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Seychelles politics set to change

Seychelles election time: new party, new game?

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Sep 02, 2011

(eTN) - With the general election just a few weeks away now, Seychelles politics are set to change as a new political party, the Popular Democratic Party, is entering the main arena of an election fight for the first time.
Long-time opposition leader, Wavel Ramkalawan, following his significant defeat in the May presidential elections, virtually threw in the towel soon afterwards, and in an act of defiance, seems to have propelled his own party, the SNP, into the abyss, too.

First refusing to take part in the declaration of election results, he then went on to stop attending parliamentary proceedings and compelling his party’s assembly members to follow his example, culminating in his declaration that the SNP, as if a piece of personal property, would not participate in the next round of parliamentary elections at all.

This resulted in taking the one major opposition to the ruling party, LEPEP, out of the equation, this did not go down well with many of his followers who now doubt not only his wisdom but his rationale and motive.

Having observed the Presidential elections in May, this correspondent made a number of contacts on the archipelago, from both ruling party and the opposition, and even then the glaring absence of Wavel at the election results announcement was noted with disgust among some of his party members. One of them commented in an unsolicited email to this correspondent: "We lost the presidential elections fair and square. No one believes the allegations made then about vote buying. Our candidate was tired, our campaign was tired, and the President showed he is his own man now and no longer from the old guard.

"But the worst part was boycotting parliament and trying to make points in public. This failed and led to one of our own members voting with government to dissolve parliament. Now we have a new electoral commission, and while a lot more has to be done, we the SNP, should be part of the process. Declaring that the SNP will not participate - was that Wavel’s decision or was it made by all party members? I do not remember that our supporters were asked. So now we have had to drop SNP and form the PDP.

"Maybe it was over ego maybe not, but whatever achievements Wavel could look at are now destroyed; SNP has been destroyed. The new party will offer many familiar faces to the voters, moderates from the opposition, and we hope that the traditional voters for SNP will give their votes to us now. At least we must try to stop LEPEP from gaining a two-thirds majority, but Wavel’s decision has made this difficult for us. There is so little time now to get organized."

It is understood that the new party will field candidates in all constituencies, and while no one right now can gauge the level of support for the new opposition team, it is widely expected that opposition voters, in the absence of Wavel and his SNP, will switch loyalty to the new group.
Ruling party members have expressed optimism that the problems of the opposition would resonate through the electorate and that LEPEP would gain once again a 2/3 majority in the assembly, although there were words of caution from those who felt that Wavel’s firebrand policy of "no, no, no" was critical to government’s success in the past, since President Michel first came to power.

Said a source closely linked to the ruling party: "We are ready for elections. Wavel’s SNP was not. Many of his former members deserted him now. Our candidates will face some very familiar names, now standing under a new party. We are sure to win by a big margin but only when results are declared, will we know where we stand. Only then can we know the impact of Wavel’s departure from politics. What we hope for is to have members in the assembly working for the future of all Seychellois, for the good of the country, and not just for their party interests."

Tourism sources in the meantime dismissed any suggestions that the forthcoming elections would have any impact on tourism arrivals or the safety of tourists on the archipelago. "Our people are mature, there will be no rowdy scenes at election rallies, and campaigning will be peaceful and orderly. Elections will be over three days, and you saw yourself in May how organized things were and how smooth everything went. [This correspondent was on the Seychelles to monitor and observe the election process and reported widely about his impressions at the time.] Tourists will arrive just like then, and except for posters, not even realize there are elections. Opposition and government parties both know that we are all Seychellois, all responsible for the future of our country and its well being, to create jobs and maintain jobs. Tourism is the biggest business in Seychelles and both sides know it, will respect it, and keep the peace during campaigning and elections."

Seychelles election time: new party, new game?
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