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
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.
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