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Better wealth distribution pledged as prosperous Mauritius votes for leader

Voters in the prosperous Indian Ocean island of Mauritius went to the polls on Thursday in a parliamentary election which will decide its leader for the next year five years.

PORT LOUIS, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Voters in the prosperous Indian Ocean island of Mauritius went to the polls on Thursday in a parliamentary election which will decide its leader for the next year five years.

It is the first election since Pravind Kumar Jugnauth succeeded his father in 2017 as prime minister when the elder Jugnauth stepped down.

Both the ruling Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) and its main rivals the Labour Party and the Mauritian Militant Movement(MMM) have campaigned on strengthening the welfare state and on distributing wealth more equally in one of Africa's most stable and prosperous economies.

But the challenger parties both argue that the Jugnauth family's rule has been marked by nepotism and corruption and have told voters to choose change.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and close 6 p.m. with results due out on Friday.

The island of about 1.3 million people presents itself as a bridge between Africa and Asia, deriving most of its revenues from a flourishing offshore financial sector and traditional economic pillars including tourism and textiles.

Analysts expect economic diversification to continue regardless of who wins the elections.

The prime minister told reporters in his constituency after he voted that he was satisfied that the election is taking place in a calm and orderly manner.

"I will be touring the polling centres around the country and I wish that this election remains exemplary," he said.

Voters who had cast their vote by 11 a.m. local time said the main expectations from the next government would be growth and job creation.

Abendra Patten, a voter in the capital Port Louis, said he thought that promoting high-tech industries was the way forward.

"This is where our future growth and jobs for our youth will come from," he said.

Mauritius expects its economy will expand by 4.1 percent next year up from its forecast of 3.9 percent this year.

In March 2018, then-president Ameenah Gurib-Fakim resigned over a scandal in which she was accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars on herself using a credit card from a non-governmental organisation. She has denied any wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Jean Paul Arouff, Editing by Maggie Fick and Angus MacSwan)

((maggie.fick@thomsonreuters.com; +254 798 985 128;))

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