Mauritius: General election of August 1983

Extracted from: "Mauritius" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 168-169.

Almost from the beginning, the governing alliance was rent by serious differences, partly of a personal nature but also over Bérenger's stringent economic policies and his attempt to make Creole the national language (despite the Indian descent of the majority of the population). In March 1993, the government collapsed when the dominant faction within the MMM [Mouvement Militant Mauricien], led by Bérenger, split from Jugnauth's leadership and resigned from the cabinet.

In early April 1983, Jugnauth formed a new party, the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM), which, in May, amalgamated with the PSM led by Boodhoo, and was renamed the Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien (MSM). However, the new government lacked a majority in the legislative assembly, and Jugnauth was obliged to dissolve the assembly in June. New elections were set for August 1993.

The MMM fought the election alone. Jugnauth's MSM formed a new coalition - called the Alliance - with the Labour Party and the PMSD [Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate], the very parties that only a year ago had been ousted from power by the MMM, which was then led by Jugnauth. The election was fought particularly bitterly and was dominated by intense racial, ethnic and ideological charges.

The popular vote was very close (for detail see 1983 Legislative Assembly election results). The MMM received 209 845 votes (46.4%) - the highest proportion of the vote ever received by a single party in any Mauritian election. The Alliance received 236 146 votes (52.22%); independents and the Rodrigues parties got the remaining 1.38% and two seats. Of the 552 800 registered voters, 452 221 (81.8%) had voted. When seats were distributed, however, the Alliance held a substantial majority - 46 to the 22 received by the MMM. The disproportionate weighting of seats reflects the fact that MMM votes were concentrated in urban constituencies where large numerical majorities won only three seats, whereas the Alliance swept the rural constituencies where Hindus predominated. The election was a personal victory for Jugnauth and something of a comeback for Duval, who became deputy prime minister, and Ramgoolam, who was named Governor-General shortly after.

Commenting on the MMM's fourteen months in power and the outcome of the 1983 election, Bowman (1991, 87) remarks that Mauritius worked itself "through a tumultuous political period in an orderly, constitutional way, without violence. Prominent leaders left power gracefully and allowed other parties and individuals to accede to leadership roles." And whereas the MMM had been historically viewed as a more radical party than the MLP, once in power it actually provided considerable continuity of leadership.

Reference

BOWMAN, LW 1991 Mauritius: Democracy and Development in the Indian Ocean; Boulder & San Francisco: Westview Press.