Mauritius: Government

Principal Government Officials

Chief of State: President Kailash Purryag
Head of Government: Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam

Mauritian politics are vibrant and characterized by coalition and alliance building. All parties are centrist and reflect a national consensus that supports democratic politics and a relatively open economy with a strong private sector. Mauritius became a republic on March 12, 1992. The most immediate result was that a Mauritian-born president became head of state, replacing Queen Elizabeth II. Under the amended constitution, political power remained with parliament, with the office of the president being largely ceremonial. The National Assembly elects the president. The Council of Ministers (cabinet), responsible for the direction and control of the government, consists of the prime minister (head of government, who is also the leader of the majority party in the legislature), and about 24 ministers. The unicameral National Assembly has up to 70 deputies. Sixty-two are elected by universal suffrage, and as many as eight "best losers" are chosen from the runners-up by the Electoral Supervisory Commission using a formula designed to give at least minimal representation to minority ethnic communities. Elections are scheduled at least every 5 years. Parliamentary elections were last held in May 2010. The next elections are expected to be held in 2015.

Mauritian law is an amalgam of French and British legal traditions. The Supreme Court--a chief justice and 18 other judges--is the highest judicial authority. There is an additional right of appeal to the Queen's Privy Council in London. Local government has nine administrative divisions, with municipal and town councils in urban areas and district and village councils in rural areas. The island of Rodrigues forms the country's 10th administrative division.

Alone or in coalition, the Mauritius Labor Party (MLP) ruled from 1947 through 1982, returning to power from 1995 to 2000, and again regaining power in 2005. From 1982 through 1995, power was in the hands of the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM), the Mauritian Socialist Party (PSM), and the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) in various combinations and alliances. In December 1995, the MLP returned to power, this time in coalition with the MMM. Labor's Navinchandra Ramgoolam, son of the country's first prime minister, became prime minister himself. Ramgoolam dismissed his MMM coalition partners in mid-1997, leaving Labor in power with several small parties allied with it. Elections in September 2000 saw the re-emergence of the MSM-MMM as a winning alliance, and Anerood Jugnauth once again became the prime minister with the caveat that mid-term, the leader of the MMM party would take over as prime minister and Prime Minister Jugnauth would become the next President of the Republic. In September 2003, in keeping with the campaign promise which forged the coalition, Jugnauth stepped down as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Paul Raymond Berenger became Prime Minister. One month later, the Berenger-led National Assembly elected Anerood Jugnauth as President of the Republic. Berenger became the first Catholic, Franco-Mauritian to head the government. The move created a historic precedent of having a non-Hindu, non-majority member head the national government. The 2005 parliamentary elections returned Navinchandra Ramgoolam to office as prime minister, and he retained that position following the 2010 elections. President Jugnauth resigned his office on March 31, 2012. Vice President Monique Ohsan Bellepeau became acting President. The Mauritian constitution provides that in the event of a vacancy in the office of president, the vice president assumes the office, but only until such time as the prime minister appoints, and the National Assembly concurs, in the appointment of a new president.

Mauritius ranked first among all African countries in the 2011 Ibrahim Index, a product of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation that measures the effective delivery of public goods and services to citizens in Africa. The index ranked 53 African countries according to four overarching dimensions: safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development.

FOREIGN RELATIONS                                                                                                                                                                                           Mauritius has strong and friendly relations with the international community, including with India and the countries of southern and eastern Africa. It is a member of the African Union (AU), World Trade Organization (WTO), the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Indian Ocean Commission, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Trade, commitment to democracy, colonial and cultural ties, and the country's small size are driving forces behind Mauritian foreign policy. The country's political history and dependence on Western markets have led to close ties with the European Union and its member states, particularly the United Kingdom and France, which exercises sovereignty over neighboring Reunion.

Considered part of Africa geographically, Mauritius has friendly relations with other African states in the region, particularly South Africa, by far its largest continental trading partner. Mauritian investors have gradually begun entering African markets, such as nearby Madagascar and Mozambique (though the pace of investment in Madagascar has cooled considerably since the 2009 coup d’etat in that country). Mauritius coordinates much of its foreign policy with the Southern African Development Community and the African Union.

Relations with India are strong for both historical/cultural and commercial reasons. Foreign embassies in Mauritius include Australia, China, Egypt, France, India, Libya, Madagascar, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Sources:

CIA World Factbook (May 2012)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( May 2012)

Glossary