Politics of Seychelles

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politics and government of
Seychelles

Politics of Seychelles takes place in a framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President of Seychelles is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly.

Political history[edit]

Early political movements[edit]

By the end of the World War I, the population of Seychelles was 24,000, and they were feeling somewhat neglected by Whitehall. There was agitation from the newly formed Planters Association for greater representation in the governance of Seychelles affairs. After 1929 a more liberal flow of funds was ensured by the Colonial Development Act, but it was a time of economic depression; the price of copra was falling and so were wages. Workers petitioned the government about their poor working conditions and the burden of tax they had to bear. Governor Sir Arthur Grimble instigated some reforms, exempting lower income groups from taxation, He was keen to create model housing and distribute smallholdings for the landless. Sadly, many of this reforms were not approved until World War II had broken out, and everything was put on hold.

The Planters Association lobbied for the rich white land owners, but until 1937 those who worked for them had no voice. The League of Coloured Peoples was formed to demand a minimum wage, a wage tribunal and free health care for all.

The first political party, the Taxpayers Association, was formed in 1939. A British governor described it as "the embodiment of every reactionary force in Seychelles", and it was entirely concerned with protecting the interests of the plantocracy. After the war, they also benefited by being granted the vote, which was limited to literate property owners; just 2,000 in a population of 36,000. At the first elections in 1948, most of those elected to the Legislative Council were predictably members of the Planters and Taxpayers Association.

1964-1976[edit]

It was not until 1964 that any new political movements were created. In that year, the Seychelles People's United Party (SPUP) was formed. Led by France Albert Rene, they campaigned for independence from Britain. James Mancham's Seychelles Democratic Party (DP), created the same year, by contrast wanted closer integration with Britain.

Britain was cool on the idea of integration, while opinion in Seychelles appeared to be split. At the first election under universal adult suffrage each party gained three seats with Mancham claiming victory through the support of an independent. Under the new constitution, Mancham became the Chief Minister of the colony. Subsequent elections in 1970 and 1974 gave Mancham a small majority in votes, but a large one in seats, through the "first past the post" voting system. At the April 1974 elections, the DP increased its majority in the Legislative Assembly by three seats, gaining all but two of the fifteen seats with only 52% of the popular vote.

Meanwhile, Britain's lack of enthusiasm for integration convinced Mancham to join Rene in calling for independence. The DP and SPUP formed a coalition government in June 1975 to lead Seychelles to independence. The British Government was asked to appoint an electoral review commission so that divergent views on the electoral system and composition of the legislature could be reconciled. As a result, ten seats were added to the Legislative Assembly, five to be nominated by each party. A cabinet of ministers also was formed consisting of eight members of the DP and four of the SPUP, with Chief Minister Mancham becoming Prime Minister. With independence on 29 June 1976, Mancham assumed the office of president and René became Prime Minister.

1977-1992[edit]

Less than one year after independence, on 5 June 1977, with James Mancham in London to attend the Commonwealth Conference, a small group of Rene's supporters and Tanzanian soldiers staged a coup and installed Rene as President. New elections were called in 1979 with Rene against barriester Robert Frichot. A one-party socialist state was established. Mancham was to remain in exile for 15 years.

On 25 November 1981 a force of mercenaries led by "Mad" Mike Hoare attempted to take over the islands, but were discovered at the airport. They briefly took over the tower, but hijacked an Air India flight and fled to South Africa where they were arrested and charged.

In August 1982, mutineers in the Seychelles Army, maintaining loyalty to Rene but in revolt against alleged conditions in the service, took over the radio station. They were overcome by Tanzanian troops, whose intervention was requested by Rene.

In November 1985, Gérard Hoarau, a prominent exiled opponent of Rene was shot and killed by an unidentified gunman on the doorstep of his London home. Hoareau's supporters claimed the Seychelles Government was responsible for the shooting but this was denied and the murder case never solved.

However, for the most part Rene ruled throughout this period with underground opposition at home. He was elected unopposed at further elections in 1983 and 1987. Rene used Seychelles' strategic importance to obtain significant help from both superpowers of the period without having to commit himself to either. With a suppressed opposition, he was able to power through much needed social reforms.

In February 1992, Conrad Greslé, a prominent local businessman and democracy activist was arrested and charged with treason for planning to overthrow the Seychelles Government with the help of foreign mercenaries and with alleged CIA involvement. This was the last attempt to overthrow the Seychelles Government by force.

Return to multiparty system[edit]

After almost sixteen years of one-party rule, President Rene announced a return to the multiparty system of government at an Extraordinary Congress of the ruling Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) on 4 December 1991. On 27 December 1991, the Constitution of Seychelles was amended to allow for the registration of political parties. Among the exiles returning to Seychelles was Mr. James Mancham, who returned in April 1992 to revive his party, the Democratic Party (DP). By the end of that month, eight political parties had registered to contest the first stage of the transition process: election to the Constitutional Commission, which took place on 23–26 July 1992.

The Constitutional Commission was made up of twenty two elected members, fourteen from the SPPF and eight from the DP. It commenced work on 27 August 1992 with both President Rene and Mr. Mancham calling for national reconciliation and consensus on a new democratic Constitution. A consensus text was agreed upon on 7 May 1993 and a referendum to approve it called for 15 June-18. The draft was approved with 73.9% of the electorate in favor of it and 24.1% against.

23–26 July 1993 saw the first multiparty presidential and legislative elections held under the new constitution, as well as a resounding victory for President Rene. Three political groups contested the elections—the SPPF, the DP, and the United Opposition (UO) -- a coalition of three smaller political parties, including Parti Seselwa. Two other smaller opposition parties threw in their lot with the DP. All participating parties and international observer groups accepted the results as "free and fair."

Three candidates again contested the 1998 presidential election—Mr. Albert Rene, SPPF; Mr. James Mancham, DP; and Rev. Wavel Ramkalawan and once again President Rene and his SPPF party enjoyed a landslide victory. The President's popularity in 20–22 March elections jumped to 66.6% from 59.5% in 1993, while the SPPF garnered 61.7% of the total votes cast in the National Assembly election, compared to 56.5% in 1993.

The twenty-first century[edit]

Early elections originally set for 2003 were called in August/September 2001. The Government Party SPPF once again prevailed, although the main Opposition Party, Seychelles National Party (previously known as the United Opposition Party) headed by Rev. Wavel Ramkalawan, made a surprisingly strong showing and collected 46% of the total votes. The DP, headed by Mr. Mancham, did not take part in the elections.

In April 2004, Rene retired as President passing the office to his Vice President, James Michel. At the next Presidential election in July 2006, James Michel polled 53.7% of valid votes, Wavel Ramkalawan 45.7% and Phillip Boulle 0.6%. In the May 2007 National Assembly elections, Seychelles People's Progressive Front took 56.2% of votes and Seychelles National Party in coalition with Seychelles Democratic Party took 43.8%. This gave SPPF 18 directly elected seats plus 5 nominated, total 23 seats with the SNP/DP coalition taking 7 directly elected plus 4 nominated, total 11 seats.

Executive branch[edit]

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President James Michel SPPF 16 April 2004

The Seychelles president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term of office. The previous president, France Albert René, was democratically elected after the constitutional reforms of 1992, though he had been in power since a coup d'état in 1977. He stood down in 2004 in favour of his vice-president, James Michel. The cabinet is presided over and appointed by the president, subject to the approval of a majority of the legislature.

Legislative branch[edit]

The National Assembly/Assemblée Nationale has 34 members, elected for a term of five years, 25 members elected in single-seat constituencies and 9 members elected by proportional representation.

Political parties and elections[edit]

For other political parties see List of political parties in the Seychelles. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Seychelles.
e • d Summary of the 19–21 May 2011 Seychellois presidential election results
Candidates – Parties Votes %
James MichelPeople's Party 31,966 55.46
Wavel RamkalawanSeychelles National Party 23,878 41.43
Philippe Boulléindependent 956 1.66
Ralph VolcereNew Democratic Party 833 1.45
Total (turnout %) 57,633 100.00
Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Seychelles
e • d Summary of the 29 September until 1 October 2011 National Assembly of the Seychelles election results
Party Votes % Direct
seats
+/- Proportional
seats
+/- Total
seats
+/-
People's Party (Seychelles) 31,123 88.56% 25 +7 6 +1 31 +8
Popular Democratic Movement 3,828 10.89% 0 0 0
Independents 194 0.55% 0 0 0
Total (valid votes; turnout 74.3%) 35,145 100.00% 25 6 –3 31 –3
Source: African Elections Database

Administrative divisions[edit]

Seychelles is divided in 25 administrative districts; Anse aux Pins, Anse Boileau, Anse Etoile, Anse Royale, Au Cap, Baie Lazare, Baie Sainte Anne, Beau Vallon, Bel Air, Bel Ombre, Cascade, English River, Glacis, Grand' Anse (on Mahe), Grand' Anse (on Praslin), Inner Islands, Les mamelles, Mont Buxton, Mont Fleuri, Plaisance, Pointe Larue, Port Glaud, Roche Caiman, Saint Louis, Takamaka

International organization participation[edit]

Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, ACP, AfDB, African Union C, ECA, FAO, Group of 77, IBRD, ICAO, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, IFAD, International Finance Corporation, IFRCS, International Labour Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Maritime Organization, InOC, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, International Organization for Standardization (correspondent), International Trade Union Confederation, Non-Aligned Movement, ], OPCW, Southern African Development Community, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, UPU, World Health Organization, WMO, WToO, WTrO (applicant)