All set for presidential elections in Seychelles

incumbent President James Michel

incumbent President James Michel

Seychelles will hold its presidential elections from today to Saturday, where incumbent President James Michel will face the challenge of five other aspirants, including Alexia Amesbury – the first woman to stand as a presidential candidate in the island nation.

The polls were initially set for 2016. However, Michel, who is seeking a third and final mandate as stipulated in the island nation’s Constitution, announced in October that the elections would be held earlier than expected.

He had proclaimed November 19-21 as election days but due to limited time and complaints from opposition parties, the electoral commission set December 3-5 as the dates for the elections to allow more time for the country to prepare for the polls.

According to the Electoral Commission of Seychelles, a total of 70,943 people have registered to vote in the landmark election. Seychelles population stands at about around 93,000.

Regional and international election observers have been deployed across the island to observe the elections.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM) was launched on November 27, and its expectations would be guided and measured mainly against provisions and requirements of the Seychelles Constitution, as well as the SADC Treaty, the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

Head of SEOM, Patrício José, who is the Deputy Minister of Defence in Mozambique said SADC observers would be deployed to the three main regions of the country, namely Mahe Islands, Grand’ Anse and La Digue Islands.

This will ensure that regional observers cover 20 of the 25 districts of Seychelles, which translates to about 80 percent of the total country — a coverage which is quite representative of the country.

The archipelago nation is made up of 115 islands, some as much as 1,000 kilometres from the main island of Mahe.

As result of the distances across the archipelago, voters in the so-called “outer islands” will vote on the first two days, followed by the “inner islands” of Mahe, of Grand’ Anse and La Digue Islands which are home to more than 90 percent of the Seychellois population.

This voting set-up makes it easy for the voting to be completed in time and ensure that ballots from outer islands are delivered back to the main island of Mahe, where the tallying of the votes and final result announcement take place.

Traditionally, SEOM is expected to produce a report on the conduct of the polls. However, preliminary studies reveal that “the situation in the country is conducive for a peaceful election.”

The President in Seychelles is elected by an absolute majority vote through a two-round system to serve a five-year term.

This means that the first round is conducted in the same way as a normal First Past the Post-election. If a candidate receives an absolute majority of the vote, then they are elected outright, with no need for a second ballot.

However, if no candidate receives an absolute majority, then a second round of voting is conducted, and the winner of this round is declared elected.

All the five candidates are hopeful that they will get the required majority vote come December 3-5.

Michel said his track record in the last few years speaks for itself, and people should offer him the opportunity to further deepen socio-economic development in the country.

“I’m confident because during the 11 years that I’ve been President I’ve delivered on all promises made to the people of Seychelles,” he said.

However, Michel is expected to face a stern challenge as some members of his party are believed to be not happy with his policies, hence some analysts view the rescheduling of elections to this December as a ploy by Michel to manage instability within the party.

The ruling Parti Lepep has been in power since the country re-introduced multiparty politics in 1993. In fact, since 1993 Parti Lepep has won every presidential election in the first round with over 54 percent of the votes.

Amesbury said time has come for the country to show that leadership does not have gender preferences.

“The term ‘president’ does not say it’s a man or a woman at the end of the day. The one who is more capable, the one with leadership qualities should be chosen to become president…my manifesto is about putting the Seychellois people first,” she said.

“I’m very confident that I’ll win because as I’ve said I’m standing here not only as Alexia Amesbury the presidential candidate but I’m standing here to represent the more than 50 percent of women in Seychelles.”

Another main candidate in the elections is Wavel Ramkalawan of the main opposition, the Seychelles National Party, who garnered 41.3 percent of the vote in the last presidential election in 2011.

He said the country needs to “come forward with tangible ideas on how to pull the country out of its current situation,” adding that eliminating drug abuse is one of his top priority.

The elections in Seychelles will round-off what has generally been a peaceful year for SADC as a total of three countries, namely Lesotho, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia, successfully held peaceful elections.

In addition to this, there were smooth transition of power in the three countries, as well as in Namibia and Mozambique. —

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