Updated May 2010
Until 2009 there was no written code of conduct governing the behaviour of actors during elections. Berth Chiroro noted (2005, 4), "In Mauritius there are no specific rules or codes of conduct for either the ruling party or the coalition parties although there are various informal practices and unwritten rules by which parties have to abide. It is because of the democratic culture that prevails in Mauritius that a code of conduct was found to be unnecessary. However, with the increasing accusations of the abuse of public resources by the incumbents, there may be a need to revisit this issue of a code of conduct by all parties. Issues of political violence and intimidation have been minimal in Mauritius. There was a fair amount of violence in the election of 1976 but as the years have gone by, the electoral commission, the police, the candidates and their agents have ensured that a peaceful electoral environment prevails".
In 2002 the Commission on Constitutional and Electoral Reforms ("Sachs Commission") recommended that the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) develop a code of conduct in consultation with the main political parties, a suggestion taken up by the judiciary in 2007 while giving rulings on a case of electoral fraud by Ashock Jugnauth in the 2005 National Assembly election (ESC 2010a, 1). Accordingly the ESC developed a Code of Conduct for a by election held in March 2009 which formed the basis of the Code of Conduct for the National Assembly Elections, 2010, which it issued in April (ESC 2010a, 1).
The objective of the Code is to ensure electoral integrity and a free and fair environment for the election through creating an atmosphere of tolerance, of responsible exercise of campaign freedoms and of an informed electorate: "This CODE OF CONDUCT (the CODE) aims at complementing the legal provisions in force regarding the holding and conduct of elections in Mauritius, more specially those provisions regarding bribery, treating, undue influence, illegal practice, irregularity as well as those regulations governing election expenses which have to be strictly and scrupulously complied with" (ESC 2010a, 2).
The application of the Code is summed up in Article 1: "The CODE shall apply to all participants to the election. These include political parties or political party alliances, candidates, their agents, sub agents, employees, supporters or backers".
Article 2 lays out the principles and prescriptions that participants must adhere to. These include abstention from corrupt practices and undue influencing of voters, respect for differences, freedom of choice, freedom to campaign and renunciation of violence.
Article 3 treats the rights and duties of participants. In respect of the former Article 3.1 requires that participants acknowledge, respect and proclaim that legal political activities be untrammeled, including free expression of beliefs and opinions, freedom to proclaim and canvass support for party programmes, freedom to hold meetings, gatherings and rallies and have fair and equitable access to private and public media to propagate political views.
As far as duties are concerned, participants are required by Article 3.2 to refrain from and disavow the obtaining votes through bribery or corruption, incitement to violence or the destruction of property, provocative and offensive language, defamatory or inflammatory allegations, disturbing or disrupting the legitimate activities of others, destroying or defacing campaign displays and making unrealizable or false promises. Article 3.3 further requires participants to abstain using religion, ethnicity, caste or race as a basis for excluding others from their public activities or as a basis for rallying support and also from disseminating materials that offend of appeal to sectarian or 'communal' sentiments or that advocate violence. Participants are enjoined in Article 3.4 to avoid holding activities that overlap in time and proximity so as avoid conflicts between supporters, to maintain communications with opponents to facilitate the quick diffusion of tensions and to cooperate and communicate with electoral and security agencies.
Electoral expenses are dealt with in Article 4 of the Code, which requires that candidates adhere to the law governing finances and expenditure in a transparent way, bear in mind the consequences of failing to do so and renounce underhand means to hide expenses or circumvent the relevant legal provisions (see Political party funding, especially the section "Party expenditure").
Article 5 binds the participants to respect the environment. In Article 5.1 they are required to use biodegradable materials for election materials and refrain from using plastic, to restrict poster placements to designated areas, to leave electrical and telephonic wires free of bunting as well as areas where the bunting may cause a traffic hazard, to refrain from using paint and to conduct campaigning at hours and noise levels that do not disturb the peace and habits of community members. Article 5.2 requires that all posters, buntings, flags, ribbons and similar items be removed promptly after the results have been announced.
Campaign headquarters are governed by Article 6. Participants are permitted to set up campaign headquarters in any constituency, but must supply the address to the Electoral Commissioner. They must also ensure that the headquarters do not cause public nuisance or create tensions, are not sites for the consumption of alcohol or illegal activities and that they maintain control over supporters, members and agents. The use of ad hoc temporary camps as points of gathering for activists is prohibited.
On election day, according to Article 7, participants are required to comply with the law and the directives of the electoral officials so that voters may cast their ballots unhindered. They must instruct agents and supports to refrain from conduct that could spark confrontations with opponents and to refrain from impeding access to polling stations, playing loud music, broadcasting messages or making displays of force.
On the day when the results are proclaimed the successful candidates' victory speeches must urge supporters to allow defeated candidates to make their addresses without being shouted down or humiliated (Article 8.1). Candidates are further required to "be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat", to abstain from shows of strength in loud and disorderly parades and to conduct themselves so "as to preserve the integrity and safeguard sincerity of the voting process so as to make the result truly representative of the elector's wish" (Article 8.2).
Participants are required by Article 9 to inform the relevant authorities of events that may lead to violence, to the ESC of any violations of the law or of the Code and to the police any acts of corruption, personation and breach of authorized levels of expenditure. Moreover: "They further undertake to pay due attention to the election returns of expenditure made to the Returning Officer by all candidates and to report any inaccuracy or anomaly therein to the Returning Officer or the Police". They must also refrain from making complaints to the authorities that are false, frivolous or unsubstantiated.
According to Article 10 participants must publically commit themselves to adhere to the Code and publicize it and its contents. The ESC (2010b) also issued a "National Assembly Elections, 2010 Code of Conduct Declaration by Candidate" form that candidates were required to sign committing themselves to adhere to the Code.
CHIRORO, B 2005, "Registration of Political Parties in the Mauritius 2005 Election" IN Election Talk [PDF document], 23, June 24 2005, EISA, 2-4.
ELECTORAL SUPERVISORY COMMISSION (ESC) 2010a Code of Conduct for the National Assembly Elections, 2010, April, [www] http://www.gov.mu/portal/goc/eco/file/COC2010.pdf [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 5 May 2010).
ELECTORAL SUPERVISORY COMMISSION (ESC) 2010b "National Assembly Elections, 2010 Code of Conduct Declaration by Candidate", 17 April, [www] http://www.gov.mu/portal/goc/eco/file/cocfrm2010.doc [MS Word document] (accessed 5 May 2010).