Jugnauth named Mauritius PM: It is Africa's opposition parties fourth win of 2014 - a record

African voters are conservative. When they give power to the opposition, it's to older more experienced hands - not first timers.

MAURITIUS’ president on Sunday formally named veteran politician Sir Anerood Jugnauth as prime minister, after the 84-year old won a landslide victory taking nearly three-quarters of seats in parliament.

IN an election-filled year for Africa, Mauritius went to the polls Wednesday in the continent’s 16th poll of 2014. However, what really made it an unusual political season is that it was the first time in more than three decades that oppositions have won four elections in a year in Africa.

The Mauritius’ opposition celebrated victory Thursday in parliamentary elections with the outgoing prime minister Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam accepting defeat.

The opposition alliance, Mouvement Socialiste Militant and Parti Mauricien Social Democrate, or MSM-PMSD, secured 47 out of 62 elected seats in the National Assembly. Their leader Anerood Jugnauth will now become the new prime minister.

The ruling Labour Party and its partner Mouvement Militant Mauricien (the Labour-MMM alliance), led by outgoing Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam and MMM leader Paul Berenger got 13, according to official results announced in the capital, Port Louis, late Thursday.

In the 17th and last election of 2014 on December 21 in Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki and Beji Caid Essebsi will face off in the country’s second round of presidential voting to decide who leads the nation that sparked the Arab Spring in early 2011.

The secularist leader Essebsi beat the incumbent Marzouki in the first round of the country’s landmark presidential election, but the two men did not gain enough votes to prevent a runoff.

Earlier in the year in May, in a decidedly messy and controversial election, opposition leader Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party, defeated incumbent president Joyce Banda who, along with Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and interim Central African Republic (CAR) president Catherine Samba-Panza, formed the trio of female heads of state in Africa.

Big men have 71% probability of winning

And 2014 opened with an election in the semi-atuonomous Puntland region of Somalia on January 8. The ballot saw the election of former prime minister of main Somalia Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, narrowly defeating incumbent Abdirahman Mohamud Farole.

Otherwise in a string of elections from South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Botswana, to Namibia either the incumbent party, president/prime minister, or military junta candiate, won.

This small but significant change in African politics comes against a background where, according to a 2012 report by the African Development Bank (AfDB), incumbents on tend to win elections they organise with a 71% probability.

However, with the increased appetite to amend constitutions to remove presidential term limits and to rig ballots, that probability will have risen by the next count.

The changing dynamics are also masked by the fact that 2014 was one of the worst years for terrorism violence in the world - and Africa.

A bloody trail

Nigeria has been the worst-hit country in Africa, and the second worst-affected in the world, with the latest Thursday attack by suspected Islamist group Boko Haram that killed 30 people in Jos, bringing the terrorist kill to nearly 820 for the year.

Kenya has also seen some of the deadliests attacks by Somali-based Al Shabaab militants on its soil.

In the space of 10 days from late October into the first days of December, the Shabaab in two separate incidents singled out and executed nearly 70 Christians in scenes that shocked the country.

However, sometimes, the more things change in African politics, the more they stay the same. In Mauritius MSM-PMSD leader Jugnauth who will return to serve a fourth term as prime minister, is both a former president and premier. And he is 84 years old.

In Tunisia favourite Essebsi is even older than Jugnauth – he is 88. And he has been around.

He held public office under both strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ben Ali, who was ousted in the Arab Spring uprising nearly four years ago, and independence leader Habib Bourguiba. He based his appeal to voters on stability and experience, a trait apparently African voters seem to favour when handing opposition leaders mandates.

Malawi’s Mutharika, 64, was former Foreign minister, and Puntland’s Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, the youngest on the list at 49, was prime minister. This is no continent for new young first-time opposition presidential candidates.

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