PoliticsNews & AnalysisMauritius and the shifting political sands


Posted on Friday, 25 January 2013 15:07

Mauritius and the shifting political sands

By Touria Prayag

The musical chairs their fathers played were nothing compared to the constantly changing alliances of modern Mauritian politics.


As he celebrates his 25 years in politics this month, Mauritius's vice-prime minister and finance minister, Xavier Luc Duval (1), can thank his parents for his political lineage.

The son of a prominent politician, Duval inherits a name synonymous with success in Mauritian politics.

And he is not the only one. Other protagonists are pursuing a career that their parents and sometimes grandparents have made easier for them.

Foreign ministerArvin Boolell (2), son of the late foreign minister and Labour party leader Sir Satcam Boolell, has spent as many years in politics as Xavier Duval.

A graduate from the National University of Ireland, he is uncontroversial. Modest and composed, he has a good image, has never lost an election and is unlikely to lose any in the foreseeable future.

He is considered one of the Labour Party members who could aspire to take over from Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, currently in his sixties but still strong on the political scene.

Labour minister Shakeel Mohamed is a second-time MP and first-time minister.

The young lawyer is the grandson of the late Sir Abdool Razack Mohamed and son of Yusuf Mohamed, both prominent politicians and past ministers.

The Labour party MP is sharp, outspoken, and holds progressive ideas that are difficult to sustain in a traditional society like that of Mauritius.

His recent stand on abortion, for example, has alienated his electorate, and his no-nonsense attitude in industrial disputes has not increased his popularity with either side.

Side Door

Xavier Duval has been luckier.

He is in an alliance with the Labour Party, arguably the biggest party on the island, and with the smaller Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM).

He and his party, the Parti Mauricien Social-Démocrate (PMSD) entered Government House through the side door in the 2010 elections with two elected members of parliament out of 60 and two more nominated out of eight according to the controversial Best Loser System.

British-educated lawyer Pravind Jugnauth (3), son of a past prime minister, was handed the MSM party leadership when his father was nominated president of the republic in 2003 and has continued to benefit from the latter's support.

This contrasts strongly with Duval, who feuds with his father, the late opposition leader and vice-prime minister Sir Gaetan Duval, resulted in his leaving the PMSD party and founding his own, the Parti Mauricien Xavier Duval (PMXD), in 1998. The PMSD was reunited 11 years later.

A fortuitous fall

When Jugnauth walked away with the larger slice of the 2010 government pie – the ministry of finance – Duval was lumbered with the ministry of social integration, a newly created ministry with little power.

But he didn't have to wait long for his lucky star to shine again.

The MSM party resigned from government a year later, following a financial scandal.

Workers cringed while managers applauded as the newly-vacated finance ministry seat almost naturally went to Xavier Duval.

He was sworn in by the then-president, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, who is none other than the father of the previous incumbent.

Duval's domestic policies did nothing to disappoint his big-capital partners.

Duval's 25th year celebrations take place against a backdrop of negotiations for the upcoming budget.

The unions have already stated that the proposed salary increase is an insult to workers, while employers are brandishing the threat of lay-offs.

Though none of this is new and therefore need not worry Xavier Duval and his party, what could mar their euphoria are the talks going on between the Labour Party, their ally in government, and the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM), the main opposition party and their much bigger competitor.

As the PMSD and the MMM compete for the same voters, an alliance for one party with the Labour Party may sound the death knell for the other.

So, as the champagne is uncorked for Xavier's celebrations, the front bench must be examining the only option they have if their main ally should decide to look elsewhere: that of Xavier joining with MSM leader Pravind Jugnauth to form yet another political alliance●

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