Mauritius PM hands over power to son, opposition demands new election

Pravind Jugnauth's swearing-in ceremony will be held on Monday evening. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Port Louis, Port Louis District, Mauritius Jan 23, 2017, 11.01 AM (IST)

Mauritian Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth handed over power to his son Pravind on Monday amid accusations of nepotism by the opposition and calls for fresh elections in the island nation.

President Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim, who holds a largely ceremonial role, said Pravind Jugnauth had been issued with a letter of appointment nominating him as the new prime minister on Monday, agencies reported.

His swearing-in ceremony will be held later in the day.

Jugnauth, 86, officially handed his resignation to President Ameenah Gurib Fakim after long hinting he would step down before his term expires in 2019.

"The job of prime minister involves great responsibility. It is a great burden. I have carried it but now it is time to make way for the youth," he said after resigning, AFP reported.

Mauritius, a dream beach holiday destination, is a model of political stability in Africa. 

However,  Pravind Jugnauth's appointment has created turbulence with the opposition rejecting the "father-son deal", and saying they will be boycotting his inauguration, Reuters reported.

"We challenge Pravind Jugnauth to organise a referendum on this deal. Otherwise, we need to call a general election," opposition leader Berenger said on Sunday.

"The best would have been for the prime minister to dissolve the national assembly before his resignation and call an early election," Berenger said.

"It is a shame he has ended more than 50 years of political career in this way. We will organise a political campaign across the country to demand the holding of general elections," Berenger, who has also held the PM's post, said.

That sentiment is shared by numerous residents phoning in to local radio shows, declaring they voted for Jugnauth senior in 2014, not his son.

The younger Jugnauth is both finance minister and leader of the ruling Militant Socialist Movement (MSM). Constitutionally, it is he who takes over if the PM resigns, AFP reports.

Mauritius, an island of 1.3 million inhabitants, regularly tops the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, and has held a series of peaceful elections and smooth handovers of power since independence from Britain in 1968. 

In Mauritius, prime ministers can be appointed provided they have majority support in parliament, without a new election. The Militant Socialist Movement, the party of the Jugnauths, has a majority even after one party left the coalition in December.

(WION with inputs from agencies)