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Mauritians reject leftist coalition

Highlights

By their numbers, ethnic Indians have dominated the political scene. Successive governments have enjoyed special ties with India and have striven to nurture old cultural links. The ties need to be strengthened

By their numbers, ethnic Indians have dominated the political scene. Successive governments have enjoyed special ties with India and have striven to nurture old cultural links. The ties need to be strengthened

Gazing at a Pakistan next door and a distant America, we seem to have ignored an important political development in Mauritius, the Indian Ocean island-nation with 68 per cent of its population being of Indian origin. The opposition has scored a surprise landslide victory there. Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, the only special guest from outside South Asia who attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in May, has lost. He has lost his own seat in the polls that took place on December 10. Leading his centreright coalition to a victory with a huge majority and returning to power for the third time is former President and Prime Minister, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, 84. Modi has been quick to telephone him and congratulate him on the victory.

The result comes as a surprise after Ramgoolam's centre-Left coalition, consisting of his Labour Party and the Militant Mauritian Movement of ex-Prime Minister Paul Berenger, had entered poll as the clear favorite. Of the 62 parliamentary seats, 47 have gone to the winners, with Ramgoolam’s coalition getting a mere 13. What will be noted across the democratic world is the fact that the one million-plus voters have given a landslide victory for the opposition coalition led by Sir Aneerood, defeating the plans of making constitutional changes mooted by the alliance led by Dr Ramgoolam.

The changes intended were aimed at diluting the Westminster-style parliamentary that Mauritius has been since its independence and give more powers to the President. Had Ramgoolam won, he was expected to run for the Presidency. Jugnauth, who was president from 2003 to 2012 as well as Prime Minister from 1982-1995 and 2000-2003, has promised to boost the economy, based largely on tourism, textiles, sugar and financial services. "As promised, I will do everything so that there is a second economic miracle in the country," he told the nation in a broadcast on Sunday. Mauritius is one of the richest nations in Africa, with a per capita GDP of $9,200 and a population of 1.3 million people. The island has maintained one of the developing world's most successful democracies and has enjoyed years of constitutional order. It has preserved its image as one of Africa's few social and economic success stories.

Mauritius is officially divided into four ethnic groups: Hindus, Muslims, Chinese and the "general population", which consists mainly of Creoles and mixed-race people. Mauritius has had only four Prime Ministers since its independence in 1968, three of them ethnic Indians. The present President is Kailash Purryag. By their numbers, ethnic Indians have dominated the political scene. Successive governments have enjoyed special ties with India and have striven to nurture old cultural links. Mauritius is a major hub, outside South Asia, of Indian culture as well as – since a significant number of migrants have been from northern India – Hindi language and literature. The ties need to be strengthened .

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