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Mauritius premier claims victory in legislative ballot

AFP  |  Port Louis 

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth claimed victory Friday in the Mauritius election, with official preliminary results showing his alliance taking a comfortable lead over rivals in the Indian Ocean nation.

With 80 percent of votes counted at 22:00 local time (1800 GMT), projections from the Electoral Commission gave a large lead to a coalition led by Jugnauth, who took the helm of one of Africa's wealthiest countries when his father stepped down in 2017.

Partial results from the state-run commission forecast Jugnauth's centre-right Morisian Alliance will win 38 of 62 possible seats in parliament -- enough to secure the outright majority needed to form government alone.

Jugnauth said he would be prime minister for all Mauritians after claiming to have won a popular mandate in Mauritius, a prosperous archipelago nation that prides itself as a stable democracy in a sometimes volatile neighbourhood.

The 57-year-old leader was hand-picked for the top job when his father quit two years before his term expired, spurring the jeers of nepotism that dogged Jugnauth during his brief time in office.

His two opponents -- both former premiers themselves, spearheading separate political alliances -- hammered the point home on the campaign trail, urging voters to dump the Jugnauth clan.

But the prime minister urged Mauritians to judge him on his short time in office, talking up economic reforms and infrastructure programs as he pursued a popular mandate from the people.

The Electoral Commission said roughly three-quarters of the island's almost one million eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots, a bit above the last poll in 2014.

It is the first time in decades that three distinct political blocs vied for power in the legislative elections. New alliances could be likely if none can clinch an absolute majority.

Navin Ramgoolam, a two-time prime minister at the head of the centre-left National Alliance, was on course to clinch 13 seats in parliament, official projections showed.

One of Ramgoolam's former allies Paul Berenger, and his Mauritian Militant Movement, were predicted to take nine seats.

The vote was overwhelmingly peaceful across Mauritius, a former British colony that has evolved from a poor, agriculture-based economy to a relatively wealthy financial services hub and tourist beacon.

The country of 1.3 million prides itself as a secure and thriving democracy free of the social and political upheaval roiling some of its African neighbours near and far.

Jugnauth had pointed to his stewardship of the economy, which grew at nearly 4 percent in 2018, social reforms and an infrastructure drive when opponents denounced "papa-piti" (from father to son) during the campaign.

Jugnauth has also introduced a minimum wage, about 215 euros ($240) a month, increased pensions for the elderly and reformed labour laws. The first stage of a new light rail network is also scheduled to open in December.

But the country of four volcanic islands, situated roughly 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) off the eastern coast of Africa, is not without its problems.

Youth unemployment, at 22 percent, is also high and income inequality is seen as deepening in the diverse country of 1.3 million.

It has also earned a reputation as a tax haven, and has come under fire for helping global companies park their wealth offshore, particularly those operating in Mauritius' poorer African neighbours.

Pope Francis, who visited in September, urged the country against seeking profit at all costs.

Mauritius is predominantly Hindu but has sizeable Christian and Muslim minorities. While voters choose 62 MPs, the Electoral Commission appoints eight others from those not elected but who attained the highest scores. This system rebalances the distribution of seats between parties and communities.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, November 09 2019. 01:00 IST
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