November 7, 2019 / 10:53 AM / a month ago

Rivals promise better wealth distribution as Mauritius votes

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) - Mauritius held a parliamentary election on Thursday, with the main parties all promising a fairer distribution of wealth on the prosperous Indian Ocean island.

Polls closed at 6 p.m. local time (1400 GMT), with results due out on Friday.

The election, which will decide who runs the government for the next five years, was the first since Pravind Kumar Jugnauth succeeded his father in 2017 as prime minister when the elder Jugnauth stepped down.

Both the ruling Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and its main rivals the Labour Party and the Mauritian Militant Movement(MMM) campaigned on strengthening the welfare state and on distributing wealth more equally in one of Africa’s most stable and prosperous economies.

The challenger parties, arguing that the Jugnauth family’s rule has been marked by nepotism and corruption, appealed to voters to choose change.

“Everybody must respect the results, whoever wins the elections tomorrow,” said voter Lucrece Beniff, who cast his vote in the capital, Port Louis.

Just over 61% of the electorate had cast their votes as of 4 p.m local time, the office of the electoral commission said.

The island of about 1.3 million people presents itself as a bridge between Africa and Asia, deriving most of its revenues from a flourishing offshore financial sector and traditional economic pillars including tourism and textiles.

Analysts expect economic diversification to continue regardless of who wins the election.

“There are no big difference among parties on economic policies with regard to the diversification of the economy. The main difference would be on the fight against inequalities,” Pierre Dinan, a Mauritian economist, told Reuters.

Jugnauth told reporters after he voted that he was satisfied that the election was taking place in a calm and orderly manner.

“I wish that this election remains exemplary,” he said.

People who voted in the morning said the main expectations from the next government would be growth and job creation.

Abendra Patten, a voter in Port Louis, said he thought that promoting high-tech industries was the way forward.

“This is where our future growth and jobs for our youth will come from,” he said.

Mauritius expects its economy will expand by 4.1% next year, up from a forecast of 3.9% this year.

In March 2018, then-President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim resigned over a scandal in which she was accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars on herself using a credit card from a non-governmental organization. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Editing by Duncan Miriri, Angus MacSwan and Frances Kerry

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