Mauritius: when the mighty fall.

Author:Wan, James
Position:Current Affairs: MAURITIUS
 
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As elections approached in December, Navin Ramgoolam was expected to prolong his rule as prime minister for another five years, but instead he lost the election and now faces charges of conspiracy and money laundering. James Wan reports from Port Louis on the unfolding scandal and what it could mean for the country.

In Mauritius, it has been the rule since independence in 1968, that when the mighty fall, they fall gently. In contrast to many other countries in which party leaders who lose elections are expected to pass on the mantle, Mauritius' losers simply dust themselves off and bide their time before the next poll.

The 85-year-old Anerood Jugnauth, the island's "new" prime minister since December 2014, for instance, has been in and out of office since 1982. Meanwhile, the tireless Paul Berenger has run in ten elections over the past four decades despite being on the losing side six times.

On this small tropical island, governed by an even smaller political class, leaders have to be pragmatic in making and breaking alliances, and no one is ever quite discarded. This is a place where comebacks are the norm and even humiliation at the ballot box can be shrugged off. At least, perhaps, until now.

Along with Jugnauth and Berenger, the third giant of Mauritian politics since the 1990s has been Navin Ramgoolam. The son of Mauritius' independence leader, Seewoosagur, Ramgoolam first swept to power in 1995. He lost elections in 2000, but then returned to the premiership in 2005 and extended his mandate in 2010. This December, as fresh elections approached, he was widely expected to prolong his rule even further under a new canny alliance with long-time opponent Berenger. Some even predicted this coalition of convenience might win every single seat in parliament. But instead, the opposition Alliance Lepep--led by Jugnauth--won in a surprise landslide.

The last time Ramgoolam lost the premiership as the incumbent, he had returned five years later, but this time there was no soft landing, and it seems unlikely that there will be another comeback. In February, Ramgoolam was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and money laundering. Police found $6.4 million in cash at his home, much of it in foreign currency.

Ramgoolam denies any wrongdoing, claiming the cash was legitimate donations to his Labour Party.

But out of keeping with the past half-century of Mauritian politics, this time, the new government allowed the defeated incumbent to fall far, fall...

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