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Mauritius' PM touts achievements to fend off challenge in Nov. 7 poll

Mauritius' PM touts achievements to fend off challenge in Nov. 7 poll
FILE PHOTO: Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo -
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Eduardo Munoz(Reuters)
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By Jean Paul Arouff

PORTLOUIS (Reuters) – Mauritius’ leader Pravind Kumar Jugnauth is banking on accomplishments like a minimum wage law to win a general election on Thursday but could face a tough challenge from two opponents promising to end graft and higher retirement benefits.

The Indian Ocean Island nation, which prides itself on a history of political stability in an often turbulent region, heavily relies on tourism and financial services for revenues.

Jugnauth, prime minister since 2017 after taking over from his father, says he hopes voters will give his government another mandate, given its achievements including a light rail system in the capital and the introduction of a minimum wage law.

Mauritius holds elections every five years. Jugnauth took charge after his father, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, resigned.

At the last campaign rally on Sunday, he appealed to voters to give him “a comfortable majority” to enable him to secure outright victory for his party, the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM).

“Since I became prime minister in 2017, I have done everything to improve the life of all our citizens no matter (their) ethnic group,” he said, pointing to a minimum wage law introduced last year and a $525 million light rail system launched in October.

A total of 60 parliamentary seats will be up for grabs in the polls.

The MSM will have to fend off a challenge from the Labour party, led by Navinchandra Ramgoolam.

Ramgoolam, 72, is a former prime minister and has promised to increase retirement benefits by a higher percentage than one proposed by the incumbent, a promise he hopes will help him win over elderly voters numbering about 220,000.

The third contender in the polls, the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM), headed by Paul Bérenger,74, has promised to curb corruption in the public sector.

At a rally in the capital on Sunday, Bérenger told supporters he was sure of victory and said he expected to win sufficient seats to form a government without a partner

“We will win the elections with a clear majority and the MMM is ready to run the country alone,” he said.

If no party emerges with a clear majority, the rules demand that the one with the highest number of seats forms a coalition with a smaller partner.

A new government will need to initiate policies to jumpstart flat growth and lift economic prospects for the country’s 1.3 million people.

According to the statistics office, gross domestic product is seen expanding at 3.8% this year, unchanged from 2018.

(Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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