Conduct of Elections


The leaders of the Labour Party, MMM and PMSD have met with the Electoral Commissioner this morning to discuss about the discrepancies which were noted in the organisation of the 2019 elections and to suggest remedial measures that would help remove the cloud of suspicion over the conduct of elections in Mauritius. Even if the Supreme Court has rejected most of the electoral petitions lodged by unreturned candidates of the Opposition, MMM candidate Jenny Adebiro’s bid for a recount at Constituency No.19 in particular lifted the lid on serious anomalies and dysfunctions which have cast even more doubt on the integrity of the election process in 2019 not only in Constituency No. 19 but in other constituencies around the island. The more so since it came out thereafter that there would also be the same issue of the figures in the Recapitulation of Votes form not adding up in Constituency No. 15, similar to what happened in No. 19.

It bears repeating that the offices of the Electoral Commissioner, Electoral Supervisory Commission and Electoral Boundaries Commission receive an annual allocation from the government earmarked and voted for in the budget. Moreover, a special fund is made available during an election year. The latest information available online indicates that the organisation of the 2005 general elections cost taxpayers a total of Rs 128,466,059, including Rs44 M for ‘Election Fees’, and one can well imagine how much more had to be earmarked and indeed spent in 2019. That is the price that taxpayers are willingly prepared to pay so that a democratic state and the democratic ethos should always prevail, and that the country’s leaders and its institutions will deliver good governance when the people demand it.

Barring an element of mischief involving at times minor electoral trickeries to win an edge over the adversary, and the generalised electoral expenses above the ceiling authorised by the law by most if not all parties, it would now seem we may have hit the bottom insofar the organisation of free and fair elections is concerned.Unless the electoral Commission takes the necessary steps to convincingly demonstrate to the electorate that it could be trusted to provide “independent, impartial, ethical and professional electoral service to all stakeholders in the electoral process and to maintain strong public confidence”, as advertised in its vision statement.​ The more so given that the Court-supervised recount opened a Pandora’s box. It goes beyond simple arithmetic miscalculations – as evidenced from Recapitulation of Votes forms (in No. 19, and possibly in No. 15 as well) – to depict a sorry spectacle of failures, to say the least, that have marred the organisation of the 2019 elections with the discovery of ballot papers not bearing the official stamp of the Electoral Commission, one ballot of Constituency No.1 which has found its way into the lot of No. 19, and 73 ballot papers found to be missing – all of which are sufficiently serious to warrant a proper and objective police investigation.

In a comment on this unacceptable state of affairs, former Education minister Dharam Gokhool stated to this paper: ‘In our electoral system based on the principle of First Past The Post,every single vote counts. Is not 73 one too many? Such unresolved discrepancies will not only make people lose confidence in our democratic institutions, if allowed to go unresolved; they will simply destroy the very foundations of these democratic institutions and our Republic.’ He added: ‘If anything, the recount and its sequel have further thickened the veil of mystery around the electoral processes in Number 19 and, by extension, in the 2019 general elections. Trust in our electoral processes has been seriously undermined.’

From the glaring discrepancies found in the Recapitulation of Votes forms, the opacity surrounding Computer Rooms, and other issues that the Opposition leaders would surely have raised with the Electoral Commissioner, what all this means is that there are some serious questions to be asked and have remained mostly unanswered as regards the conduct of the 2019 elections. The Electoral Commission and the Electoral Supervisory Commission had better do the right thingnext time round – for its own and the country’s reputation and stability.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 28 April 2023

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