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Mauritian voters trek to polls in ideal conditions
by Hugh Mccullum and Jean Chimhandamba

Port Louis, 11 September 2000

Polls opened across the island and offshore Rodrigues promptly at 6 a.m. Monday but, because this is a public holiday and the fine weather draws many to the country's stunningly beautiful beaches, the turnout was slow.

By the noon lunch break, only about 30 percent of the 790,000 registered voters had cast their ballots, but after mid-afternoon families and young people began returning to cities and towns to cast their votes for their three favourite candidates in each of the 20 constituencies. The final turnout could run between 60 and 70 percent but election officials are sealed away from public view and no accurate forecast could be obtained.

This is the first election held on a weekday, giving the laid back Mauritians a long weekend to spend at their famous beaches. Streets are quiet. No alcohol is allowed to be served or sold for two days (the day before voting and voting day). There have been no reports of any disturbances as the results of shortest campaign in Mauritian history will soon be known.

Exactly one-month ago today on August 11, Prime Minister Nevin Ramgoolam, dissolved parliament as is his constitutional right, are called for voting Sept. 11.

The polling booths in each constituency are carefully guarded by police, high fences surround the schools and no unauthorized persons are allowed within 200 m of the polling station. Voters move in and out quickly and the efficiency of polling officials is highly praised by all political parties.

When the voting ended at 6 p.m., the transparent ballot boxes, official papers and lists are taken under armed security to a central point in each of the constituencies, along with the polling officials, party agents and candidates if they wish. The sealed and locked boxes spend Monday night in a building with uncurtained windows, under lights, guarded by police, electoral officials and party agents. "Usually they play cards," one policeman said.

Counting begins under rigorous rules involving both agents and electoral officials as ballot papers are first identified from lists, divided in batches of 100 and then counted and the embossed papers retained until all possible contests have been held.

Results should become final by early afternoon on Tuesday, followed by the statistical data needed to chose the eight "best losers" to balance the ethnic and political minorities for the 70-seat House of Assembly. The best losers cannot, however, overturn the results of voting for the 62 elected MPs. (SARDC)


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