The registration of voters by the Electoral Commission was the issue that attracted the full attention of the chamber, but was also the subject of much debate. This PNQ of the Leader of the Opposition highlights a comparison between the electoral list of 2019 with 941,719 voters and that of 2020 with 961,062 where 19,343 additional names were detected and acquiesced by the PM. Xavier Luc Duval felt that his PNQ had not been properly answered and accused that “the government has something terrible to hide.”
Anomalies in 2019
“Is the Prime Minister aware that the 2019 list includes serious anomalies?” This question implies that the electoral register is not reliable. Explaining this, XLD says: “Between 2014 and 2019, there were only 4,700 new voters, while a simple reference to the number of people who died and those born 18 years before shows a shortfall of 43,000 people. And by the way, the 2020 list includes 20,000 names that were not on the 2019 list,” he said, asking the GM for an”open mind” on the issue and to rise above the political fray to resolve these anomalies and even offered his contribution in a Select Committee.
PM acknowledges 19,343 additional names
The Prime Minister has of course approved this increase of 19,343 additional names. But Pravind Jugnauth retorted by recalling the voter figures from the years when there were general elections where “in 1997 the country had 742,115 voters or 1998- 739,739 voters, in 2006- 822,406 voters but 2007- 819,179 voters, in 2009- 879,897 voters and 2010- 875,799 voters. There were always fewer voters than the previous year. Who was in power? Now the opposite is happening, and the opposition finds it abnormal,” he said, pointing out that it will be necessary to work on the reasons for the decreases and increases. The PM’s intervention closed this part of the PNQ with the announcement by Speaker Sooroojdev Phokeer: “Time Over by seven minutes! Xavier Luc Duval did not have time to rebut.
Voting rights for Commonwealth citizens
The Opposition remained dissatisfied with the state of voter registration and the possible improvements to be adopted. The Prime Minister’s response was full of references to excerpts from the Constitution, the Representation of People Act, fast-track procedures and the requirements of a voter. Interpositions by XLD to point out that the PM was not answering the question were in vain. In his speech and explanations, Pravind Jugnauth later suggested that on the main point of voting rights for Commonwealth citizens “any attempt to amend the Act so that Commonwealth citizens who have lived in Mauritius for a minimum of five years are not allowed to register as voters must be carefully considered.” He took the opportunity to tackle the XLD by exposing that in December 2015, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Opposition Leader was chairing the ministerial committee on electoral reform. “The Opposition Leader had even submitted a first report on April 1, 2016, with nine recommendations on several aspects of our electoral system. He could have used this opportunity to make recommendations on this particular aspect of the registration of Commonwealth citizens resident in Mauritius as voters. “In view of the anomalies discovered in the last elections, there is no political will to make improvements. India, Seychelles, Maldives, South Africa among others do not let foreigners vote in their general elections. Why doesn’t Mauritius follow the example of these countries?” he retorted, saying that the 30,000 or so foreign workers who are on the poverty line would be more likely to be bribed, “bought and sold out of their vulnerability. They are present at the meetings… I ask the government that only foreigners who have five years of residence in Mauritius should be allowed to vote,” he pleaded. The PM considers that “the concerns are rather on the side of the opposition, not the population.” He returned to those electoral petitions lodged by the opposition with unfounded allegations and mentioned “some purely rejected by the court because the allegations are frivolous.” He did not fail to recall that the Court is “an independent institution which contributes enormously to Mauritius being recognised as a democratic country, but also to the electoral process adopted being widely recognised in the world.” Directly targeting the opposition, the PM shot “How many have been proven to be bought? On a soap box, they can say anything. But not in the Supreme Court, the judge listens to the arguments and analyses the evidence. Reza Uteem immediately raised a point of order stating that it is inappropriate for the PM to make allegations and comment on two election petitions still being debated. The PM’s response was blunt: “As always Honorable Uteem takes points that are baseless. He either doesn’t understand anything, or he is making comments to interrupt. I am talking about cases where the court has dismissed petitions. These cases have already been decided and not to mention the cases where they had to withdraw the petitions and they ran away with their tails between their legs,” Pravind Jugnauth replied, pointing out that the Opposition could not prove anything in the Supreme Court and that the court ruled in favour of the government.
Door to door deemed outdated
The Opposition leader is calling for the door-to-door census to be abolished. In sum, XLD proposes continuous online registration up to two weeks before the election, codification of the circumstances and rights of a voter’s withdrawal and a guarantee of the integrity of this computerised data. “With technology, door-to-door canvassing is already abolished in many countries around the world. It is important to modernise our laws and apply the Sachs Commission 2002 report,” proposed Xavier Luc Duval. Pravind Jugnauth took the opposite view, stating that “on the contrary, door-to-door canvassing gives more opportunity to capture the maximum number of people who are eligible to be registered on the voters’ list”, he pointed out. However, he maintained that “the laws surrounding the Qualification and Disqualification of voters are Comprehensively Codified” and continued on the technological adoptions by the Electoral Commission.
XLD dissatisfied with PM
The Opposition Leader was clearly dissatisfied with the PM’s ‘answer-non-answered’ or beating around the bush methods! In his usual press briefing at the end of the parliamentary proceedings, XLD focused his speech on the adoption of new technologies in this national exercise “it is high time to digitize the electoral register… the door-to-door census is a disgrace… In 2022 it was unimaginable to lose a Mauritian because of a change of address, there are several methods to verify the presence of an individual on Mauritian soil before removing his names from the electoral register he made clear. He reiterated his accusations that the government has no political will to improve things, especially after the anomalies noted in the 2019 general elections. He maintained, “the government has something terrible to hide.”