Mauritius is an African country geographically. Officially the Republic of Mauritius, the country is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres off the southeast coast of the African continent.
The people of Mauritius are multiethnic and multicultural. One can expect to hear different languages on the streets including English, French, and Asian languages from India and China. The island’s government is closely modeled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and Mauritius is highly ranked for democracy and for economic and political freedom.
Thursday June 4, the people of Mauritius elected their first female President; Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. Her appointment came after former President Kailash Purryag, who was selected by the island’s previous Labour Party government, stepped down after having served as Mauritius’s President since July of 2012.
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is a 56 year old Professor of biology — and was appointed to the position by Mauritius’ parliament and it was reported that many officials from the opposition Party came out in support of her. According to her, the whole thing comes as a shock. She shares her inspiring story with TED.
What sparked your interest in politics?
If I tell you the story, you won’t believe it. Last year, the outgoing government wanted to change the constitution, to give the outgoing prime minister more powers. In reaction to this, the opposition party said, “We don’t want any constitutional change. And we are going to propose a woman president.”
When they asked me, I said, “I don’t see myself as a politician. I’m not going to play that game.” The post of the president is not an executive one here, but it’s a lot of responsibility. They said, “We just want you to be there. You don’t have to campaign; we will do all the work.” So I said, “Okay. Let’s go for it.” I thought, in my small mind, they were going to lose anyway; this was a case of David against Goliath. But lo and behold, they won. It was a landslide. This all happened when I came back from TEDGlobal. So there I was.
When the party won, the current president claimed his mandate through 2017. So I thought, “Well, I’ve still got time to get prepared.” Then he resigned last Friday, on May 29. That’s the story of how I got pushed into the limelight of the presidency.
Did you know that the current president would be resigning?
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