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Stop the Presses! Seychelles Election Upset!

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 25, 2020 16:43

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Seychelles electorate has broken with the past by electing, for the first time in 43 years, a new party to lead them. Despite a sometimes violent and tumultuous history, voters went to the polls last weekend in orderly fashion, and voted massively for a new leadership to pilot them through COVID-induced economic dangers.

Seychelles, idyllic island nation in the Indian ocean, went to the polls last weekend. Better known for tropical beaches, inspiring landscapes and vibrant culture, now people lined up for hours to exercise their vote. And as expected by many (forgive the headline, blame a sub-editor) the opposition won. 

The political history of Seychelles is fascinating. In 1977 a coup against the so-called Playboy President James Mancham, who was reportedly in bed with a Hollywood starlet at the time, brought a Marxist-leaning group to power. Tales of torture, repression and denial of rights lingered for a long time. The nation, composed of descendants of erstwhile slaves, French- and English speaking colonizers, traders and artisans from the Asian region, tended their fishing and slowly worked at healing the rifts. 

Outgoing President Danny Faure. Photo State House/Wikipedia CC BY 4.0

In an economy dominated by tourism and fishing, the Seychelles Government played a masterful game of balancing superpower interests in order to maintain their own sovereignty. Environmental awareness for people who live by and on the sea goes almost without saying, and here, too, a balance had to be struck between major strategic and economic interests and the long term conservation of the unique marine and island resources. The naval presence of regional and global powers in the critically important strategic, but environmentally sensitive waters of these islands places enormous pressure on any Government of the Seychelles. 

Official results, Presidential elections

And so elections came up, well managed by an efficient and well-resourced Electoral Commission. Two televised debates between the three main candidates were held, characterized by expression of strongly-held opinions, but also mutual respect. The results came in, giving 54.9% to the opposition candidate, Wavel Ramkalawan, and 43.5% to the incumbent President, Danny Faure. The results for the National Assembly mirrored these, with Ramkalawan's Democratic Union winning 20 seats and the outgoing United Seychelles 6. 

Official results, National Assembly

In his acceptance speech, Ramkalawan committed to working with the outgoing administration and especially with Faure, whom he called a "good friend." Ramkalawan continued: "And an election does not mean the end of one’s contribution to one’s motherland. In this election, there were no losers, there were no winners. Our country was given the opportunity as the ultimate winner.”

Successful challenger, Wavel Ramkalawan. Seychelles News Agency/Wikipedia. CC BY 4.0

Faure, in conceding, congratulated Ramkalawan and promised all possible assistance for a smooth transfer of power and in steering the country through the problems presented by COVID 19, an almost total collapse of the tourism industry and the resultant damage to a fragile economic recovery since a 2008 debt default.

Unique Vallé de Mai palm forest on Praslin island. Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

This demonstration of political maturity is a heartening contrast with elections on the African continent where acrimonious debate, assassination and kidnapping of opposition candidates and manipulation of constitutions to extend term limits is a constant theme

 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 25, 2020 16:43

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The state-run Seychelles News Agency says presidential elections in the Indian Ocean archipelago will go to a second round...

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