Mauritius: Political Campaigns: The Main Political Parties and Alliances
The 2000 Mauritius National Assembly election was dominated by two alliances: the ruling PTr/PMXD and the MSM/MMM.
The PTr/PMXD Alliance
Like their respective fathers, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam and Gaetan Duval, the current leaders of the PTr/PMXD had entered into a coalition. The outgoing Prime Minister, Dr Navin Ramgoolam of the Labour Party (PTr), leads a coalition with Xavier-Luc Duval, the leader of the Parti Mauricien Xavier Duval (PMXD) and Minister of Finance in the outgoing government. Their alliance was formed in mid-1999.
The alliance promised to create 70 000 new jobs in the next five years, introduce a flexible tax system to stimulate foreign investments and emphasise human resources development through the building of new tertiary educational institutions.
Dr Ramgoolan claimed that his alliance filled 8 women candidates out of 60 candidates whereas the opposition alliance had fewer women candidates. Unfortunately, the Electoral Commissioner's office was unable to tell how many of the 535 candidates contesting the 2000 general elections were women, owing to the fact that it does not record this information.
The MSM/MMM Alliance:
The opposition alliance is composed mainly of the MSM of Sir Anerood Jugnauth and the MMM of Paul Bérenger. The MMM and the MSM have been in electoral alliance three times before. In 1982, their coalition won the National Assembly elections. However, the alliance between Paul Bérenger and Sir Arenood Jugnauth soon collapsed because of the incompatible temperaments of the two leaders.
Theoretically, the MSM and the MMM do not have major differences. The former was created by MMM dissidents. The main difference between the two parties seems to be their respective constituencies. Indeed, the MSM is seen as appealing mostly to the Hindu community while the MMM draws its membership from all communities.
On 15 August 2000, the leaders of these two parties as well several other leaders from much smaller parties signed what they termed a "historical electoral accord". The most outstanding aspect of this accord is the sharing of the prime ministerial mandate between MSM leader Sir Arenood Jugnauth and MMM leader Paul Bérenger. Under this arrangement, Jugnauth is to hold the post of prime minister for the first three years which would then pass to Berenger for the remaining two years. After surrendering the premiership to Bérenger, Jugnauth would be called to assume the function of President of the Republic after reforms to strengthen of the presidency, which is symbolic at present.
The MSM/MMM alliance argues this reform is necessary because the Prime minister holds too much power in Mauritius, including the right to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections. They charge that this system creates the opportunity for abuse. They illustrated this by recalling that Dr Ramgoolam dissolved Parliament on 10 August 2000, issued the writs of election on the same day, fixed the nomination day for 26 August 2000 and the poll day for 11 September 2000, leaving the opposition only 32 days to organise.
However, it must also be pointed out that Dr Ramgoolam is not the sole Prime Minister to have taken advantage of the system. In 1995, the then Prime Minister, Sir Jugnauth, dissolved Parliament on 16 November, issued the writs on 18 November, scheduled nomination day for 4 December and polling day for 20 December 1995. Here also the opposition had only 34 days between the dissolution of Parliament and polling day to organise.
The accord also provides for a reform of the electoral system to replace the "best losers system" gradually by proportional representation, and to end the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation's (MBC) monopoly over the electronic media.
In addition to sharing the post of prime minister, what makes the MSM/MMM electoral accord exceptional is the fact that it will allow, for the first time in the history of the island, a non-Hindu Mauritian to become the Prime Minister. Members of all communities accepted the prospect of having Paul Bérenger, a Franco-Mauritian, as the country's Prime Minister in 2003, with enthusiasm and serenity. This is encouraging in a country where elections have been characterised by intense animosity between members of different communities.