Mauritius

Free
89
100
PR Political Rights 37 40
CL Civil Liberties 52 60
Last Year's Score & Status
89 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Mauritius is home to an open, multiparty system that has allowed for the regular handover of power between parties through free and fair elections. However, the political leadership remains dominated by a few families, corruption is a problem, journalists occasionally face harassment and legal pressure, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people face threats and discrimination.

header2 Key Developments in 2018

  • In March, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who was elected the country’s first woman president in 2015, resigned after allegations emerged that she had made some $26,000 worth of personal purchases using a credit card issued to her by a nongovernmental organization (NGO).
  • In July, the minister of gender equality and the deputy assembly speaker resigned after the findings of a commission of inquiry suggested that each had links to drug traffickers.
  • In October, the parliament approved a broadly worded amendment to the Information and Communications Technologies Act (ICT) Act that made the online publication of material deemed false, harmful, or illegal punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
  • In June, the annual Mauritius Pride March was cancelled after the organizer received death threats, and police indicated that they might not be able to protect participants from threatening groups of opponents that had gathered along the parade route.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The president, whose role is mostly ceremonial, is elected by the unicameral National Assembly to a five-year term. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, elected the country’s first woman president in 2015, resigned in March 2018 after being implicated in a financial scandal. Vice President Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory became acting president, according to legal procedure.

Executive power resides with the prime minister, who is appointed by the president from the party or coalition with the most seats in the legislature. After the 2014 general elections, Anerood Jugnauth, leader of the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM), was appointed to the post for his sixth nonconsecutive term since 1982. He resigned in January 2017 and named his son, Pravind Jugnauth, as his replacement. The opposition decried the power handover as immoral, though it was approved by the president and considered legal under the constitution. The developments reflected the dynastic character of Mauritian politics.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

Of the National Assembly’s 70 members, 62 are directly elected and up to 8 “best losers” are appointed from among unsuccessful candidates who gained the largest number of votes. The members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms.

The 2014 elections took place peacefully, and stakeholders accepted the results. Mauritius’s two main political parties—former prime minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam’s ruling Mauritian Labour Party (PTR) and former prime minister Paul Bérenger’s Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM)—unexpectedly lost the elections to the Alliance Lepep coalition, made up of the MSM, the Mauritian Social Democratic Party (PMSD), and the Liberation Movement (ML). The 2014 election results were widely interpreted as a reaction to Ramgoolam’s proposed constitutional reform to increase the power of the president. The Alliance Lepep won 47 of the 62 elected seats, while PTR-MMM alliance gained 13 of the elected seats. In 2016, the PMSD left the Alliance Lepep and joined the opposition.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4.004 4.004

The Electoral Supervisory Commission has impartially supervised the electoral process. There have been 10 general elections in Mauritius since the country became independent in 1968.

Long-running discussions on electoral reforms and party financing laws continued in 2018, but no changes had been approved by the parliament at year’s end. There is no law on the financing of electoral campaigns.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

Political parties are generally free to form and operate. Forty-five parties competed in the 2014 elections.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

Since independence, political power has peacefully rotated among the three largest parties—the PTR, the MSM, and the MMM.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 4.004 4.004

Voters and candidates are generally able to express their political choices without pressure from actors not democratically accountable. However, money plays an important role in politics, and there is no law on the financing of electoral campaigns. There are some concerns about the influence of drug trafficking groups on the country’s politics, potentially exercised in part through campaign donations.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

The Hindu majority is viewed as maintaining most positions of political influence. Women hold a handful of cabinet seats and other high-level political positions, but are generally underrepresented in politics. Local elections require that one third of political parties’ candidates in each district be women.

Discrimination against LGBT people can discourage their active political participation.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4.004 4.004

Elected representatives are duly seated, and the government has generally been able to make policy without interference or major political disruptions. However, politics in Mauritius are dominated by a few families, with coordination among the head of the government, members of the National Assembly, and other relevant individuals. Only five different individuals have held the post of prime minister since independence in 1968.

In July 2018, the minister of gender equality and the deputy assembly speaker resigned after the findings of a commission of inquiry suggested that they had links to drug traffickers.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3.003 4.004

The country’s anticorruption framework is robust, but sometimes inconsistently upheld. In March 2018, Gurib-Fakim, who was elected the country’s first woman president in 2015, resigned after allegations emerged in the media that she had made some $26,000 worth of personal purchases using a credit card issued to her by an NGO.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3.003 4.004

The government openly debates the country’s budget in the National Assembly and publishes it and other legislation online and in the press. In recent years, the authorities have worked to implement other transparency initiatives, though the country still lacks a freedom of information act. In April 2018, the minister of technology, communication, and innovation launched the National Open Data Portal, through which the various cabinet ministries will release data. In December, lawmakers approved an asset declaration bill that applied to a wide range of public officials.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1. Are there free and independent media? 3 / 4

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression. Several private daily and weekly publications report on the ruling and opposition parties, but the state-owned Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation’s radio and television services generally reflect government viewpoints. A small number of private radio stations compete with the state-run media.

Journalists occasionally face legal pressure. One of the main newspapers, L’Express, has faced verbal attacks by authorities, who have also reduced advertising with the outlet, and its journalists have faced legal and other harassment.

D2. Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4 / 4

Religious freedom is generally upheld. The government grants subsidies to Hindu, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Seventh-day Adventist communities, but not to smaller groups, though all religious groups may apply for tax-exempt status. Tensions between Muslim and Hindu communities continue to be reported.

D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4 / 4

Academic freedom is generally upheld.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4.004 4.004

Private discussion is generally unrestricted. However, in October, the parliament approved a broadly worded amendment to the ICT Act that made the online publication of material deemed false, harmful, or illegal punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of assembly is usually upheld. However, in June 2018, the 13th annual Mauritius Pride March was cancelled after police said they might not be able to protect participants from groups of opponents holding antigay signs, some of whom were reportedly armed, that had gathered along the parade route. The main organizer also received a series of death threats ahead of the planned event. Both Prime Minister Jugnauth and the Roman Catholic Church in Mauritius condemned the antigay protesters and regretted the march’s cancellation. Later in June, a smaller pride event was held near the waterfront in Port Louis.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4.004 4.004

Civil society groups operate freely. However, many are reliant upon government funding that could compromise their independence.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4.004 4.004

Unions regularly meet with government leaders, protest, and advocate for improved compensation and workers’ rights. There are more than 300 unions in Mauritius.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 3.003 4.004

The generally independent judiciary administers a legal system that combines French and British traditions. However, judicial independence has been questioned in some cases involving politicians.

Mauritius has maintained the right of appeal to the Privy Council in London.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 4.004 4.004

Constitutional guarantees of due process are generally upheld. However, Mauritian criminal law allows for police to charge suspects provisionally, and then hold them for months until a formal charge is issued. Due to court backlogs, many of those being held in prison are in pretrial detention, and some detainees reportedly wait years before facing trial.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3.003 4.004

Mauritius is free from war and insurgencies. However, allegations of abuses by police continue. A measure establishing an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was passed in 2016, and it became operational in April 2018. By October, the IPCC had received 303 complaints.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3.003 4.004

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), set up by the 2008 Equal Opportunities Act, prohibits discrimination, promotes equality of opportunity in the public and private sectors, and investigates possible cases of discrimination. Though the law and the EOC do not allow for discrimination in the workforce, some citizens view economic leadership to be closed to ethnic minorities. Women generally earn less money than men for equal work.

LGBT people face discrimination and the risk of targeted violence. Laws that criminalize same-sex sexual activity remain on the books, but are rarely invoked. At least two small LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) groups are active in Mauritius, and seek to raise visibility of LGBT issues and counter homophobia.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4.004 4.004

Citizens are generally allowed to move freely within Mauritius but there are some restrictions on travel in the Chagos Islands, which are disputed between Mauritius and Great Britain. Mauritians are free to change their place of residence, employment, and education.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 3.003 4.004

Mauritius is considered among the most business-friendly countries in Africa. However, the Non-Citizen Property Restriction Act limits most noncitizens from owning or acquiring property. Corruption can hamper business activity.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3.003 4.004

The government generally does not limit social freedoms, though same-sex unions are not recognized. Rape is against the law, but spousal rape is not specifically criminalized. Domestic violence is illegal but remains a significant concern.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2.002 4.004

Women and children are vulnerable to sex trafficking, and while the government has made some efforts to prosecute traffickers and provide services to victims, these efforts are generally inadequate.

The position of migrant workers in the manufacturing and construction sectors can be precarious. There have been reports of employers confiscating workers’ passports, and of migrant workers becoming beholden to unscrupulous recruitment agents who charge huge fees for placement in a job.

On Mauritius

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  • Global Freedom Score

    89 100 free