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Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 12:28 UK

Mauritius votes for new prime minister

Navin Ramgoolam
Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam is part of the country's Hindu majority

Voting has begun in Mauritius in a closely fought parliamentary election.

Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam's main challenger is the man he defeated five years ago, Paul Berenger.

A BBC reporter says economic and constitutional reform, fraud, corruption, drug trafficking and ethnicity are all big issues.

There is a growing rift between the country's majority Hindus and the other groups of Christians, Muslims, Creoles and Europeans of French descent.

Prime Minister Ramgoolam is a Hindu and Mr Berenger is a white Mauritian, who became the island's first non-Hindu prime minister in 2003.

The BBC's Leevy Frivet on the Indian Ocean island says the atmosphere has been intense but quiet as people queued to vote.

There has been a high turnout in Mr Ramgoolam's constituency, he says.

One of Mr Berenger's priorities if elected is increasing the number of women in parliament.

He has promised to force political parties to have at least one woman candidate in every constituency.

However our correspondent says that of the 60 electoral candidates from Mr Berenger's party, only eight were women, and of the 60 candidates from Mr Ramgoolam's party, only 13 were women.

Mauritius is regarded as one of Africa's few social and economic success stories.

It has an effective democracy and has enjoyed years of constitutional order.



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