Saturday 19 August 2017

Seychelles opposition fetes first win in decades

Seychelles opposition fetes first win in decades
(AFP 09/12/16)

Seychelles opposition supporters took to the streets on Sunday to celebrate after their coalition broke the ruling party's four-decade grip on power with a victory in parliamentary elections.

Convoys of cars draped in opposition flags honked horns on the Indian Ocean nation's main island, Mahe, as cheering opposition supporters sang and danced on the streets.

"It's better than Christmas or New Year, it's a victory for us and for the Seychelles," said a woman who gave her name as Carene.

"We've been waiting for this for a very long time," said Joe Constance.

The vote saw the opposition coalition of the Seychellois Democratic Alliance, known by the acronym LDS in the local Creole language, win 15 parliament seats against 10 for the ruling Parti Lepep, known as the People's Party locally.

Parti Lepep has been in power in the former British colony since a coup in 1977, a year after independence, and it has won a majority in every election since the return of multi-party politics in 1993.

"The results just announced by the electoral commission are historic for our country and I feel somewhat proud," said Roger Mancienne, head of the LDS.

There is little political difference between the rivals, but the opposition argued the country needed change while the ruling party claimed it would offer economic stability for the islands, which depend on tourism and fishing.

The opposition has pledged to cooperate with the presidency in the interests of the nation. Even before the result was announced, President James Michel vowed to work with the newly elected legislature.

"The people have spoken, the people have decided and the people’s decision is supreme," said Michel. "My party respects the people's opinion."

The Seychelles National Party (SNP) partnered with four smaller opposition parties -- together known as The Seychellois Alliance and made up of former leaders from Parti Lepep -- to strengthen its bid for power.

In a recent sign of growing opposition popularity, the SNP's leader Wavel Ramkalawan came a close second in presidential elections in December 2015, losing to the incumbent James Michel by just 193 votes.

It marked the first time a candidate from Lepep had been forced into a second round.

The SNP party refused to take part in 2011 elections, claiming they would be unfair.

- 'Work for the common good' -

As both head of state and government, the president will now have to rule without a parliamentary majority.

"My hope is that this spirit of consultation continues in the new National Assembly, where we all work together for the common good of our nation," said Michel.

The vote in the archipelago nation of 115 islands took place over three days, ending Saturday.

Voting began on the islands furthest away from the main island of Mahe, and its capital Victoria.

Mahe voted on Saturday, along with the two other main islands Praslin and La Digue. The three account for 98 percent of the Indian Ocean nation's 90,000 people.

Turnout was 87 percent.

In percentage points it was a slim victory, with 48.37 percent for the LDS and 48.01 percent for Lepep.

The National Assembly has a maximum 35 seats, 25 of them elected at the ballot box and the remainder attributed proportionally, with one seat for every 10 percent of the vote.

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