Mauritius

Free
86
100
PR Political Rights 36 40
CL Civil Liberties 50 60
Last Year's Score & Status
87 100 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. Civil liberties have historically been upheld but have increasingly been called into question. The political leadership remains dominated by a few families and ethnic divisions are increasingly prominent in politics. Corruption is a problem, journalists report increasing limitations and occasional harassment, integration of women into the political system has been slow, and LGBT+ people face threats and discrimination.

header2 Key Developments in 2021

  • The Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) government indefinitely suspended municipal elections scheduled for June through the Local Government (Amendment) Act 2021, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Concomitantly, authorities lifted other public health restrictions designed to curb the spread of the virus. As a result, the MSM has maintained power in local government without a mandate.
  • In March, three leading opposition representatives were suspended for the remainder of the legislative session for lodging corruption allegations against the prime minister. The speaker of Parliament has on multiple occasions suspended or expelled opposition parliamentarians for publicly alleging corruption by the prime minister since revelations of the Angus Road corruption scandal in 2020.

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. Pritivirajsing Roopun, a lawmaker from the 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 with the success of the MSM in the 2019 elections. Despite numerous opposition challenges in the Supreme Court, the Mauritian Supreme Court and international groups have determined the elections were generally considered credible.

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 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 to ensure fair representation of the country’s different ethnic communities. The members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms. Rodrigues island 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.

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? 3.003 4.004

The Electoral Supervisory Commission is broadly viewed as impartially supervising the electoral process. There is no law on the financing of electoral campaigns. Long-running discussions on electoral reform and party financing laws have not led to any concrete action as of the end of 2021.

The MSM government indefinitely suspended municipal elections scheduled for June 2021 through the Local Government (Amendment) Act 2021, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Concomitantly, authorities lifted other public health restrictions designed to curb the spread of the virus. As a result, the MSM has maintained power in local government without a mandate.

Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because the parliament adopted legislation that indefinitely suspended imminent municipal elections allegedly due to public health concerns, even though general public health restrictions were partially lifted.

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. More than 70 parties competed in the 2019 elections, only four formed the government.

Former attorney general and PTR member Jayarama Valayden was arrested in May 2021 for violating the Quarantine Act’s prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people. However, Valayden was arrested at a peaceful rally with nearly 100 people, and other such rallies proceeded during the year without arrests. Opposition parties claim authorities used the law to target Valayden.

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. The MSM has been in power since 2014, when it defeated the PTR.

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 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.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 held 3 of 24 seats in the prime minister’s cabinet as of 2021 and 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.

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 been able to make policy without interference or major political disruptions.

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. The Prevention of Corruption Act of 2002 covers most dishonest, fraudulent, and abusive governance practices but is inconsistently applied. Prime Minister Jugnauth has repeatedly come under scrutiny for what is known as the Angus Road corruption scandal, relating to the purchase of land in the early 2000s, which emerged in 2020. That year, the speaker of the parliament suspended or expelled opposition parliamentarians 14 times for publicly alleging corruption by the prime minister. In March 2021, three leading opposition representatives were suspended for the remainder of the legislative session for lodging additional corruption allegations.

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, 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. No law provides for individuals’ access government information. The prime minister hasn’t held open press conferences since August 2020, despite significant crises occurring during that time frame.

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, under these laws 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.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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. The media regulatory agency is within the executive branch and lacks independence. Its sanctions disproportionately target opposition media and under 2018 revisions to the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Act, journalists can face prison sentences for content that causes “inconvenience, distress, or anxiety.”

Journalists occasionally face legal pressure. One of the main newspapers, L’Express, has faced verbal attacks by authorities, who have also reduced public 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. L’Express and other media outlets have been barred from or marginalized in state briefings such as those on the 2020 Wakashio oil spill.

Critics fear that amendments proposed to the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Act in December 2021 could jeopardize the independence of private radio stations, posing a significant threat to press freedom.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

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? 3.003 4.004

Private discussion is generally unrestricted. However, 2018 amendments to the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Act made the online publication of material deemed false, harmful, or illegal punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In 2020 and 2021, multiple individuals were arrested under the ICT Act for expressing criticism of the government and its policies. In the first half of 2021, 153 cases were referred to the government’s Cybercrime Unit—which investigates violations of the ICT Act—though the charges were shared with the public.

Proposed amendments to the ICT Act were released in April 2021 that would create government proxy servers through which all encrypted social media traffic must pass, be decrypted, and be stored. A National Digital Ethics Committee (NDEC) would be created in the executive branch and would be empowered to review social media posts and refer individuals for arrest without judicial review.

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, 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 January 2021, authorities deployed security forces that were heavily militarized to intimidate and block peaceful protesters expressing anger over the Wakashio oil spill. However, a peaceful protest against the government was permitted in February 2021, the third such large demonstration since August 2020.

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? 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 law also specifically targets workers earning less than 50,000 Mauritian rupees ($1,303) per month who work in sectors deemed essential and 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 a one-time financial compensation.

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, 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.

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

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.

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 restrictions on travel to the Chagos Islands. 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.

In June 2021, Mauritius added provisions to the Quarantine Act requiring all citizens be vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Penalties for violating the requirement include up to a five-year jail term.

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. 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.

On Mauritius

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  • Global Freedom Score

    86 100 free