Research carried out by

Mauritius

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

Population: 1.27 million
Head of Government: Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth
Ruling party/coalition: Militant Socialist Movement
Last election: November 2019
Next election: 2024
Year of study: 2020
Registered voters: 941,719 (2019)
Annual salary of member of legislature: MUR 1.89 million (US$49,728)

1
The asking price for a vote in 2019 varied between US$132 & US$264. This depended on the constituency and whether the race between contenders was close.
US$ 264
US$132
2
Candidates who provide basic goods to voters, not those whose party promises more systematic reform in its manifesto, are likely to be more successful in elections.
3
Candidates predominantly rely on their own money, with family and friends the next port of call for financial support for most candidates.
4
The constituency-related costs associated with being an MP can be monetary, in-kind or even through professional advice.
5
Elected representatives’ loyalty to a political party’s ideology or set of values has been replaced by political calculations driven by a desire to maintain the benefits of office.
6
Outside an electoral campaign, political parties have no legal status in Mauritius, allowing them to escape any system of control or monitoring.
7
A US$3,950 election expenditure ceiling for political party candidates has been unchanged since 1989, despite campaigns becoming more costly and elaborate. Adherence to these spending limits are observed only in their breach.
US$ 3,950

Population: 1.27 million
Head of Government: Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth
Ruling party/coalition: Militant Socialist Movement
Last election: November 2019
Next election: 2024
Year of study: 2020
Registered voters: 941,719 (2019)
Annual salary of member of legislature: MUR 1.89 million (US$49,728)

Key Findings

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Context

  • Mauritius is regarded as one of Africa’s leading democracies. The country has enjoyed political stability and been a multi-party democracy since its proclamation of independence from Britain on 12 March 1968. In 2018 it ranked first in the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
  • In the November 2019 elections, the term ‘money politics’ was regularly alluded to by political leaders, candidates, political observers and civil society. Even though under the Representation of People’s Act (1958) all party-belonging candidates must not spend over 150,000 Mauritian Rupees (US$3,950) and 2019 filings fall within the prescribed limits.
  • In Mauritius, the accelerated presence of clientelism is contributing to the death of ideology and the thinning of party loyalty.
  • Three political parties - the MLP being the oldest, established in 1937; the MMM, born a year after independence in 1969; and the MSM, established in 1983 by individuals who left the MMM – have dominated post-independence politics in Mauritius. Between them, they won over 90% of votes in the 2019 poll.
  • The 2019 election, Mauritius’s eleventh post-independence poll, gave victory to incumbent Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth whose coalition, headed by MSM, won 42 of the 70 National Assembly seats, with 37.7% of the vote.

Drivers of Cost of Politics

  • The candidate selection process is heavily controlled by the party executive, who are in turn influenced by key socio-cultural leaders. This  explains why dynastic and nepotistic practices have remained a key part of Mauritian politics. MPs believe that citizens view them principally as providers of social development and charity as opposed to elected representatives tasked with legislating, oversight and representation.
  • In the last three decades, party electoral manifestos have become less programmatic and more clientelistic in Mauritius. This means there is limited, if any, discussion of their content. Manifestos are more of a list of pledges to be initiated in case of electoral win.
  • During campaigns the biggest expense is the baz. The baz is an ad hoc political quarter or camp where political agents meet and coordinate campaign-related activities. Thebazis a physical representation of the political party’s or coalition’s presence and is decorated in party colours and with political posters. Running the baz can cost up to MUR 5,000,000 (US$131,000) per constituency.
  • Elected MPs can continue to pursue their professional activities whilst in office. This means that they can draw two salaries, allowing some of them to build funds for the next general election. MPs are given a lifetime pension if they serve two terms.
  • Once the election results are officially announced, candidates have one month to swear an affidavit and file their returns to the Electoral Commission Office (ECO) to confirm that they have not gone beyond the imposed ceiling. But there is no means for the ECO to check the accuracy of the returns as it has no power of sanction outside an election when political parties revert to being non-legal entities

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • For the most part only rich and connected candidates run for political office in Mauritius. Women and youth are vastly underrepresented.
  • Despite overarching consensus among political parties, civil society organisations and the broader public that the electoral system is dated and needs to be adjusted to reflect modern Mauritian societal realities, no substantive changes have been made in the last two decades.
  • The registration of political parties beyond an election can help lift the veil of opacity and secrecy. This would require the filing of records and disclosure of sources and might be the first step in creating a culture of transparency and accountability within parties. This culture of transparency could then be extended to the way candidates are selected and nominated. 
  • As for electoral expenses, the gap that exists between what the law allows and what is spent during a campaign needs to be urgently addressed. To that effect it is imperative that the ECO, and more specifically the ESC, which is responsible for the running of an election, be given the necessary enforcement capability.
  • Investing in voter education and political literacy can help contain the advent of money politics and transactional voting. Here, the media - via television, radio and the press – as well as non-governmental organisations and trade unions, can help by assisting with organising educational talks on this subject for the people across the island.

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