Politics of Mauritius takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, in which the President is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government who is assisted by a council of Ministers . Mauritius has a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The absolute power is split between two positions, the President and the Prime Minister.
Mauritian politics is vibrant and characterised by coalition and alliance building. All parties are centrist and reflect a national consensus that supports democratic politics and a relatively open economy with a strong private sector. Alone or in coalition, the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP) ruled from 1947 through 1982. The Mauritian Militant Movement/ Mauritian Socialist Party (MMM/PSM) alliance won the 1982 election, taking all 60 seats in Mauritius. In 1983, defectors from the MMM joined with the PSM to form the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and formed a majority in coalition with the MLP.
In July 1990, the MSM realigned with the MMM and in September 1991 national elections won 57 of the 62 directly elected seats in parliament. In December 1995, the MLP returned to power, this time in coalition with the MMM. The MLP's Navinchandra Ramgoolam, son of the country's first prime minister, became prime minister himself. Ramgoolam dismissed his MMM coalition partners in mid-1997, leaving Labour in power only with several small parties allied with it.
The MMM and MSM rejoined in a coalition that won the 2000 elections and, although a handful of MPs defected from the MSM in early 2005, both parties went together to the next election in July 2005, competing against the Alliance Sociale, a MLP-led coalition. The Alliance Sociale won the elections with an overwhelming majority.
In 2010, the MLP made a controversial alliance with the MSM, which is reported to have been decided since MSM's leader Pravind Jugnauth won the partial elections in constituency No. 8 owing to MLP's leader's silent orders. The alliance again won the majority with a comfortable number of seats defeating the MMM's alliance with two other parties.
Until 1992, Mauritius was a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, but on March 12 of that year, the country became a republic within the Commonwealth. The last Governor-General, Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo, became President under a transitional arrangement, before stepping down three months later in favour of Cassam Uteem, a former government minister. Under the amended constitution, the country's unicameral parliament, the Legislative Assembly, was renamed the National Assembly.
Voting is very often carried out with communal tendencies. After independence, almost all the prime ministers elected by the population have been Hindus. Before independence, most Hindus did not have the right to cast votes and were not eligible to contest elections although were the majority ethnic group of the population. The only non-Hindu PM was Paul Raymond Bérenger who spent 22 months in office from 2003 to 2005 thanks to an understanding between his party, the MMM, and Sir Aneerood Jugnauth's party, the MSM, prior to the 2000 elections. Sir Aneerood Jugnauth thus assumed the office of PM for the first 3 years and, in 2003, Bérenger became PM while Jugnauth became President, a post usually reserved for a member of a minority ethnic group. Currently, Monique Ohsan Bellepeau, a Christian is the acting President, she took over from Sir Anerood Jugnauth a Hindu, while Prime Minister Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam is a Hindu.
More than 45 out of 70 members of Parliament are Hindus. The Ministries are also allocated in such a way as to maintain communal balance. Hindus hold 16 ministries out of 22; 3 ministries are allocated to Muslims and 3 ministries are allocated to Christians. The current electoral system based on the Westminster system, was devised by the British and incorporates what is commonly known as "Best losers", which maintains ethnic representation of MPs in the legislative assembly. Indeed, when the results of the elections do not represent the ethnic proportions of the population, the Best Loser System provides for additional members to be nominated by the Electoral Commission in order to ensure that the Assembly reflects the ethnic proportions of the Mauritian population.
The president and vice president are elected by the National Assembly for five-year terms. They form part along with the Speaker of the National Assembly, the legislative offices which under the constitution have the final decision and last word on any legislative matter including the laws of Mauritius. Most of the work is executed by the Executive Branch which consists of the Cabinet of Ministers, Leader of the Opposition and also other members of the parliament.
Another important structure of the government of Mauritius is the executive branch .The prime minister is appointed by the president and is responsible to the National Assembly. The Council of Ministers is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister. The Council of Ministers (cabinet), responsible for the direction and control of the government, consists of the prime minister (head of government), the leader of the majority party in the legislature, and about 24 ministers including one Deputy Prime Minister and/or one Vice Prime Minister.
The Republic has had many political parties since its independence .The oldest among the major parties remains the Labour Party created in 1936 and the most recent is the Militant Socialist Movement created in 1983 nearly 50 years after the Labours.
The elections are most of the time fought between the three following parties, Militant Socialist Movement (known as MSM), Mauritian Labour Party (Known as Parti Travaiste) and the Mauritian Militant Movement (known as the MMM). Some others less powerful help to make alliance and have a majority in a hung parliament situation .One party is Mauritian Social Democrat Party (Known as the PMSD) which was historically one of the major parties but nowadays represent fewer votes in elections.
Being the oldest party, the Labour has won in all 5 general elections alone or in alliance starting in 1967 followed in 1976 and its comeback from the opposition in 1995 being the first time alone in 2005 and lastly in alliance winning the 2010 elections.
In second position comes the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) which has won 4 general elections, those of 1983, 1987, 1991 and 2000 but is also in alliance with the Labour Party in 2010 victory. There is much debate on whether this party may still be considered a major party since it is suggested that it represented much fewer votes in recent elections, perhaps because of the shift in its leadership around 2003.
In last position comes the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) which has won the elections only 2 times, the major one in 1982 and lastly in 2000 forming an alliance with the MSM.
The MSM is known to be financially most powerful of the three and the MMM is known to be most stable party as it has on many occasions fought elections alone and has received much percentage of votes. The Labour party represents a significant lot when talking about the fight for independence and also brought freedom to the country during through electoral campaigns in order to obtain universal voting rights to all Mauritians.
The following table shows the different elections and the party which won the elections .
The Mauritian Labour Party was created in 1936 by late Dr Maurice Cure and other prominent figures such as Renganaden Seeneevasen and Emmanuel Anquetil. It was the party which fought against the imperial governance of the British. They altogether attended the conference in United Kingdom and resisted to the British demands and were still fighting for the independence of the country.
In 1957, a young physician known as Seewoosagur Ramgoolam was offered to be member of the party along with some friends. He later became the leader of the party and was the main negotiator for the independence without the spilling of blood and war. His mission was successful in 1967 when the Queen and British Government accepted their demand to free the island known as the Star of the Indian Ocean. Following the agreement, general elections were held in 1967 and the Labour Party was victorious against the Social Democrat (PMSD) which formed the official opposition .
Ramgoolam governed the country against all odds and its main resource being sugar cane. Mauritius began to emerge slowly with a very poor GDP and low average income in the country. Ramgoolam, being the leader of the majority party became Prime Minister in 1968 just after Independence. He remained there until 1982.
Paul Berenger, a French descendant born in Mauritius came back to Mauritius after his tertiary schooling in Europe. He began to analyze the government system and progress which he saw as poor and not adapted to the modern world. He therefore decided to create a political party which would have the main objective of taking away the country from poverty, famine and racial stigmas.
He formed the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) in 1970 from the very active student movement formed by some of his friends. With time, the MMM became very powerful. One famous figure was Sir Anerood Jugnauth who was a former minister in the cabinet of Ramgoolam. They joined hands and fought the general elections for the first time in 1976 .
The MMM obtained the majority of seats until Ramgoolam joined hands with the Social Democrates and formed a slighter majority of 2 seats higher. The MMM had 30 seats and the Labour Party 25 and Social Democrats obtained 7. They formed an alliance of 32 seats against 30. Berenger of European descent knew that Hindus being the majority would never want to have him as Prime Minister and therefore nominated Jugnauth to be elected as Prime Minister in case of victory. This may reflect the stigma still present in the minds of the working class at that time originating from the days when all the country was controlled and governed by the whites of French descent through slavery and later indentured labourers.
He also did an alliance with the Mauritian Socialist Party (PSM). They went in alliance and won the 1982 general elections as a high power as they obtained all 62 seats in parliament. Berenger decided that it was time for some constitutional reforms. He proposed that the executive powers of the Prime Minister be spread out in the cabinet and that the cabinet will have the most executive power than the leader .
Anerood Jugnauth strongly disagreed with Berenger on this matter and resigned from his party and as Prime Minister just after dissolving the parliament. This was considered by many as a major turn and trick. Jugnauth was put under pressure to resign and before his term ended, just few days before, he dissolved the assembly and called for new elections .
He took the Mauritian Socialist Party members and merged with a new party and founded the Militant Socialist Movement, (MSM) .His newly created party went for the general elections in alliance with the labours and social democrats .They won a comfortable majority and the MSM stayed to power until 1995 .
Anerood Jugnauth remained for a long time leader of the MSM and was Prime Minister for nearly 16 years and finally nominated as President in 2003. He recently resigned his term as President to join the political arena again.