Mauritius: General elections of September 1991

Extracted from: "Mauritius" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 171-172.

Political life after the 1987 elections showed the familiar Mauritian pattern of electoral victory, alliance decay, and ever-shifting coalitions among the parties and personalities. Communal tensions continued to exacerbate public discourse. Renewed Creole-Hindu tensions, in particular, caused concern.

On 6 August 1991, Jugnauth dissolved the national assembly and announced that a general election would be held on 15 September, nearly a year early. Jugnauth led an alliance of his MSM [Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien] with the MMM [Mouvement Militant Mauricien] and the RTD [Rassemblement des Travaillistes Mauriciens] against an alliance of the MLP [Mauritius Labour Party] and the PMSD [Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate]. The MSM/MMM/RTD alliance was better prepared than the opposition. Before the election date had been announced, it had already drawn up its list of candidates for the 20 constituencies, and published its election manifesto. The opposition lost valuable time with lengthy negotiations concerning candidates and manifesto. The latter offered nothing new to the electorate and was broadly similar to the policies put forward by the government. Some 25 parties and independents and 331 candidates were involved. According to official figures, 682 000 voters (about 63% of the total population of 1 083 000) were entitled to vote, and of these about 576 300 (84.5%) turned out (see 1991 National Assembly election results for more detail). The government alliance's 56.3% of the vote gave it 57 seats in parliament, while the opposition's 39.9% of the vote gave it only three seats - an even more glaring discrepancy than in 1987 (see 1987 National Assembly election results). Only four best-loser seats were allocated.

The complex best-loser system, which served to ensure reasonable representation for all ethnic and religious groups, had become an anachronism (for more on the "best loser" system see ELKLIT, J 2005 Electoral system for Parliament in Mauritius). Statistics relating to the ethnic composition of the population were no longer collected, and the Electoral Commission therefore based its calculations on the 1972 census. During the past two decades the composition of the population had undergone significant changes. The scale of inter-marriage and cultural blend indicated that ethnicity did not necessarily determine a voter's religion. The best-loser system, however, tended to perpetuate the practice of communal politics.

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