2010 National Assembly election results
|Votes %*||No of candidates||Elected seats||Best loser seats||Total seats||Seats %|
|Alliance de l'Avenir (Alliance of the Future)||49,31||60||41||4||45||65,21|
|Alliance du Coeur (Alliance of the Heart)||42,46||60||18||2||20||28,99|
|Front Solidarité Mauricienne (Mauritian Solidarity Front)||2,54||60||1||0||1||1,45|
|Mouvement Rodriguais (Rodrigues Movement)||1,04||2||2||0||2||2,9|
|Organisation du Peuple Rodriguais (Rodrigues People's Organisation)||0,93||2||0||1||1||1,45|
* The remaining 3,72% of the vote is made up of small minority parties that did not win any Parliamentary seats.
The general election held on May 5, 2010, in Mauritius is indicative of the island's vibrant and democratic political landscape. In a system that is dominated by coalition and alliance politics, the election was contested by a number of different parties grouped under strategic alliances with the intention to win a majority of seats in the National Assembly.
The Alliance de l'Avenir won the election with a total of 45 seats by receiving 49,31% of the vote, which translates into a majority of 65,22% of the Parliamentary seats. The alliance consists of the Mauritian Labour Party (MLP) (35 seats), under Navin Ramgoolam, the Militant Socialist Democrat Party (18 seats), under Pravind Jugnauth, and the Social Democrat Party (seven seats), under Xavier Duval.
The Alliance du Coeur, lead by former Prime Minister Paul Berrenger, came in second with 42,46% of the vote and 20 Parliamentary seats. The alliance consists of Berrenger's Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM), the National Union and the Mauritian Socialist Democrat Movement. The MMM is by far the biggest party in the alliance and benefited by claiming a majority of the Parliamentary seats won in the election.
The rest of the seats were shared between the smaller minority parties: the Mauritian Solidarity Front (one seat), the Rodrigues Movement (two seats) and the Rodrigues People's Organisation (one seat).
The Mauritian electoral system works on a complicated basis that draws from different constituencies at different levels of representation. Overall, the Mauritian Parliament consists of 70 seats. Sixty-two of these seats are divided up into 21 constituencies, with 20 constituencies possessing three seats each and one constituency, the Rodrigues island, with two seats. Within the different constituencies, voters vote for their candidate of choice, with the top three (two in Rodrigues island) taking their seats in Parliament.
The system employed by Mauritius is known as the "block vote" and is a system whereby each delegate's vote has a value in proportion to the number of people they represent. The method is, however, rarely employed in electoral systems, as it tends to magnify the level of disproportionality between Parliamentary seats gained and votes cast for a particular party.
The remaining eight seats are allocated to the "best losers" in the election. They are designated by the electoral commission under a complex formula designed to maintain a balance of ethnic groups in Parliament. To qualify for these seats, candidates need to classify the ethnic group to which they belong - either: Hindu, Muslim, Chinese or "general population". The aim of this system is to ensure minority representation in the National Assembly. In the latest elections, the Electoral Commission only designated seven seats on the basis that there were not enough credible candidates for the best loser seats.
The first European influence on Mauritius was that of the Dutch, who rather unsuccessfully, occupied the island between 1638 and 1710. The aim of the settlers was to commercialise the island to be used as a trading post on the important trade route to India. Hardship, disease and lack of food, however, eventually drove them off the island. The Dutch had very little influence on Mauritian society other than the introduction of sugar plantations and the decimation of the dodo.
Thereafter the French settled on the island and successfully established Port Louis as a naval base and a shipbuilding centre. The French influence on Mauritian society was significant with regard to laws, customs and language. Port Louis became an important base during the Napoleonic Wars as a point to launch attacks on British ships. Over the course of 1810, the British overpowered the French on the island and effectively took ownership. However, in the act of captivation, under the Treaty of Paris in 1814, Britain agreed to maintain the Napoleonic code of law, as well as maintaining the French language, traditions and custom. Therefore, despite British ownership of the island, French influence remained prominent within Mauritian society.
British rule, between 1810 and 1968, saw a number of drastic social and economic changes to the island, most notably the abolition of slavery in 1835, which changed the social landscape of Mauritius. After the abolition, a large number of Indian labourers were imported to work on the sugar fields. The Indo-Mauritian population steadily grew and eventually achieved numerical supremacy over the traditional French-Mauritians elites and Creole allies. Subsequently, the numerical supremacy translated into a shift in political power, which today sees an Indian domination of Mauritian contemporary politics.
Contemporary Political History
Independence was eventually achieved when a pro independence coalition composed of the MLP, the Muslim Committee of Action and the Independent Forward Bloc, defeated Gaetan Duval's Mauritian Social Democratic party, who were pro-Franco Mauritian, during a 1967 National Assembly election. The local population interpreted the election result as a referendum for independence. Subsequently, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam of the MLP and Chief Minister in the colonial government became the island's first Prime Minister at independence in 1968.
Inheriting a sugar dependent economy influenced by colonial policy, the independent Mauritian government directed efforts to diversify, This resulted in the rapid growth of the tourism sector, as well as a substantial manufacturing industry producing mainly textiles for export. Mauritius has also successfully expanded its financial and private sector and is seen as one of Africa's economic success stories.
The country's political history can be characterised by the gradual economic and political empowerment of the island's Indian majority at the expense of the French Creole communities, which has often given rise to tensions between the two groups. Successive governments, however, have been able to channel the discontent and have, to a large extent, been able to avoid any major conflict. In this respect, Mauritian administrations have successfully promoted national hegemony between a myriad of different communities.
The political culture of Mauritius is extremely fluid, in the sense that it is characterised by changing coalitions and shifting alliances in a democratic context. The only departure from democratic practice occurred in 1971, when the MLP-led coalition faced the radical threat of the MMM and its allies. Subsequently, the MLP promulgated the Public Order Act, which banned many forms of political activity and through which a state of emergency was declared that lasted up until 1976. The MMM eventually gained power through the ballot box in 1982.
After changing alliances, the MLP eventually returned to power in a coalition with the MMM with the MLP's Navinchandra Ramgoolam, son of the island's first Prime Minister, taking over the position. The coalition, however, broke down in 1997, with Ramgoolam dismissing the MMM from the alliance.
Elections in 2000 saw the re-emergence of the alliance, which garnered 51,7% of the vote. The alliance was fostered on an agreement that the position of Prime Minister would initially be occupied by the MLP's Anerood Jugnauth, followed by a MMM candidate taking over in 2003. Under this agreement, Paul Berrenger became the country's first non-Hindu Prime Minister in 2003, with Ramgoolam becoming President. Ramgoolam was reinstated as Prime Minister after the 2005 Parliamentary election.
Despite accusations by Berrenger that the 2010 election lacked credibility, owing to the State's hijacking of the media and the alleged manipulation of voters and electioneering, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community have declared the process to be free and fair.
While there are many social and political differences, Mauritius has been able to maintain a stable and vibrant democracy, which is demonstrated through its electoral process. Despite numerous democratic changes of government since independence in 1968, the country has been able to successfully diversify its economy, which is currently seen as an attractive investment opportunity, owing to its sound governance and impressive economic management. What was once a single resource-based agricultural economy is now characterised by a strong manufacturing industry, a robust tourism infrastructure and a growing financial services sector.
If Mauritius is able to continue on this path of stable economic growth in the context of a vibrant democratic society, the island will retain its status as a popular tourist destination and continue along its path of development.
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InfoPlease. Mauritius: History, Geography, Government, and Culture. (May 17, 2010).
EISA. Mauritius: 2010 National Assembly election results overview. (May 14, 2010).
EISA. Mauritius: Electoral system for Parliament in Mauritius. (May 14, 2010).
EISA. Mauritius: 2005 National Assembly elections results by party. (May 14, 2010).