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Republican Access of Mauritius – 1992

On 16 December 1983, steering the Bill to make Mauritius a Republic within the British Commonwealth, Prime Minister Jugnauth described it as “another landmark in the political emancipation of Mauritius.” He appealed to MPs to cast aside political partisanship and vote unanimously for the proposed constitutional amendment, as it “is the cherished wish of the entire nation that SSR should be the First President of the Republic. This is a fitting tribute to the person who has been commonly known as Father of the Nation, to a man who, throughout his life, struggled for freedom, democracy, dignity, peace, love, brotherhood and tolerance; and, if what Mauritius is today, it is thanks to this man which history cannot ignore in this country.” However, the Bill was rejected, the constitutional requirement of a three-quarter majority not being met, the opposition party (MMM) counting 45 of the 70 MPs.
A former elected MLP’s MP (1951-1982), minister (1959-1982), mostly for Finance, and acting Prime Minister during numerous periods between 1968 and 1982, Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo (SVR), was appointed Governor-General in 1985. At a special cabinet meeting of July 1990, a Bill was recommended to make SVR the First President. But Bérenger was tipped to be President soon afterwards. Dr Navinchandra (Navin) Ramgoolam, SSR’s only son and the elder of his two children, who had returned from the UK , joined the fray to have the Bill aborted. However, when the Bill came for the third reading on 22 August 1990, Prime Minister Jugnauth, fearing not to muster the three-quarter majority, withdrew it. In the October 1991 general election, the MSM-MMM won 57 seats, obtaining 56% of the votes.
The huge majority of the new government allowed Mauritius to become a Republic in early 1992, with SVR serving as transitional President. The presidential regime follows more or less the Indian pattern. In Mauritius , the National Assembly, as the unicameral legislature is now called, elects the President upon a proposal of the Prime Minister and with the support of “a majority of all members of the Assembly.” [Constitution of Mauritius , p.28 (2) (a)]. The Westminster-form of parliamentary democracy, with the Prime Minister heading the government, has been retained. Rule of law still applies and multi-party politics is the normal practice. Mauritius remains a member of the Commonwealth.
Cassam Uteem, elected MP since1982 and now MMM deputy leader after serving as minister and as Lord Mayor of Port-Louis, who started his political career as an MLP-CAM municipal councillor in the capital, became the first elected President of the Republic. He held this office from 1992 to 2002, as appointed on a motion tabled in the National Assembly, taking over from SVR, who had been President during the period March-June 1992.

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