Mauritius voters rejected plans to grant more powers to the president by handing an unassailable lead in a parliamentary election to a coalition that rejected changing the constitution, according to television reports on Thursday. The coalition of the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and the Parti Mauricien Social Democrate (PMSD) had secured 44 of the 62 contested seats by 2.50 p.m. (1750 GMT), while the ruling Labour Party and its ally which backed the change had just 13.
Mauritians lined up to vote on Wednesday in a parliamentary election that could lead to more powers being granted to the president if the ruling Labour Party wins. Six hours after polls opened at 7 a.m. (0300 GMT) about 28 percent of the roughly 936,000 eligible voters had cast ballots, the electoral commission said. Polls close at 6 p.m. with results due out on Thursday. Mauritius has expanded as an offshore financial centre, spurring construction of tower blocks in the capital Port Louis, in recent years. But workers in the tourism, sugar and textile industries, the other economic mainstays, often complain they have been left behind. “The biggest challenge for whichever coalition wins this election will be to ensure a better distribution of wealth,” voter Karl Constant said after casting his ballot.
Nearly one million Mauritians head to the polls on Wednesday for the tenth legislative election since the island nation’s independence, with the key campaign issue: the proposed strengthening of presidential powers. The issue of constitutional reform makes the polls one of the most important for Mauritius since the independence of the Indian Ocean nation from Britain in 1968. Two rival coalitions are competing for 62 parliamentary seats — 60 on the main island of Mauritius, and two on the small island of Rodrigues, some 560 kilometres (350 miles) to the east.