenger, a former finance minister under Jugnauth, will again assume that portfolio and take over the premiership in three years’ time.

He told Reuters last week that he would base his economic policies on speeding up the privatisation of state enterprises, revitalising the export processing zone, stamping out corruption and encouraging foreign investment.

Jugnauth and Berenger were widely credited with transforming Mauritius in the 1980s from a sleepy backwater known chiefly for sugar and tourism into a modern manufacturing centre which is fast emerging as a financial services base.

But Jugnauth was voted out of office after 13 years in power in 1995 when the youthful Ramgoolam – with Berenger in his corner – won a landslide victory on a platform of constitutional reform and further economic liberalisation, neither of which really materialised.

Ramgoolam’s government has been hit by corruption scandals in the past few months and ethnic riots last year also undermined his support.

Both alliances draw support from ethnic Indians who make up the majority of the island’s 1.2 million people. Fifty percent of them are Hindus, while ethnic Indian Muslims make up a further 16 percent and Chinese three percent.

The remaining 30 percent are chiefly Afro-Creole, the mixed blood descendants of former slaves, or white Franco or Anglo descendants of colonial settlers.

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About FoxFromZim

I am a journalist from Zimbabwe, currently based in Singapore. I report chiefly on international affairs, specialising in politics, war and natural disasters when not playing golf badly.
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