Freedom in the World
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Freedom in the World Scores
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, and journalists occasionally face legal pressure.
Key Developments in 2017:
- In January, Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth resigned and named his son, Pravind Jugnauth, as the new prime minister. The move prompted opposition protests.
- In September, the justice minister was forced to resign after an investigation by journalists implicated him in a money laundering scheme.
- The journalists responsible for the story implicating the justice minister in corrupt activities were arrested and detained for questioning, but ultimately released without charge.
POLITICAL RIGHTS: 37 / 40
A. ELECTORAL PROCESS: 12 / 12
A1. Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4
The president, whose role is mostly ceremonial, is elected by the unicameral National Assembly to a five-year term. 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 reflect the dynastic character of Mauritian politics.
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was elected the country’s president in 2015, becoming the first woman to hold the post.
A2. Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4
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. Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4 / 4
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.
B. POLITICAL PLURALISM AND PARTICIPATION: 15 / 16
B1. 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 / 4
Political parties are generally free to form and operate. Forty-five parties competed in the 2014 elections.
B2. Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4 / 4
Since independence, political power has peacefully rotated among the three largest parties—the PTR, the MSM, and the MMM.
B3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group that is not democratically accountable? 4 / 4
Voters and candidates are generally able to express their political choices without pressure from actors not democratically accountable.
B4. Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3 / 4
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 women comprise one third of political parties’ candidates in each district.
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.
C. FUNCTIONING OF GOVERNMENT: 10 / 12
C1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4 / 4
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.
C2. Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3 / 4
The country’s anticorruption framework is robust, but at times inconsistently upheld. In September 2017, the justice resigned in the wake of money laundering allegations levied against him.
C3. Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3 / 4
The government openly debates the country’s budget in the National Assembly and publishes it and other legislation online and in the press. In May 2017, the Minister of Technology, Communication, and Innovation announced that a National Open Data Portal was being developed to provide Mauritians with data in numerous categories. In recent years, the authorities have worked to implement other transparency initiatives, though the country still lacks a freedom of information act.
CIVIL LIBERTIES: 52 / 60
D. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND BELIEF: 15 / 16
D1. Are there free and independent media? 3 / 4
The constitution guarantees freedom of expression. Several private daily and weekly publications freely 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. In 2017, three journalists were arrested in apparent connection with reporting that had implicated Justice Minister Ravi Yerrigadoo in a money laundering scheme, and ultimately forced his resignation. The journalists were detained for several hours before being released; the incident was described in the media as an attempt to intimidate them.
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. Several Hindu sites were vandalized during the year.
D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4 / 4
Academic freedom is generally upheld.
D4. Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4 / 4
Private discussion is unrestricted.
E. ASSOCIATIONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL RIGHTS: 12 / 12
E1. Is there freedom of assembly? 4 / 4
Freedom of assembly is generally upheld. A number of protests took place in 2017, including one in January 2017 against Anerood Jugnauth’s move to install his son, Pravind Jugnauth, as the prime minister.
E2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4 / 4
Civil society groups operate freely. However, many are reliant upon government funding that could compromise their independence.
E3. Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4 / 4
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: 13 / 16
F1. Is there an independent judiciary? 3 / 4
The generally independent judiciary, headed by the Supreme Court, administers a legal system that combines French and British traditions. The judicial system is considered transparent and nondiscriminatory. The judiciary’s independence is sometimes questioned, however, in cases involving politicians. Mauritius has maintained the right of appeal to the Privy Council in London.
F2. Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 4 / 4
Constitutional guarantees of due process are generally upheld. However, Mauritian criminal law allows for police to charge suspects provisionally, and then hold suspects indefinitely 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 must wait years before facing trial.
F3. Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3 / 4
Mauritius is free from war and insurgencies. Allegations of abuses by police continue. A measure establishing an Independent Police Complaints Commission was passed in 2016, but the body, which was not yet in operation in 2017, is expected to have limited power to investigate police misconduct.
F4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3 / 4
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. Sodomy is a crime, but is rarely invoked as a means of punishing same-sex sexual activity.
G. PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS: 12 / 16
G1. Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4 / 4
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. Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 3 / 4
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. Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3 / 4
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. Although domestic violence is against the law, it remains a significant concern.
G4. Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2 / 4
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 can be precarious, and there have been reports of employers confiscating their passports.