Briefing from ROAPE Volume 4 Number 8
Mauritius: Class Forces & Political Power
A long-awaited General Election was held in Mauritius on 20 December 1976. The two major parties which contested the election were the governing Labour Party (in office since 1953) and the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM). Since they first became constitutionally overdue in 1972, the Labour Party has had to postpone elections repeatedly. Village and municipal elections were cancelled to prevent embarrassing landslides to the MMM, a party founded in 1969, two years after the last General Election. Since 1970 when the MMM challenged the Labour Party in a ‘safe’ seat and won with a 68% majority, by-elections also have been cancelled. Despite allying with an opposition right-wing party, the Parti Mauricien Social Democrate (PMSD), and enforcing a ‘State of Emergency’ since 1971, the Labour Party had, by the end of 1976, exhausted its constitutional manoeuvres. It neither had a sufficient internal consensus nor the authority to govern extra-constitutionally - so the election was held. One month before the election it was anticipated that the rightwing parties would use violence to provoke an extra-constitutional intervention. Much credit must be given to workers who mobilised against violence in order to allow the legal challenge to take place. In the event MMM won 34 seats in the 70-seat House, just two short of an absolute majority. The Labour Party and its allies (28 seats) and the PMSD (8 seats), after a week of post-electoral crisis in the power bloc, combined in a coalition to force out the MMM. The knife-edge election and the insecure coalition government have raised once again the possibilities and limitations of ‘the parliamentary road’ . The final emergence of Mauritius as an African country was formally heralded by Prime Minister Ramgoolam heading the OAU. But more substantively Mauritius is linked intimately to the political economy of Southern Africa, particularly through South Africa's heavy involvement in the Mauritian tourist industry. In this Briefing two local correspondents examine the relationship between political power and class forces in Mauritius.