The prime minister of Mauritius accused his former ally and finance minister of treason for quitting the ruling coalition, but said the government stay in power with a slim majority to avert a political crisis in the Indian Ocean island.
Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam’s coalition now has just 36 parliamentary seats, versus the opposition’s 33, raising investor concerns of possible turmoil in one of Africa’s most stable countries that is a financial hub and tourism magnet.
Former finance minister and Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) leader Pravind Jugnauth left the year-old alliance with Ramgoolam’s Labour Party in protest at the arrest of the health minister on graft charges late last month, Reuters reports.
“I am absolutely not worried about my majority in parliament. I have an ally (in the Parti Mauricien Social Democrate(PMSD)) and I know that he is very loyal,” Ramgoolam told a news conference.
Ramgoolam said Jugnauth acted irresponsibly when he and five other members of his party resigned at a time when the island’s key trade and tourism sectors are suffering from the economic downturn in Europe, a key player in its economic fortunes.
Mauritius has so far weathered the fallout from the global slowdown and euro zone debt crisis better than some expected, analysts say.
“The leader of the MSM wanted me to intervene in the ICAC (graft) enquiry but I did not give in to blackmail so they decided to resign with five other ministers from cabinet. This is an act of treason,” Ramgoolam said.
Jugnauth was not immediately available to comment.
He and the five other ministers quit after Health Minister Santi Bai Hanoomanjee, who was among the six MSM ministers who resigned, was arrested on charges of inflating a government tender to acquire a private hospital.
Ramgoolam, who appointed Charles Gaëtan Xavier-Luc Duval, who leads the PMSD as the new finance minister, said his main focus will be to preserve existing jobs and create new ones, and mitigate the impact of Europe’s debt crisis on the economy.
Mauritius is a popular holiday destination, famed for its azure seas, white beaches and luxury spas. But the European economic slowdown has weighed heavily on tourism and the government is keen to develop new Asian markets.