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Mauritius to hold early general elections in September

Sapa-AP, 11 August 2000

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius - Hours after parliament was dissolved without explanation, Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam announced that general elections would be held Sept. 11.

In a statement late Thursday, Ramgoolam said the decision to hold the elections before parliament had completed its five-year term was not linked to recent corruption scandals.

The poll was being held in September because he did not want the country to have to undergo a lengthy election campaign, the statement said.

President Cassam Uteem dissolved the 64-seat National Assembly earlier Thursday following consultations with Ramgoolam, but neither official offered an explanation for his decision.

High-level corruption has become a divisive political issue on this Indian Ocean island that gained independence from Britain in 1968 and has the highest per capita income in Africa.

The ministers of health and social security resigned Wednesday following allegations of corruption.

On Thursday, the former health minister, Kishore Deerpalsing, was questioned by the Economic Crimes Office on allegations of conspiracy to embezzle public funds totaling around dlrs 160,000.

Denying that corruption had anything to do with the dissolution of parliament, Ramgoolam said it was he who set up office in the first place.

He added that he didn't want voters to have to go to the polls twice in a short period. A by-election was due in October following the death of an opposition legislator, and national elections had to be called by the end of the year.

The Mauritius Labor Party won a majority in the 64-seat parliament in December 1995 elections for a five-year term.

Uteem, an independent, was re-elected in June 1997.