Mauritius ruling party wins landslide election


Mauritian Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam looked set for a second term after the opposition conceded victory to an alliance led by his Labour Party in a parliamentary election on the Indian Ocean Island.

Government supporters took to the streets waving flags and honking car horns after opposition leader Paul Berenger accepted that an alliance led by the Labour Party had won the vote.
“The results of the poll are clear. Since 1991 no government has obtained a second term after an election,” Ramgoolam said from his constituency after final results came through.
“Work starts now. I appealed to one and all to respect our opponents because in a democracy we have winners and losers.”

The Labour Party has been in power since 2005.

Some analysts said Labour’s alliance with the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) would see a strengthening of the welfare state. Reforms to diversify the economy away from the sugar, textiles and tourism sectors are expected to continue.

The man widely credited with the reforms, former Finance Minister Ramakrishna Sithanen will not return to the cabinet.

Sithanen, who unveiled a $340 million stimulus package in December 2008, was denied a ticket to contest the elections.

There has been speculation that the MSM’s support came on the understanding its leader, Pravind Jugnauth, would become finance minister if they won.
“This government is a government of continuity. With the MSM on board, there will be a human dimension to the economic strategy and an acceleration of the process to democratise the economy,” economic professor Chandan Jankee told Reuters.

Ramgoolam has overseen sustained growth since he was elected in 2005, slashing red tape to lure foreign investors and weathering the financial crisis better than expected thanks to economic policies praised by donors.

He pledged to continue with economic reforms, and has pledged tax reforms.
“We will abolish the national residential property tax and tax on interest,” Ramgoolam told a news conference late yesterday.

Confirmed results read out by returning officers at polling stations gave the Labour alliance 41 parliamentary seats, 18 to the leading opposition Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) party and one to the Mauritian Solidarity Front (FSM).

A party from the island of Rodrigues won its two seats in the national assembly.

A further 8 seats are allocated to the best losers to ensure all ethnic communities are fairly represented.

Ramgoolam said he will wait for the electoral supervisory commission to officially designate the best losers before naming a new government — expected in the next few days.

Game of ethnicity
“We concede defeat at a national level,” opposition leader Berenger told supporters in his constituency.

Analysts said that Berenger, who is of French descent, drew most of his support from Mauritius’ ethnic minorities.

Mauritius is a melting pot of Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Chinese communities but the majority Hindus have dominated the political scene since independence from Britain in 1968.
“The game of alliance and ethnicity has played in favour of Navinchandra Ramgoolam in this election. Ramgoolam has obtained a majority of votes in rural areas because he reassures the majority group,” local analyst Jocelyn Low said.
“Another factor that has favoured the Labour Party and its allies is the sound economic management during the last five years,” Low said.