During the turbulent political period that preceded the Independence of Mauritius, there was a great apprehension of hegemony expressed by the minority ethnic groups – Creoles, Whites, Muslims, Chinese, etc. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, leader of the Labour Party with his allies S. Bissoondoyal of the IFB and R. Mohamed, CAM were campaigning for Independence, whereas Koenig and Duval, leaders of the PMSD, campaigned for an Association with Great Britain. The contest between the Pro-Independence and Pro-Association factions was rough and tough, often carrying the country on the brink of racial clashes. Tension was high in the air. Violent racial explosions could have occurred at any time due to the existing fear, suspicion and mistrust in the country.
Constitutional Conference – London
Fortunately, thanks to the participation of technical advisers from the British government and other experts on constitutional matters, the Mauritian political leaders meeting in London finally reached a compromise – The Best Loser System (BLS). “The essence of politics is compromise,” says Macaulay. No doubt, the task of the participants – Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo, Sir Harold Walter, Sir Satcam Boolell, Jules Koenig, Sir Gaëtan Duval, Sookdeo Bissoondayal, Sir Abdool Razack Mohamed at the London Constitutional Conference, had not been an easy one. They however allowed understanding, common sense and wisdom to guide them in reaching their final decision. Mauritius, because of its diversity and specificity is in need of a specific electoral system like the BLS. “Je connais les raisons pour lesquelles ce système a été introduit. L’histoire a démontré que nous avions raison,“ Sir Anerood Jugnauth, an extract from Le Mauricien, Monday 24 Sept. 2012.
We believe that the BLS is ‘A MUST’ for the General Population, the Muslims and the Chinese. One must not forget that the BLS has also been applied in the case of Sir Kher Jagatsingh, Motee Ramdass and Ravi Yerigadoo, all three members of the Hindu community. The Electoral Commission is empowered to do the needful in regard to a minor change, just as it did after Gaëtan Duval had stood as a candidate in four different constituencies at the general elections in 1982. Since then, no other ‘Froder Elektion,’ can stand as candidate in more than one constituency at an election.
Banwell – Electoral System
Banwell recommended (among others) 20 constituencies in Mauritius returning 3 members each and Rodrigues 2 members. At the same time Banwell divided the population into 4 sections: Hindu, Muslim, General Population and Chinese for electoral law purposes.
The final proposal and actual electoral system is based on Banwell recommendations and modified by Stonehouse.
The Best Loser System
- “BLS was designed to provide ‘balanced’ ethnic and political representation.”
- “The Best Loser System is a method used in Mauritius to make sure that the minority ethnic groups are well and equitably represented in the parliament.”
- “The Best Loser System was set up long ago to prevent political tension in the country…”
Communalism in Mauritius
Can Resistans ek Alternativ eliminate communalism in Mauritius? What we desperately need in Mauritius is a change of mentality. Until that can happen, I will tend to share the view that-“As long as Mauritius exists, communalism will exist.” (Mauritius Times, 21-27 March 2008 – Yousuf Mohamed).
Finally, there is nothing wrong with the BLS; it has helped to prevent political tensions in the country and to maintain peace and harmony among the various ethnic groups after an election. According to MAM, the status quo of the BLS should be maintained, except for a very minor change by the Electoral Commission. In fact, the country needs No Electoral Reform, No Proportional Representation, No Senate, No Assembly of 90 Deputies, No Party List System in order to make that change, and at the same time, satisfy Resistans ek Alternativ, in line with the UN Human Rights Committee’s recommendation. However, if the Electoral Commission implements that change that would allow Resistans ek Alternativ not to state their ethnic belonging in their nomination forms, the Electoral Commission should automatically exclude them from any allocation of the Best Loser seats.
Eliézer François JP
* Published in print edition on 3 August 2021
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