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Seychelles Modern History

The British colony of Seychelles peacefully became an independent nation in 1976. The following year, the first president was deposed in a bloody coup. New president became Albert René whose party has retained power ever since. René himself handed over to his Vice President James Michel in 2004. Tourism that began to develop in the 1970s, together with fishing, laid the foundation for a good economy. 2016 was the next change of power when Danny Faure took over as president.

During the Second World War, the then British colony of Seychelles was an important base for Britain's navy and air force. After the war, the first steps were taken to give the islands a government that represented the people. But in the first proper elections to the colony's legislative council in 1948, only ten percent of the population was allowed to vote.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Seychelles. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

It was not until the early 1960s that two indigenous parties were formed, the Seychelles People's Unity Party (SPUP) and the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP). The SPUP was led by Albert René who wanted full independence for the Seychelles, while the SDP led by James Mancham pleaded to keep the close ties to the UK. In the first elections with universal suffrage in 1970, SDP won.

In the early 1970s, an international airport was built that broke the island group's isolation from the outside world, and the first tourists arrived. The tourism industry grew rapidly and the distribution of the revenue it brought in became a matter of contention. Prior to the 1974 election, SDP also advocated independence and won again. Despite strong contradictions, the two parties formed a coalition government.

Contemporary History of SeychellesSocialist one-party state

In 1976, the Seychelles became an independent nation. When independence was declared on June 29, Mancham became president and René became prime minister. A year later, Mancham, who was then abroad, was deposed in a coup and René took power. His government began to pursue a socialist policy and placed more emphasis on developing agriculture and fishing than the tourism industry.

The ruling SPUP was renamed in 1978 to the Seychelles Progressive People's Front (SPPF) and the following year a new constitution was adopted introducing one-party government. In the presidential election that year, René, as the sole candidate, received 98 percent of the vote. He then survived a number of coup attempts and was re-elected president in 1984 and 1989.

As the Soviet-dominated Communist Empire began to collapse internationally, in 1989 the President began to allow more domestic criticism. Abroad, the exile politicians managed to unite. Mancham formed the New Democratic Party (NDP) and demanded that the multi-party system be reinstated. Several major donors also exerted pressure in the same direction.

The result was that a people-elected Constituent Assembly drafted a proposal for a new constitution. In 1993, almost three-quarters of voters voted in favor of the new constitution, which included the abolition of the one-party system.

Multi-party systems and economic reforms

A few months later, presidential and parliamentary elections were held. In the presidential election, René received just over 59 percent of the vote against nearly 37 percent for Mancham and 4 percent for Wavel Ramkalawan. The latter stood for the relatively newly formed Seychelles Party (Parti Seselwa, PS). The SPPF won all the seats in Parliament except one that went to Mancham's party, which is now renamed the Democratic Party (DP).

After the election, SPPF and DP began close cooperation and began to liberalize the economy. The tourism industry, agriculture and fishing were opened to private interests. The 1998 presidential election also meant a grand victory for René and SPPF and in the parliamentary elections held at the same time, the party gained a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

In the early 2000s, the economy began to stagnate, partly as a result of an overly slow increase in both tourism and tuna production. Lack of foreign currency also hampered the development (see Finance). The standard of living in the country fell. The government was faced with the threat of being forced to make major cuts in social benefits, which would affect the SPPF's voters and thus threaten the party's power position. At the same time, support for Ramkalawan and his party grew, which in 1998 changed its name to the Seychelles National Party (SNP).

Presidential elections were announced as early as 2001, despite the fact that two years remained of the term of office. As a reason, President René indicated that he wanted to be able to give foreign investors a guarantee of political stability. During the electoral movement, the opposition blamed the government for the financial problems that, according to them, had been caused by widespread corruption and slanderous policies in the state administration and the judiciary.

René and SPPF retain power

In the presidential election, René won for the fifth time, with 54 percent of the vote, against Ramkalawan, who got almost 45 percent. The opposition claimed that the government side had cheated and Ramkalawan demanded that the charges be tried in court. However, the Constitutional Court did not raise the case, citing a lack of evidence.

Parliamentary elections were held in 2002 and SPPF again won. During the year, the economy had deteriorated even more, much as a result of reduced tourism revenues following the terrorist attacks in the US the year before.

René resigned in 2004, after 27 years as president. He handed over to Vice President James Michel, who had already taken over some of the president's duties.

At the end of the same year, the Seychelles were hit by a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. As the authorities managed to warn residents and tourists via radio and TV, only two people perished. However, the material damage was considerable. In addition, many coral reefs were damaged.

Claws and boycotts

James Michel won the election in 2006 and could remain as president. He received 54 percent of the vote, while 46 percent went to opposition leader Ramkalawan. The opposition claimed that there were cheats with the lengths of votes, but international observers judged that the election was largely correct.

In October 2006, riots broke out outside the National Assembly, when about 100 opposition supporters protested that Parliament passed a law that would restrict the ability of political parties and religious groups to own radio stations. Police dispelled protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. Several people were injured, including Ramkalawan.

As a result of the violence, the SNP launched a boycott of Parliament. The SNP leader Ramkalawan reiterated his demands that the opposition should have more space in the media, that an independent police force be created and that the electoral system be reformed.

The SNP considered boycotting the parliamentary elections in 2007, but still chose to participate. The result was the same as in the previous election: 23 seats for SPPF and 11 for SNP.

In 2008, the tourism industry was hit by the global economic crisis. This led to the government tightening the state budget, but soon enough the economy began to recover.

In 2009, SPPF changed its name to Parti Lepep (People's Party). The same year, DP withdrew its former name New Democratic Party (NDP) and at the same time broke the cooperation with SNP.

Michel opened the country for foreign investment, especially from the Persian Gulf and China countries, which invested in the tourism industry and the construction sector. The president's critics accused him of selling the country to foreign interests.

In the May 2011 presidential election, SNP leader Ramkalawan was again President Michael's main opponent. The government's reform program, which, among other things, limited the state's role in the economy and entailed investments in the private sector, was in many ways a turning point for the former Socialist Party Lepep. The SNP found it difficult to coin a possible voter dissatisfaction with the new economic policy, as it was close to the party's own political line.

Before the election, the SNP demanded that the opposition should have more space in the media and that the electoral system, which the opposition believes would favor the ruling party, would be reformed. Ramkalawan accused the government side of bribing voters not to vote.

Michel won clearly with 55 percent of the vote against 41 percent for Ramkalawan.

election boycott

As a result of the fraud charges, the SNP chose to boycott the work of the National Assembly. The boycott helped to announce new elections to Parliament, almost a year in advance. SNP and NDP decided to boycott the election in protest against the electoral laws. At the same time, a series of defectors from the SNP formed a new opposition party, the People's Democratic Movement (PDM).

The election was held between September 29 and October 1, 2011. Party Lepep received 89 percent of the vote, and PDM 11 percent. The result meant that all 31 seats went to Parti Lepep. The National Assembly thus completely without representatives of the opposition.

After the election, the government decided to evaluate the opposition's heavily criticized electoral laws. A group consisting of representatives of all the political parties of the country was appointed to review the electoral system. In its final report in July 2013, the group recommended stricter and clearer rules for party financing and that entirely new voting lengths should be established.

Power change after opposition success

Presidential elections were announced in the autumn of 2015 until the beginning of December. Even before the end of the nomination period (November 11), it was clear that President James Michel and Vice President Danny Faure would run for re-election. PDM had also appointed its candidates: David Pierre and Hervé Anthony and SNP would again be represented by Wavel Ramkalawan. For the first time, a woman, Alexia Amesbury, also took part in the presidential election. Before the election campaign had even started, several opposition parties complained that they had been subjected to harassment.

Patrick Pillay, a defender from the ruling party who in May 2015 formed the Seychelles Alliance Party (Lalyans Seselwa) who would also be a candidate, claimed he had been blamed for human smuggling.

The economy became the major issue of dispute during the election movement. James Michel pointed to high economic growth figures (4 percent in 2015), while Ramkalawan placed great emphasis on growing social gaps.

Michel received the most votes, but did not secure the 50 percent needed for a victory in the first round of elections. There was thus a second round of elections between him and Ramkalawan later in December. It ended with Michel being re-elected, but with hardly any margin: 193 votes. Ramkalawan questioned the result and demanded that the election be recalculated. He intended to go to the Constitutional Court to have this tried.

In early September 2016, the Seychelles went to parliamentary elections. Party Lepep was then challenged by a new party coalition, the Seychelles Democratic Alliance (LDS), an alliance between the SNPs and four smaller parties, which won 19 of the 33 seats, while Party Lepep received 14 seats.

After the election, President Michel said he would do everything he could to get the new National Assembly working, but only a few weeks later he announced his departure. On October 16, Vice President Danny Faure took over as the country's head of state and government.

 
 

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