PORT LOUIS, Mauritius (AFP) - The outgoing prime minister of Mauritius accepted defeat Thursday in parliamentary polls, with power on the island nation now expected to transfer to opposition leader and ex-president Anerood Jugnauth.
"The electorate has made its choice, I humbly accept its decision, and I will now meet the President of the Republic to submit my resignation," Navinchandra Ramgoolam said on national radio, speaking in Mauritius' Creole language.
Debate over constitutional reform - notably over a divisive proposal to strengthen presidential powers - made Wednesday's polls some of the most crucial since the country gained independence from Britain in 1968.
Ramgoolam, who had wanted to run for the presidency had he won the polls but in a crushing defeat lost even his own parliamentary seat, said the "elections were carried out with respect to democracy."
Counting was still continuing late Thursday but the opposition Alliance Lepep coalition was expected to sweep to victory in the Indian Ocean nation, bringing back to power the 84-year-old former president and ex-premier Jugnauth.
Jugnauth and Ramgoolam have alternated posts since 1982, but it is the first time veteran politician Ramgoolam has lost his own seat.
Ramgoolam leads the centre-left group that brings together the Labour Party (PTR) and the former opposition Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) party of ex-prime minister Paul Berenger.
The PTR-MMM coalition had agreed that if they won they would try to amend the constitution so the president would be directly elected. The role is currently a largely ceremonial position elected by parliament.
Jugnauth's centre-right Alliance Lepep fiercely opposed the proposed constitutional reform.
Mauritian media projected that final results could see Lepep take some 45 seats, against 15 for its rival PTR-MMM.
Jugnauth was prime minster between 1982-1995, and between 2000-2003, and was also president between 2003-2012.