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SADC Forum Sends Mission to Mauritius Election
by Jean Chimhandamba

Port Louis, 7 September 2000

For the first time in its political history Mauritius will host an observer mission for its parliamentary election Monday. An 11-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum arrives tomorrow (Friday) to observe the proceedings.

The Forum is a regional organization made up of 12 parliamentary structures representing 1,800 Members of Parliament. One of its prime objectives is to promote the principles of democracy, human rights and gender equality in SADC. The mission is co-ordinated by the Forum's secretary-general, Dr. Kasuka Mutukwa.

Mauritius electoral rules preclude external observers but the Parliamentary Forum has the Mauritian Speaker and three MPs among its members. A Mauritian was on the observer team to the Namibian elections last year.

According to a press release today, it is the Forum's view that the 14 member states of SADC have much to learn from each other and that what is happening in neighbouring countries may have a positive or negative impact on the region as a whole. The Forum is committed by the SADC Treaty to observing elections in all member states as well as promoting regional and inter-parliamentary co-operation.

Their presence in Mauritus is in recognition of the country's membership in the Forum and in full recognition of Mauritius "long-standing tradition of holding multi-party elections."

As the campaign is set to wind up Sunday, 535 nominated candidates will be competing in the sixth parliamentary election for 62 contestable seats.

Of the original 568 nominated candidates after the election was called in mid-August, 33 have withdrawn. From the 62 elective seats, 60 are in the 20 constituencies in Mauritius itself and the other two are in Rodrigues, an island 563 km to the east.

An additional maximum of eight seats in the 70-member House of Assembly will be allocated to the "best losers" after the poll results have been announced. This is a system peculiar to Mauritius and is done to establish an ethnic and political balance, taking into consideration the country's multi-ethnic society. The constitution recognises four communities within the population: Hindus, with 51 percent; "general population" mainly Creole-speaking people of African descent, 28 percent; Muslims, 17 percent and Chinese, three percent.

Yet another peculiar feature to Mauritius's electoral system is the block voting system in which the electorate must vote for three candidates in each constituency (Rodrigues returns two).

This system was first used in the 1967 elections which led to independence from Britain on 12 March 1968.

Approximately 729,000 people have registered for the forthcoming election.

The two main bodies in charge of running the elections are the Electoral Supervisory Commission and the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission is a public office whose staff are civil servants but the Mauritian constitution guarantees their independence from any interference. The two bodies work in consultation with each other.

The polls will be held Monday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an hour's closure for lunch.

Counting will start at 8 a.m. Tuesday with final results expected by mid-afternoon. Each constituency will have one central counting centre. (SARDC).

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