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Political uncertainties add to growing troubles in Seychelles

Alain St.Ange, eTN Ambassador  Jul 11, 2008

VICTORIA, Seychelles (eTN) - The Seychelles main opposition party, The Seychelles National Party (SNP), announced that their elected National Assembly member, Jean-Francois Ferrari, had resigned as member of the National Assembly for Mont Fleuri because he was denied the right to address the National Assembly on an important legislation - the Public Officers Ethics Bill.

Mr. Ferrari referred to the National Assembly Standing Order 37(7), which states "a member shall be entitled to speak to any question in the Assembly for not more than 30 minutes."

Opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan said, "The resignation of Mr. Ferrari will necessitate a by-election in which the people of Mont Fleuri will be asked to decide between the right of their National Assembly member to speak for them and Speaker Patrick Herminie’s control of the Assembly. This election will be a referendum on the right to free expression in the Assembly. We will be calling on the people of the district to decide for the people of Seychelles." Mr. Ramkalawan has also submitted a motion for the removal of Patrick Herminie as speaker on these grounds.

Mr. Patrick Herminie is the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front’s, the current ruling party, Central Committee member for Port Glaud, as well as being speaker of the country’s National Assembly. This role is seen as a contradiction to his position as speaker.

The by-election called to fill the vacancy in the Seychelles National Assembly comes at the worst possible time for the ruling party because of the economic situation facing the Seychelles - the high cost of living made worst because of the devaluation of the country’s currency. The by-election was going to be seen as a referendum on the government’s ability to manage the economy, control the cost of living and to curb corruption and a referendum on the suitability of Speaker Patrick Herminie.

The ruling party, in power since their 1977 military coup d’état, fearing the worst, abruptly withdrew from the Mont Fleuri by-election. Party leader Albert Rene personally announced the ruling party’s position on National Television and went as far as telling people not to vote on election day.

The by-elections, set for July 19, will now see two opposition parties contest for the seat - the incumbent Jean Francois Ferrari from the SNP and lawyer Frank Elizabeth from the Democratic Party.

The ruling party, fearing a repeat of by-elections as a way to test the people’s feeling, has moved to make it impossible for a sitting member to resign and then re-contest the by-election brought about because of the resignation. A motion brought about by proportionally elected ruling party member, Marie Antoinette Rose, has asked the government to consider bringing legislation to bar members who resign to stand as candidates.

The motion is against the constitution and is unlikely to be taken up by the government because every Seychellois National is entitled to contest any election unless he or she is a convict or has lost his or her citizenship.

Political uncertainties add to growing troubles in Seychelles
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