Mauritius – Electorate rejects the incumbent government and semi-presidentialism

Mauritius held its snap parliamentary election on Wednesday. The previous election was held in May 2010 and the parliamentary term is five years. However, Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam from the Mauritius Labour Party/Parti Travailliste (MLP/PTr) asked the president to dissolve parliament in October.

The election took place against the background of a shift in electoral coalitions and the prospect of constitutional reform.

In October the Labour Party and the Mauritian Militant Movement/Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) led by Paul Bérenger formed an alliance. Whereas the MMM was the main opposition party after the 2010 election, the Labour Party’s slim parliamentary majority left PM Ramgoolam looking for allies. The agreement between the two parties was reached on the basis of a programme of constitutional reform.  As reported in a previous post the plan was to introduce a semi-presidential system with a stronger directly elected president. PM Ramgoolam would assume the presidency and Bérenger would take the prime ministership.

The MLP/MMM (or PTr/MMM) alliance was opposed at the election by the Alliance Lepep (Alliance of the People). This electoral coalition was dominated by the Militant Socialist Movement/Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM) led by Anerood Jugnauth, but also included the Mauritian Social Democratic Party/Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD). They were opposed to the prospect of constitutional reform. Indeed, the election quickly became a referendum on the proposed changes. However, they also campaigned on a programme of social reform, and human rights (the destruction of information from the country’s identity card).

At the election turnout was 74 per cent. This was lowest turnout at any parliamentary election to date. Even with a number of seats still to be decided, the result is clear. The opposition Alliance Lepep has won an outright majority. Currently, the Alliance Lepep has won 47 seats, while the MLP/MMM has won just 13 seats. PM Ramgoolam was defeated in his own constituency, coming in fifth, while Paul Bérenger, himself a former PM from 2003-2005, came third in his constituency. PM Ramgoolam has already accepted defeat.

The new prime minister, Anerood Jugnauth, is 84 years old. He was the president of Mauritius from 2003-2012. He also served as prime minister from 1982-1995, during which time Mauritius was still a parliamentary monarchy, and again from 2000-2003. Anerood Jugnauth is the founder of the MSM and, in effect, the PM-elect, while the current leader of the party is his son, Pravind Jugnauth.

This is not the first time that Mauritius has considered introducing semi-presidentialism, but now it is off the political agenda for some time.

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