Mauritius: Electoral reform: The Sachs Commission

Updated June 2005

Extract from: Election Update 2005: Mauritius [PDF document], Number 1 17 June 2005, p 6, 7.

See also Report of the Commission on Constitutional and Electoral Reform 2001/02 [MS Word document, opens new window], Sachs Commission.

In 2000 the MMM-MSM alliance pledged, in their electoral manifesto, to change the electoral system. Having won the election, the MMM-MSM government set up a Commission on Constitutional and Electoral Reform in 2001, hereinafter referred to as the Sachs Commission, named after the chairperson of that Commission, Judge Albie Sachs from South Africa to look into the reforms required.

The issue of fairness of representation was the centrepiece of the Sachs Commission mandate. A number of representations from political parties and other civil society stakeholders were received by the commission. In accordance with the views of the general public, the submissions agreed upon:

  • The need to introduce a carefully carved eligibility threshold of 10% to reduce the danger of too much factionalism and to reduce the likelihood of ethnically based parties from emerging.
  • Favouring a mixed FPTP/PR system rather than replacement of FPTP by a full PR.

After examining five different models and concluding that "no single model meets all the requirements in an unqualified manner", the Commission recommended:

The maintenance of 62 seats (20 constituencies x 3 members + one constituency x 2 members) to be returned on the basis of the present FPTP system, and that in addition there shall be a further 30 members chosen on the basis of lists provided by parties receiving more than 10% of the national vote. Such lists will be in descending rank of eligibility. They will be published in advance of elections and may contain a restricted number of names of persons standing for constituencies (should such persons in fact end up being as constituency members then their names on the list would be disregarded). The objective of the lists is to ensure that the final totals of seats held by the different parties reflect more accurately the support that the parties have received in the nationally. The lists will be structured to secure greater representation of women and to provide the reassurance formerly ensured by the Best Loser System.

In other words, the Sachs Report proposed doing away with the Best Loser System. This was not acceptable to some parties.

As agreement could not even be reached between two of the partners in the ruling alliance, the reform of the electoral system has been shelved and the present 2005 elections shall be run on the same FPTP system as before.

With the shelving of the reform the proposals of the Sachs report to ensure a better gender balance was also not carried further. The country in the SADC region which has the lowest level of women participation in parliament and cabinet is Mauritius.

The Sachs report suggested that the under representation of women can best be addressed through reform of the electoral system by adopting a mixed PR system, but further highlighted that "the major responsibility for correcting the massive gender imbalance rests with the parties" . The Commission pointed out that there are a number of measures that could be introduced with relative ease for progress to be made on that front.