The un­stop­pable Jug­nauths

Prime Min­is­ter Anerood Jug­nauth, 86, plans to hand over power to his son, Pravind, at a time when the pop­u­la­tion is ex­pect­ing a sec­ond eco­nomic mir­a­cle

The Africa Report - - COUNTRY FOCUS MAURITIUS - Nasseem Ack­bar­ally in Port Louis

Prime Min­is­ter Anerood Jug­nauth’s sur­prise an­nounce­ment in Septem­ber that he will be step­ping down soon to hand power over to his son, fi­nance min­is­ter Pravind Jug­nauth, has shaken up Mauritian pol­i­tics. While op­po­si­tion fig­ures like Paul Bérenger and Navin Ram­goolam say that pol­i­tics should not be treated like a fam­ily dy­nasty, Anerood, 86, and his al­lies in the gov­ern­ing Mou­ve­ment So­cial­iste Mil­i­tant (MSM) say that Pravind can take over with­out call­ing for a new gen­eral elec­tion. Anerood hav­ing de­clared him­self a lame duck, the po­lit­i­cal class is wait­ing on a time­line for the suc­ces­sion to take place. In the mean­time, things have be­come more com­pli­cated for Anerood. Ashok Subron, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, ex­plains: “Th­ese past months, the prime min­is­ter has found him­self in a mi­nor­ity in cabi­net sev­eral times, on very im­por­tant eco­nomic is­sues, be­cause the lo­cal eco­nomic elite and the pri­vate sec­tor want him to go. They be­lieve Pravind Jug­nauth un­der­stands bet­ter their eco­nomic in­ter­ests.” Al­liance Lepep – a coali­tion of the MSM, the Par ti Ma urici en So­cial Dé­moc rate( PM SD) and Mu­vman Lib­er­ater – won the gen­eral elec­tion of 2014 and chose Anerood as prime min­is­ter. If Pravind takes over, he could fin­ish off the re­main­ing time of his al­liance’s five-year term. So far, Pravind is not say­ing much about what he would do dif­fer­ently from his fa­ther, with the MSM back­ing Vi­sion 2030, a pro­gramme that in­cludes projects to strengthen key eco­nomic sec­tors and a push for wider di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion. In or­der for Mau­ri­tius to be­come a mid­dle-in­come coun­try and to pro­tect the econ­omy bet­ter from shocks, the gov­ern­ment wants to de­velop an ‘ocean econ­omy’ and make the coun­try a hub for health­care and other ser­vices. But so far, Anerood Jug­nauth and the MSM have failed to de­liver on the prom­ise of cre­at­ing a sec­ond eco­nomic mir­a­cle, sub­stan­tially more jobs and bet­ter liv­ing con­di­tions for the pop­u­la­tion. Mau­ri­tius had its first so-called eco­nomic mir­a­cle when Anerood was first prime min­is­ter in the 1990s. Po­lit­i­cal ob­server Sangeet Jo o see ry says Anerood can­not to pull off the same feat again: “Within a few years, he gave such a boost to the econ­omy, which cre­ated jobs for the lo­cals and im­proved the liv­ing con­di­tions of the pop­u­la­tion […]. So much so, there was full em­ploy­ment and the is­land had to im­port for­eign labour to be able to run the man­u­fac­tur­ing ma­chines.”

Pravind is not say­ing much about what he would do dif­fer­ently from his fa­ther

He adds that the coun­try’s most press­ing prob­lems are on the eco­nomic front. The coun­try needs “a leader who can tackle the un­em­ploy­ment prob­lem, im­prove on the pur­chas­ing power of the pop­u­la­tion that is go­ing down, and solve the so­cial evils like crime, drug traf­fick­ing,” Jooseery ar­gues. A com­mon com­plaint among young vot­ers is that the coun­try’s top politi­cians are old and out of touch with young peo­ple and their con­cerns. Prime Min­is­ter Jug­nauth is 86, and op­po­si­tion lead­ers Ram­goolam, who will be 70 this year, and Bérenger, who will be 72, have al­ready passed re­tire­ment age.

HAND­SOME DUDE

Sut­ty­hudeo Ten­gur, pres­i­dent of the Gov­ern­ment Hindi Teach­ers Union, is one who be­lieves Pravind Jug­nauth’s youth will be a great as­set for the coun­try. He is the “ris­ing star of Mauritian pol­i­tics”, says Ten­gur. “He is young, hand­some, dy­namic and fear­less even in the face of ad­ver­sity. Who else can lead the gov­ern­ment for the next decade if we want a young and dy­namic per­son?” Pravind Jug­nauth has mul­ti­plied the num­ber of trips and vis­its around the is­land to bur­nish his im­age as some­one who would make a good prime min­is­ter. There is cer­tainly an MSM con­stituenc y within par­lia­ment that is im­pa­tient to see Jug­nauth ju­nior take over the reins of the gov­ern­ment from his fa­ther. As deputy prime min­is­ter

Ram­goolam and Bérenger are call­ing for fresh elec­tions if Anerood Jug­nauth quits

Showku­tally Sood­hun tells The Africa Re­port: “Sir Anerood has served his time, he should hand over the torch to his son.” Pravind’s MSM back­ers ar­gue that the quicker he be­comes prime min­is­ter, the bet­ter it will be for the is­land. Anerood’s al­lies say that he is wait­ing so long to hand over to Pravind be­cause he is not sure whether his son will be able to face the op­po­si­tion led by the three ex­pe­ri­enced politi­cians for the rest of his man­date. On the op­po­si­tion side, the main par­ties–the Labour Party led by Ram goo lam and the Mouv em ent Mil­i­tant Mauricien led by the charis­matic Bérenger – are call­ing for fresh elec­tions if Anerood Jug­nauth quits. Af­ter a De­cem­ber fall­ing out be­tween Anerood and his for­mer ally XavierLuc Du­val of the PMSD over con­sti­tu­tional re­forms to in­crease over­sight on the di­rec­tor of pub­lic prose­cu­tions (see box), the op­po­si­tion has been strength­ened. But the growth of the op­po­si­tion ranks is not go­ing to change the suc­ces­sion dy­nam­ics. Con­trol­ling few seats in par­lia­ment, there is lit­tle that op­po­si­tion par­ties can do but crit­i­cise. “In a democ­racy, a prime min­is­ter is elected by the peo­ple, un­like a monar­chy where the son re­places the fa­ther,” Bérenger said at a well-at­tended pub­lic meet­ing in De­cem­ber. Ram­goolam called on the pop­u­la­tion “to get mo­bilised” and has also called for a united op­po­si­tion to pre­vent Pravind Jug­nauth from be­com­ing the next prime min­is­ter. Ram­goolam had ini­tially called for mas­sive pub­lic protests, but that does not seem to be on the op­po­si­tion’s agenda at the mo­ment.

Dy­nasty in the driv­ing seat: Pravind (left) and Anerood Jug­nauth

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