The London Conference
The formal discussions regarding the introduction of universal suffrage in Mauritius commenced in 1956 with the London Conference.
Consensus was reached amongst all those taking part at that conference, including a delegation from Mauritius, Ministers, and officials from the Colonial Office and the Governor, in respect of universal suffrage.
In his despatch of 10 February 1956, the Secretary of State had proposed the system of proportional representation with the single transferrable vote to replace the block vote system. However, various possible alternative electoral systems were considered at the First London Conference.
In reply to a letter from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr Guy Forget, President of the Mauritius Labour Party wrote in a letter dated 25 October 1956, "It is further the conviction of the Parliamentary Group that Proportional Representation in the local context will prevent the normal political development of the country on the basis of a Mauritian entity, aggravate and perpetuate divisions among Mauritians on racial and religious lines and thus we and our fellow-members of the Labour Party consider it our duty to prevent, in so far as it lies within our power to do so".
The London Agreement
The resulting London Agreement of March 1957 set out the following three principles for any proposed election system, which principles underlay the subsequent work of the Commission: “whatever system of voting was introduced should be on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and should provide an adequate opportunity for all the main sections of opinion in Mauritius to elect their representatives to the Legislative Council in numbers broadly corresponding to their own weight in the community. It was also common ground that the system of voting should be such as to facilitate the development of voting 11 on grounds of political principle and party rather than on race or religion”.1
1 HC Deb Vol 566 Col 115w (8 March 1957); Mr Lennox-Boyd
2 HC Deb Vol 566 Col 116w (8 March 1957); Mr Lennox-Boyd.
Note there were some changes of phraseology between the wording of principle 2 and the primary objective of the terms of reference for the Commission. However, the Trustram Eve Electoral and Boundary Commission concluded that the changes in phraseology resulted in no significant change in meaning and that in essence the terms of reference were no different to principle 2.
It was agreed that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Rt Hon Mr Lennox-Boyd, would appoint a Commission to consider the possibility of creating up to forty single-member constituencies with minimum electors of 5,000, subject to each having reasonable boundaries capable of enduring, with the primary objective that, "each main section of the population in Mauritius shall have adequate opportunity to secure representation in the Legislative Council corresponding to its own number in the community as a whole".2 If that were not possible, the Commission was instructed to demarcate boundaries for eleven three-member constituencies. The Secretary of State recognised, however, that small single-member constituencies were likely to be based on communal considerations, therefore tending
towards the hardening and perpetuating of communal divisions. 3
3 HC Deb Vol 566 Col 116w (8 March 1957); Mr Lennox-Boyd
4 The Mauritius (Constitution) Order in Council 1958 stated at section 17 that the Governor had the power to nominate up to twelve members to the Legislative Council. The Mauritius (Constitution) Order 1964 set out at Schedule 2, section 27(2)(d) of the Constitution which provided for the Governor to be able to nominate up to fifteen members of the Legislative Council.
5 HC Deb Vol 566 Col 117w (8 March 1957); Mr Lennox-Boyd. Under section 17 of the Mauritius (Constitution) Order in Council 1958, in addition to the forty elected members and up to twelve nominated members, there was to be a Speaker and three ex officio members. Although the limit on nominated members went up to 15 under section 27(2)(d) of the Constitution (Mauritius (Constitution) Order 1964, Schedule 2), the number of ex officio members dropped to allow only for the Chief Secretary ex officio under section 27(2)(b) of the Constitution (Mauritius (Constitution) Order 1964, Schedule 2)
The Governor’s power of appointment
The London Agreement also recognised that, in accordance with the proposals in the Secretary of State's despatch of 10 February 1956, the Governor of Mauritius would have the power to appoint members4 to the Legislative Council if desirable to assist in the workings of Government, so long as the power would not be used to frustrate the results of the elections and, "it would be used where appropriate to ensure representation of special interests of those who had no chance of obtaining representation through election”.5 12
The Trustram Eve Commission
The Commission was chaired by Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve (later Baron Silsoe), Mr Beloe and Mr Sudbury and the Secretary, Mr IS Wheatley. Following their appointment on 15 July 1957, Messrs Beloe, Sudbury and Wheatley spent five weeks from 3 August touring the island, meeting Ministers, senior officials and party leaders and considering various representations. Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve arrived on 8 September when those who wished to give their views in public were heard. Improved versions of draft maps were published and the Commission’s work in Mauritius was completed on 6 October. The report was completed in January 1958.
In respect of the boundary delineations, the Commission found no difficulty dividing Mauritius into 40 single-member constituencies of approximately equal voting strength on the basis of universal adult suffrage. At that time the constituencies had an average of about 7000 electors and were considered to be "reasonable geographical boundaries". These were expected to endure for at least three general elections.
The primary objective
The remainder of the report dealt with the primary objective, requiring the Commission to:
(1) estimate the number of electors and divide them into groups, which would become the "sections" of the population;
(2) decide whether each section from a practical electoral point of view was large enough to be treated as a "main" section; and
(3) consider whether each main section would have an adequate opportunity for a reasonable future period, namely three general elections, to secure election to the Legislative Council in numbers broadly corresponding to its proportion of the total electorate.
Three main sections of the population
The total electors were estimated at about 277,500, out of a population of about 600,000, sub-divided according to the 1952 population census into five groups: Indo-Mauritian Hindu, lndo-Mauritian Muslim, Indo-Mauritian Christian, General Population and Sino-Mauritian. Ultimately the Commission concluded that there were "three main sections" of the population, namely the 13
Indo-Mauritian Hindu, lndo-Mauritian Muslim, and General Population sections.
Adequate opportunity of securing representation
The next task was for the Commission to satisfy itself whether, by a number of single-member constituencies not exceeding 40, each of the three main sections of the population would have an adequate opportunity of securing representation in the Legislative Council by election in numbers broadly corresponding to their proportion of the total electorate.
The only safeguard
The Commission considered that the only safeguard, "against the possibility of an election resulting in disproportionate representation in the Legislative Council lay in the Governor's power provided for in the London Agreement to nominate up to 12 extra members".
No less than 40 constituencies
Ultimately the Commission decided that the three main sections of the population could not be given an adequate opportunity of securing representation in the Legislative Council by election in numbers broadly corresponding to their proportion of the total electorate if there
was less than about 40 constituencies of approximately equal voting strength.
The Trustram Eve Electoral Boundary Commission recommended that elections be held in forty single-member constituencies. It further concluded that, "Reading the London Agreement as a whole, we feel that the intention was that for, say, the next three elections there should be a certainty that the proper proportions were obtained in the Legislative Council by election or, failing that, by election plus the Governor's appointments." This interpretation met with disapproval subsequently.6
6 Report of the Constitutional Commissioner, November 1964, Sessional Paper No 2 of 1965 of the Mauritius Legislative Assembly at 
Exercise of the Governor’s power
Accordingly the Governor's power of appointment became central to the Commission's recommendations. The Secretary of State subsequently gave a public assurance in the House of Commons as to how the Governor would exercise that power. This assurance was in similar but not identical terms to the Secretary of State's despatch of 10 February 1956, namely that the Governor would use his power of appointment to the Legislative Council, subject to the 14 conditions that he did not thereby frustrate the election results; and that, as finally constituted, the Legislative Council "contains representatives of the main sections of opinion in numbers as nearly proportionate as possible to their numbers in the population as a whole".7
7 HC Deb Vol 583, Cols 28-9w (25 February 1958); Mr Lennox-Boyd
8 Despatch from the Secretary of State to the Governor, 5 February 1958
However, the Commission had not been entirely satisfied with the extant conditions on the Governor's power. At the request of the Commission, the Governor gave the following further assurances in a despatch to the Secretary of State, namely that his power of appointment would only be used for those candidates who, though they failed to be elected, showed that they had a reasonable following, as well as those who had not stood as candidates; and that any of the three identified sections of the population may well contain important differences of opinion which should be recognised.8 On the instruction of the Secretary of State, the Governor subsequently gave an assurance that he would give prior consideration to "good losers", although he was not prepared to give an assurance that only good losers
would be nominated,9 which appears to have been what the Commission sought. The recommendations were implemented in time for the general election of 1959:10 the first elections in Mauritius to be held on the basis of universal suffrage
9 Report of the Constitutional Commissioner, November 1964, Sessional Paper No. 2 of 1965 of the Mauritius Legislative Assembly at 
10 Mauritius (Constitution) Order in Council 1958. In 1964 the number of members that a Governor might nominate was increased to 15: Mauritius (Constitution) Order 1964.
Out of the 40 seats, the Labour Party won 26 seats, its ally the CAM 5 seats, the IFB 6 seats and the PMSD 3 seats.
Constitutional Review Conference
A Constitutional Review Conference was held in the summer of 1961. Paragraph 4 of the Communiqué following the 1961 Conference envisaged two stages of constitutional advance towards a greater measure of internal self-government. At the first stage only small changes would be made with the principal innovation being the creation of the office of Chief Minister, whilst the major changes would only take effect at the second stage if the Chief Minister so recommended following a resolution of the Legislative Council after the subsequent general election. The first stage was brought into effect at the end of 1961, whilst the general election 15 took place in October 1963 following which the second stage changes were effected by the Mauritius (Constitution) Order 1964.11
11 Report of the Constitutional Commissioner, November 1964, Sessional Paper No. 2 of 1965 of the Mauritius Legislative Assembly at