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Cablegate: Corruption Case Opens Up Parliament Seat and by-Elections

VZCZCXRO8818
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHPL #0391 3171221
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121221Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY PORT LOUIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4277
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0344

UNCLAS PORT LOUIS 000391

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/E FOR MARIA BEYZEROV

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR MP
SUBJECT: CORRUPTION CASE OPENS UP PARLIAMENT SEAT AND BY-ELECTIONS

1. (U) On November 5, the UK Privy Council, which constitutionally
is the highest appellate court with authority in Mauritius,
unanimously upheld a Mauritius Supreme Court judgment, whereby
Member of Parliament (MP) and former Minister of Health, Ashok Kumar
Jugnauth, was found guilty of electoral bribery.

2. (U) In July 2005, opposing candidate Raj Ringadoo entered an
action in court, accusing Jugnauth of facilitating the acquisition
of land to develop a Muslim cemetery and giving jobs to 101 health
care assistants from his constituency in order to influence their
votes in the July 2005 general elections. As a result of being
found guilty, Jugnauth will lose his seat in parliament, and a
by-election could be held within the next 240 days; however, some
political figures and community leaders, like Jean Claude de
L'Estrac observed that Prime Minister Ramgoolam could also opt to
dissolve the National Assembly on nomination day of the by-election
and call for general elections instead, effectively moving up the
general elections to 2009 from 2010.

3. (U) In his November 10 meeting with Parliament, however, Prime
Minister Ramgoolam said that no general elections will be held next
year and that by-elections to fill Jugnauth's seat will not be held
until "organizational issues" are addressed. Ramgoolam also took
this opportunity to mention resuming discussions on electoral reform
in Mauritius in light of the Privy Council recommendations for a
Code of Conduct for Cabinet Ministers, civil servants and others in
pre-election season.

4. (U) On a private radio program aired on November 6, the President
of Transparency International (Mauritius), Jacques de Navacelle,
welcomed the Privy Council judgment and added that the Code of
Ethics will help rid the political system of "clientelism" and
corruption. In a political move during a press conference held on
November 5, Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam said that both the local
Supreme Court and the Privy Council's judgments prove him right in
denouncing the abuse of power of the previous government.

5. (U) According to local press, Ashock Jugnauth has announced that
despite losing his case he will still run in a newly organized
by-election. Given this, the three main parties are planning their
next move. The Mouvement Socialist Mauricien (MSM) party is rumored
to want to run their leader, Pravind Jugnauth, as a candidate, while
the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) must decide on whether to
back a traditional ally, Ashock Jugnauth, or look to solidify the
MSM-MMM alliance by brokering a deal with Pravind Jugnauth. It is
believed that the Prime Minister's ruling Labor Party will keep its
options open to keep the other parties guessing its next move.


6. (SBU) COMMENT. Past by-elections have been used as a venue to
punish the ruling government for unpopular measures, Post believes
that Ramgoolam could hold the by-elections as early as December,
i.e. shortly after the release of December's mini-budget. This
judgment will also force candidates to be more careful regarding
political bribery, so the typical political campaign culture may
look different. Post believes that these by-elections will send a
strong signal about the alliances for the subsequent 2010 general
elections. END COMMENT.

CABRERA

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