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Smooth Turnover Following Mauritian Election
by Hugh McCullum

Port Louis, 14 September 2000

Two days after a huge turnout of voters threw out the ruling party on this island nation of 1.2 million, the sea of plastic bunting which was draped from every building and power pole has disappeared - hopefully to some environmentally safe place (electoral officials say they will ban plastic next time round - if they can).

There is one more huge carnival celebration of victory by the winning alliance on Sunday, by which time Sir Anerood Jugnauth, 73, will be sworn in by President Cassim Uteem as the new prime minister and head of government and his co-leader of MMM/MSM, Paul Berenger, as deputy prime minister and finance minister. The rest of the smallish cabinet, about 25 members, will be named shortly.

The complex "best losers" decision is expected Friday from the independent Electoral Commissioner and Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC). There will be a maximum of eight MPs selected from party lists in "a crude form of proportional representation from existing party lists," says Abdool Rahman, the electoral commissioner. The remainder of the 62 MPS are elected following the traditional British first-past-the-post.

Rahman's office is now doing a statistical analysis of the voting (81 percent of 790,000 plus registered voters cast ballots) following which he will recommend four MPs to balance the ethnic minorities and up to four more to balance political parties. Only candidates are considered and "best losers" can only come from those who came fourth in each constituency. (In Mauritius three candidates are elected from each of 60 constituencies plus two on Rodrigues Island. The "best losers" will only come from the 20 main island constituencies.)

The current 54-6 in favour of MSM/MMM plus the two Rodrigues parties which usually join the winning alliance in hopes of a cabinet seat means that the eight new MPs as "best losers" cannot upset the outcome the voters wanted.

Constitutionally, the ethnic groupings consist of Hindus, Muslims, General Population and Chinese but the political groupings are far more complex and require analysis.

Rahman will submit his findings to the ESC which will likely endorse them. There is no further debate.

Shortly after the eight MPs are announced, out-going Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam will offer his resignation to Uteem which he has already publicly agreed to do. Uteem will invite Jugnauth to become prime minister and form a government which he too is anxious to do and Mauritius will resume its normal life. The rallies, a repeat of last Sunday's huge celebrations could attract 10s of thousands of Mauritians.

All parties and candidates have accepted the results, praised in all their speeches the independence and competence of the ESC and the police and the small opposition led by Ramgoolam has pledged to "play its full role in examining all the legislation and work of the government."

Mauritius has decided. (SARDC)

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