Mauritius is home to an open, multiparty system that has allowed for the regular handover of power between parties through free and fair elections. Civil liberties are generally upheld. However, the political leadership remains dominated by a few families, ethnic divisions are increasingly prominent in politics. Corruption is a problem, journalists occasionally face harassment and legal pressure, integration of women into the political system has been slow, and LGBT+ people face threats and discrimination.
- In February, Kaushik Jadunundun—a member of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Act’s governance body, the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA)—was arrested for defamation and spent the night in jail. He resigned in April because of his arrest. The arrest of Jadunundun and another individual who posted comments on Facebook about a sitting parliamentarian, were both under provisions of the ICT Act.
- The COVID-19 Act, passed in May, has been criticized for limiting workers’ rights, including through reductions of additional pay for night-workers and overtime, annual days of leave, and other protections in the Workers’ Rights Act (WRA) of 2019. The COVID-19 Act also specifically targets low-income, essential workers by enabling employers to bypass union negotiations and make direct requests to a Redundancy Board created by the WRA.
|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. Pritivirajsing Roopun, a lawmaker from the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM), was elected president in December 2019, following the previous month’s parliamentary elections.
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. Pravind Jugnauth of the MSM, who had succeeded his father as prime minister when the latter stepped down in 2017, was reinstalled after the 2019 elections, which were generally considered credible.
|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 in 21 constituencies, including 2 members from a constituency representing the autonomous island of Rodrigues. Up to 8 “best losers” are appointed from among unsuccessful candidates who gained the largest number of votes, in order to ensure fair representation of the country’s different ethnic communities. The members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms. Rodrigues has its own elected Regional Assembly.
The MSM’s Morisian Alliance won 42 seats in the November 2019 National Assembly elections. The opposition National Alliance, led by former prime minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam’s Mauritian Labor Party (PTR), took 17 seats, followed by former prime minister Paul Bérenger’s Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) with 9, and the Organization of the People of Rodrigues (OPR) with 2. Opposition leaders filed court challenges over alleged irregularities, but African Union (AU) election observers concluded that polling was conducted peacefully and professionally. Voter turnout was approximately 77 percent.
|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 is no law on the financing of electoral campaigns. Long-running discussions on electoral reform and party financing laws have led to no concrete action as of the end of 2020.
|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. More than 70 parties competed in the 2019 elections, only four formed the government.
|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. The MSM has been in power since 2014, when it defeated the PTR.
|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 who are not democratically accountable. However, money plays an important role in politics, and there is no law on the financing of electoral campaigns. The Jugnauth and Ramgoolam families have long-running holds on political leadership positions, which may influence intraparty politics.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||3.003 4.004|
The government officially recognizes four distinct communities: Hindus, Muslims, Sino-Mauritians, and the general population, which includes Mauritian Creoles, Franco-Mauritians, and people of African descent. Ethnic minority groups such as Rodriguais and Chagossians are considered Creole. The Truth and Justice Commission (TJC) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) sought to ensure that all ethnic minority groups hold equal legal rights and access, though in practice linguistic nationalism has maintained a social hierarchy that marginalizes Mauritian Creoles politically and favors the Hindu majority, who hold most positions of political influence.
Women hold a handful of cabinet seats and other high-level political positions but are generally underrepresented in politics. Fourteen women secured seats in the 2019 parliamentary elections. Local elections require that at least one-third of political parties’ candidates in each district be women.
Discrimination against LGBT+ people can discourage their active political participation.
|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 been able to make policy without interference or major political disruptions.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||3.003 4.004|
The country’s anticorruption framework is robust but inconsistently applied.
In 2018, former president Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who was the first woman to be elected president in Mauritius, resigned after allegations emerged in the media that she had made thousands of dollars in personal purchases using a credit card issued to her by a nongovernmental organization.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||3.003 4.004|
The government openly debates the country’s budget in the National Assembly, publishes it and other legislation online and in the press, and maintains a National Open Data Portal. However, Transparency International has noted concerns about opaque hiring processes that may be affected by nepotism and cronyism. In 2020, the corruption watchdog warned of government opacity in the management of medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ways in which nepotism led to the Wakashio oil spill. There are no laws that guarantee the right to access government information.
In May 2020, the National Assembly passed the Quarantine Act and the COVID-19 Act, which was criticized for increasing the discretionary powers of the prime minister without transparency requirements. Further, the prime minister does not need to consult with public health officials when setting public health guidelines. Policies instituted under the two laws do not need to incorporate an expiration date (sunset clause) for their implementation.
|Are there free and independent media?||3.003 4.004|
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. Its journalists have faced legal and other harassment, though no reporter has been imprisoned and most are broadly perceived as operating freely.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||4.004 4.004|
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.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Academic freedom is generally upheld.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||3.003 4.004|
Private discussion is generally unrestricted. However, 2019 saw the first impacts of the October 2018 amendments to the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Act making the online publication of material deemed false, harmful, or illegal punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
In 2020, multiple individuals were arrested under the ICT Act for expressing criticism of the government and its policies. In February, Kaushik Jadunundun—a member of the ICT governance body, the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA)—was arrested for defamation and spent the night in jail. He resigned in April because of his arrest. In July, a Facebook user was arrested for allegedly insulting a member of Parliament in one of their posts.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 due to the arrests under the ICT Act of an individual who allegedly insulted a politician online and a member of the ICT governing authority, who subsequently left his position.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of assembly is usually upheld, though authorities’ responses to some protests have raised concerns in recent years. The May 2020 passages of the COVID-19 Act and Quarantine Act have been cited by some as government overreach. All assembly was banned during the government-imposed lockdown, and provisions of the laws increased policing powers to enforce this provision and others.
In August and September 2020, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the poor handling of the Wakashio oil spill.
|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.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||3.003 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. However, the COVID-19 Act, passed in May 2020, has been criticized for limiting workers’ rights, including through reductions of additional pay for night-workers and overtime, annual days of leave, and other protections in the Workers’ Rights Act (WRA) of 2019. The COVID-19 Act also specifically targets workers earning less than 50,000 Mauritian rupees ($1,303) per month who work in sectors deemed essential. The new law enables employers to bypass union negotiations and make direct requests for the mass termination of workers’ contracts to a Redundancy Board created by the WRA; before the Act, employers had to negotiate with unions to find alternatives. Whereas before workers could file a grievance with the Commission for Conciliation and Mediation, under the COVID-19 Act, all decisions are made by the Redundancy Board. If the Board rules in favor of the worker, the worker receives one-time financial compensation.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because the COVID-19 Act exempts employers of essential workers from processes designed to protect the rights of workers and union members.
|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.
|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.
|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, and the 2016 Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was formed to manage complaints. However, allegations of abuses by police continue. Under the Quarantine Act passed in May 2020, police powers were extended to include boarding a ship or aircraft, entering private premises without a warrant, and arresting someone without a warrant believed to be in violation of the Act.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||3.003 4.004|
Though the law and the EOC do not allow for discrimination in the workforce, some citizens view economic leadership to be closed to ethnic minority groups. Chagossians and other minorities form an underclass, while Hindu Mauritians are more privileged, albeit within a differentiated ethnic structure with remnants of a caste system. 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 relations remain on the books, even if rarely invoked.
|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 restrictions on travel to the Chagos Islands. Mauritians are free to change their place of residence, employment, and education.
|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.
|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.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||2.002 4.004|
Women and children are vulnerable to sex trafficking. 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. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mauritian labor rights advocacy organizations have claimed that the government’s rolling back of labor protection laws have led to more exploitation of migrant workers.
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Global Freedom Score86 100 free