Mauritian leader concedes election defeat

Mauritian Prime Minister Paul Berenger on Monday conceded his ruling coalition’s defeat in weekend parliamentary elections, telling the Indian Ocean island that the opposition “would form the next government”.

Berenger, the first prime minister of Mauritius not of south Asian origin, said his coalition had lost in Sunday’s polls to the Social Alliance, headed by ex-premier and head of the Labour Party Navin Ramgoolam.

“It is the Social Alliance that will form the next government,” Berenger said in a speech to voters in his constituency even before the first preliminary results from the election were officially made public.

Berenger headed the ruling coalition of the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) and the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM), which took power in 2000.

According to early unofficial returns announced later by the national election board, the Social Alliance had won 38 of the 62 constituencies that were up for grabs in the elections.

The ruling coalition, by contrast, had taken just 22 with the winners of the other two seats still unclear, officials said.

The remaining eight seats in the 70-member National Assembly will be nominated by the electoral board under the so-called “best losers” system, which rewards high placing also-rans with representation in Parliament.

More than 600 000 of the 817 305 registered voters, or 81,5%, turned out for elections that were essentially a two-man contest between Berenger and Ramgoolam, a former prime minister with strong backing from the majority Asian community.

Berenger had vowed to lead the country successfully through global market storms in its two main industries, textiles and sugar, while Ramgoolam had criticised the government for failing to prepare the island for such developments.

The campaign also took place against a backdrop of ethnic rivalry, with Berenger accusing Ramgoolam of stoking racial tension.—Sapa-AFP