A Mauritian newspaper published a claim that the current government used Bangladeshi workers to win the 2019 general elections.

About the article

The article “Les votants étrangers, surtout les Bangladeshis, most welcome!” is an opinion piece which was published on 21 May 2022 by the daily newspaper L’express and signed with the pseudonymn EL Figaro.

The title carries the sub-text that foreign voters, especially Bangladeshis, have been used by the ruling coalition to win elections and are thus being massively welcome in Mauritius to rig elections.

Claim that needs to be fact checked

The key claim is that foreign workers from Bangladesh largely contributed to the victory of “L’Alliance Morisien (MSM / ML)” in the legislative elections of Mauritius in 2019.

Bangladeshis in Mauritius on Election Day in 2019 (Picture published by L’express)

These are the sentences which we propose to examine in our fact-check:

Vu que dans certaines circonscriptions, seulement des dizaines de votes séparaient les gagnants des vaincus, cela prouverait qu’il n’était pas nécessaire de véhiculer des milliers et des milliers de Bangladeshis vers les centres de vote. Quelques centaines de votants spéciaux auraient pu faire toute la différence.

Translation: “Since in some constituencies, only dozens of votes separated the winners from the losers, this would prove that it was not necessary to transport thousands and thousands of Bangladeshis to the polling centers. A few hundred special voters could have made all the difference.

The MSM/ML coalition won the 2019 elections with 37% of the votes and, according to the article, if Soopramanien Kistnen (MSM agent killed in October 2020) was still alive, he could have made revelations about the alleged operation set up to get Bangladeshis to vote, the largest contingent of foreign workers residing in Mauritius (30,000 and 40,000).

The article also claims that the ruling party has a database listing all foreign workers and that a contractor who is a man of confidence in the government, a close friend of a minister, brings in the foreigners. It further claims that, on polling day, the ruling party is able to have a small team of mobilizers like Kistnen to get out the vote (GOTV) of these foreigners. The author states that Kistnen is unfortunately no longer in this world to describe the GOTV plan in detail.

Soopramanien Kistnen (Picture published by Le Matinal)

Mauritius’ electoral system 

First, we propose to check whether “in some constituencies, only dozens of votes separated the winners from the losers“. Before checking the election results, we need to understand the Mauritian electoral system. The electoral system is a Block Vote (BV) system which is the use of First-Past-The Past (FPTP) voting in multimember districts.

There are 62 elected representatives by party list from 20 three-seat constituencies for the main island and one two-seat constituency for Rodrigues, an island located some 560 km east of the main island. In addition to this “block-voting”, a maximum of eight additional seats may be allocated to the “best losers” on the basis of their ethno-religious communities in order to ensure that seats are allocated to any under-represented communities. (Source: EISA)

Ballot boxes being carried by electoral officers: (Picture published by Defi Media)

To proceed with our fact-check, we have examined the detailed results per constituency using data published by the Electoral Supervisory Commission. For each constituency, we have calculated the gap betwen the third elected candidate and the fourth (unelected) candidate.


Table 1:
 Gaps between the third elected candidates and the fourth (unelected) candidates per constituency

Table compiled using election results published by the Electoral Supervisory Commission

*Note that on the island of Rodrigues only the first two candidates get a seat in parliament. 

Key

What did the results of the votes reveal about gaps between winners and losers?

There are 6 constituencies (numbers 1,14,15,16,17,19) where the gap is small between the candidates of L’Alliance Morisien (MSM/ML) and the 4th (unelected) candidates from other parties which are the L’Alliance Nationale (PTR/PMSD) and the MMM. By adding up all these differences in these 6 constituencies, the total comes up to 574 differences in votes.

Based on our calculations, the author’s point about the small gap between the third elected candidate and the fourth unelected candidate is entirely valid.

In the same paragraph, the author states that, in some constituencies, only dozens of votes separated the winners from the losers, which proved that it was not necessary to transport thousands and thousands of Bangladeshis to the voting centers. A few hundred special voters could make all the difference.

To check this claim, we need to examine the number of foreign voters who were eligible and registered by the Electoral Supervisory Commission for the 2019 elections.

Table 2: There were 838 foreigners eligible and registered to vote for the 2019 elections

Table published by L’express in an article entitled “Dossier: recensement et droit de vote aux étrangers”

The article further states: “Si Kistnen était encore en vie, il aurait pu faire des révélations sur l’opération mise en place pour faire voter des Bangladeshis, le plus fort contingent des travailleurs étrangers résidant à Maurice. Ils seraient entre 30 000 et 40 000 ces étrangers employés par diverses entreprises.”

Translation: “If Kistnen was still alive, he could have made revelations about the operation set up to get Bangladeshis to vote, the largest contingent of foreign workers residing in Mauritius. There would be between 30,000 and 40,000 of these foreigners employed by various companies.”

By referring to the large size of the cohort of Bangladeshi workers (30,000 to 40,000), this paragraph thus insinuates that Bangladeshi voters are those who made a massive difference in the elections of candidates from the MSM/ML coalition.

The table published by the same newspaper in the article entitled “Dossier: recensement et droit de vote aux étrangers” clearly indicates that only 45 Bangladeshis were registered to vote for the 2019 general elections. This is in clear contrast with the allusion to the 30,000 to 40,000 Bangladeshi workers. It also seems grossly unfair to target this particular cohort of foreigners as it can be seen that they represent only 5.36% of registered foreign voters. The largest number of foreign voters actually orignate from India, followed by South Africa and Britain.

For the sake of argument, we will take into consideration the 523 Indian voters, because in Mauritius, Bangladeshis and Indians are often associated. The total number of Indian and Bangladeshi registered voters is 568 (523+45). It is thus true that the votes of these foreigners can make a difference in the election results. But we do not know how many of them actually voted and in which constituency they voted. We will never know as well for which party they voted because it is confidential.

Note: an email has been sent to the office of the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) to find out the number of foreigners who voted in each constituency. The information will be updated as soon as they have replied.

Email sent to an officer of the Electoral Supervisory Commission

Simulation of 2019 election results without Indian and Bangladeshi votes

Let us do a simulation to check if the claim in the article is true (that is, that foreigners influenced the results), and what would be the final outcome of the election without Indian and Bangladeshi voters. As mentioned earlier, there are 6 constituencies that may be referred to in this claim. The 6 seats of these constituencies would be allocated to the 4th candidate in this simulation which are from the opposition parties.

Simulation of election results without Indian and Bangladeshi votes.

Thus, based on the claim that foreigners helped the MSM/ML win elections, the simulation clearly shows that even if foreigners had not voted for MSM/ML, the outcome would have been in the latter’s favor since they would still be in the lead, although this lead would have been reduced with a total of 32 seats. 

The results also show that, in constituencies 3 and 5, there was a small gap between the 3rd and 4th candidates of the other two parties. So, winning by a small margin was not just for MSM/ML candidates.

What if the opposition had decided to unite?

If the opposition had decided to unite

Even if the two opposition parties had decided to unite, according to the simulation, the MSM/ML coalition would still have led. However, they would have a smaller majority in this scenario, that is, by 4 seats instead of 16 seats.

Official election results: 38 – 22 = 16 seats

Simulated election results: 32 – 28 = 4 seats

Result after fact-checking the claim

The claim that these foreign Bangladeshi workers, as the article says, determined the victory of L’Alliance Morisien (MSM/ML), is false because the current government won the elections by 38 seats against 22. Even if Indian and Bangladeshi foreigners (568) had not voted in favour of the current government, but had voted in favour of other parties or even had not voted, the simulation shows that L’Alliance Morisien (MSM/ML), would still have won the majority, albeit with a smaller gap. And even if there had been a coalition between the opposition parties, the results would have been 32 to 28 seats in favour of the current governing coalition. It should also be noted that no data has been published about the real participation of foreigners in the last general elections as some of those registered may have abstained from voting on polling day as is the case for Mauritian voters (23% abstention rate according to the ESC).

Consequences of sharing such a claim in Mauritius.

The title ‘Les votants étrangers, surtout les Bangladeshis, most welcome!’ itself is a real problem as it is directly targeting Bangladeshis whereas they are a very small minority of registered voters as compared to other nationalities. So, the real issue in this article is the treatment Bangladeshis are getting from the media. While on the list of registered foreign voters, India is first with 523 registered voters, South Africa is second with 68 registered voters and Britain third with 67 registered voters, the article does not even mention them. The article directly targets Bangladeshis who are only fourth with 45 registered voters on the list. Thus, the article contains racist and xenophobic undertones against Bangladeshis.

Picture from an article entitled “Union takes Mauritian employer to court after migrant (Bangladeshi) worker dies” published by IndustriALL Global Union

Publishing this type of piece without verifying the data can lead to social consequences. There have been cases of Bangladeshis being abused in Mauritius in the past. And politics is one of the most consumed news in Mauritius. Therefore, tying Bangladeshis to political affairs can escalate the situation and sow disorder in the country. Conversely, it should be kept in mind that there are approximately 188,300 Mauritians living abroad (Australia, Canada, United Kingdom), i.e 14.8% of the Mauritian population and that they would certainly not like to be treated in the same way in their country of adoption.

Fact-check produced by Robbie Neville Pyndiah

Under the supervision of Christina Chan-Meetoo

Module: Investigative and Data-Driven Journalism

BSc (Hons) Journalism Year 3

University of Mauritius

8 thoughts on “A Mauritian newspaper published a claim that the current government used Bangladeshi workers to win the 2019 general elections.

  1. Pingback: Fact-checking articles by Journalism students | UoM-Communication Studies

  2. Good Fact check. Indeed Bangladeshi are mistreated in mru and these kind of article can lead to disorder in the country.
    Thanks for the factchecking.

    Like

    • The article is well written and facts are well represented in the chart showing the simulation of election results without Indian and Bangladeshi votes and votes reveal about gaps between winners and losers. It helps us see that we mistreated these people just for the fact that we didn’t want a particular candidate to win. So this article is really helpful. Well done!

      Like

  3. Je pense que ce n’est parce que les bangladaise sont en minorité dans le pays,nous devons tous leurs mettre sur le dos. Si les mauriciens affirment que l’election était truqué, nous ne pouvons pas dire autant dans la manière le governement gère le pays, cela laisse à désirer. Nous pouvons dire que beaucoup choses sont cachées aux yeux du publique.

    Like

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