Opposition ahead in Mauritius vote count

Early parliamentary election results in Mauritius on Monday showed the opposition ahead in areas that were considered strongholds of the ruling alliance, private and state-owned radio stations said.

About 640 candidates contested Sunday’s elections for 62 seats.

Eight more deputies will be nominated to represent ethnic minorities and complete Mauritius’s 70-member Parliament.

The polls capped a campaign in which the governing coalition and the main opposition alliance ran a close race.

Final results were expected to be announced on Monday afternoon.

Ali Bahoo, deputy chief commissioner of the Electoral Commission of Mauritius, said on state-owned Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation that voting ended at 6pm local time, as scheduled. He said voter turnout was about 80% of the 817 000 registered voters.

Bahoo said voting went smoothly except in one constituency where guns were fired, but no casualties were reported or arrests made.

In another constituency, he said, there was a tussle between supporters of the governing and main opposition coalitions.

The election pits Prime Minister Paul Berenger’s political alliance of the Mauritian Militant Movement and Deputy Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth’s Militant Socialist Movement against an opposition alliance led by Navin Ramgoolam of the Labour Party.

The effect of world trade rules on Mauritius had been the focus of the campaign, with the opposition alliance charging the Berenger government’s policies have only made a handful of Mauritian businesspeople wealthy at the expense of tens of thousands of people who have lost their jobs in the key textiles and sugar industries.

However, Berenger’s coalition has said that Ramgoolam did little to prepare Mauritius for changes in world trade rules when he was prime minister between 1995 and 2000, and has not offered any alternative policies.

Berenger and his allies have said that they have made the island nation better able to compete in world markets and that Mauritius has been at the forefront of pressing for changes in world trade rules for the benefit of small island economies.

They argue that Mauritius also needs to expand its economy from traditional activities such as tourism and sugar, which is why the Berenger government has focused on developing Mauritius into a regional hub of information technology. — Sapa-AP

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