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Mauritius president steps down


Prime minister of Mauritius Kailash Purryag. Photo; lemauricien

Prime minister of Mauritius Kailash Purryag. Photo; lemauricien

Mauritius president Kailash Purryag announced Friday he was stepping down from his position as ceremonial figurehead of the Indian Ocean island nation.

The decision, which was widely expected, paves the way for the new government to appoint the country’s first female head of state — internationally-renowned scientist and biologist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

A statement from the presidency said Purryag’s resignation was in accordance with an earlier agreement with Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth, who was elected in December last year.

Purryag has served as president since July 2012, when he was appointed by the island’s previous Labour party government of former premier Navin Ramgoolam.

But during the election race, Jugnauth’s centre-right Alliance Lepep had said it hoped to nominate Gurib-Fakim to take the presidency.

Gurib-Fakim will be the first female president of the island, which gained independence from Britain in 1968.

Parliament is expected to vote on her appointment on Monday with a swearing-in ceremony set to take place later in the day, officials said.

The previous government had fought the elections on a platform of delivering constitutional reform — notably with a divisive proposal to strengthen presidential powers.

Ramgoolam himself had hoped to eventually run for the new, strengthened position. Since his election defeat he has been embroiled in corruption allegations that have shocked the country.

Mauritius is one of the richest — and least corrupt — countries in Africa, a middle-income country of some 1.3 million people with a per capita GDP of just over $9,000 (7,200 euros).

Once dependent on sugar exports, the island has built up a strong outsourcing and financial services sector, and also attracts well-heeled tourists.

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