Mauritius's First Female President to Quit Over Shopping

(Bloomberg) -- Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim will step down, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said, amid allegations she spent money from a charity on shopping in Dubai.

“At her request, I met her at the State House yesterday,” Jugnauth said in comments broadcast on Port Louis-based Radio Plus. “I met her again this morning. She said that she will resign. We agreed on the date.”

She will leave the largely ceremonial position after landmark celebrations to mark the nation’s 50th independence anniversary, Jugnauth said.

Gurib-Fakim’s resignation adds to a list of top-ranking government officials on the Indian Ocean island nation who have stepped down for alleged corruption and improper behavior. Former Deputy Prime Minister Showkutally Soodhun left office in November for allegedly making inappropriate comments. In September, Attorney General Ravi Yerrigadoo stepped down to allow an investigation into allegations of money-laundering.

Gurib-Fakim, the first woman president in the nation, is said to have shopped using a credit card given to her by the Planet Earth Institute, a non-governmental organization linked to an Angolan businessman and philanthropist.

Earlier this month, Gurib-Fakim said she’d paid back all money spent on the credit card. The president made 718,000 rupees ($21,444) of duty-free purchases in Dubai, bought some jewelry in late 2016 and spent some more during trips to Sweden, England, India, and Italy, Port Louis-based L’Express reported.

The resignation appears to have been triggered by political maneuvering in the ruling Militant Socialist Movement, or MSM, ahead of general elections next year, according to Jared Jeffery, a political analyst at Paarl, South Africa-based NKC African Economics. Opposition partners could use the scandal to undermine the party’s chances or force an alliance.

“The bigger story is how potential MSM alliance partners reframe the incident so that they can still join forces with the party,” Jeffery said in an emailed research note. “If they opt not to align with the MSM, opposition parties will have to find a way of justifying an alliance with the Ptr under Mr Ramgoolam which could be equally tricky to sell to supporters,” he said, referring to the Labour party, one of Mauritius’ three main parties. It is led by former Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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