On September 2, eTN published an editorial review on the election in the Seychelles entitled, “Seychelles election time: new party, new game?”
This article received many comments from eTN readers in the Seychelles. One was a release received by the Seychelles National Party (SNP). ETN decided to publish this release without edit.
Following the presidential elections in May 2011 we, the three opposition candidates, issued a press statement decrying the unfairness of the result and explaining the reasons why we felt the election was not credible.
The unfair electoral system prevailing in Seychelles has been recognized by all stakeholders and not only by the opposition. Most recently, the Commonwealth Observer Group report drew attention to the deficiencies in the system and, in making fresh suggestions for reform, reminded the government that numerous recommendations made following past elections had not been implemented. The government has now been compelled to admit that the system needs to be reformed and has set up an Electoral Commission whose members are appointed by the President to replace a single electoral commissioner, also appointed by the President, as its first step. This makes a mockery of the notion of reforms as the recommendations of all stakeholders had been for an Independent Electoral Commission. The government has now made it clear that it intends once again to ignore all recommendations for electoral reform and go to another election next month under the same deficient electoral system and is already unashamedly boasting about the inevitable result of the forthcoming election.
We, the undersigned, now joined by Viral Dhanjee whose nomination as presidential candidate in the May 2011 elections was illegally turned down by the Election Commisioner – who is now the Chairman of the Electoral Commission
– are unable to accept that the country can go through another election without reforms being made to the electoral system and allow the government to obtain another electoral advantage through a system which lacks credibility. Government manoeuvres since the last election show nothing but abuse and bad faith. We say this for the following reasons:
a. Immediately following the May 2011 elections, an attempt was made by the opposition in the National Assembly to focus national attention on the issue of electoral reform. The opposition tabled a motion calling on the setting up of a broad-based electoral reform commission to study and make proposals for electoral reform. The government, fearful of losing a planned National Assembly election, scorned the proposal and voted against the motion.
b. The government’s insistence on appointing an Electoral Commission – to the extent of amending its own proposals after publication and ensuring its passage by relying on the vote of a disaffected opposition member – as well as the method of appointment of the Electoral Commission exclusively by the President, himself the leader of a political party and a candidate in elections, indicates a lack of sincerity in the reform process and taints the Commission with lack of the vital element of independence.
c. The appointment as Chairman of the Electoral Commission of the previous electoral commissioner who had been criticised for allowing many of the more pertinent abuses to occur indicates lack of a genuine desire to have a new, meaningful, effective and independent electoral authority by the government.
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d. The dissolution of the National Assembly several months prior to the expiry of its term, after the opposition therein had made it clear that it was willing to work on electoral reform as a priority – without any attempt at amending the Elections Act and furthermore avoiding giving effect to a Constitutional Court judgment declaring some of the provisions of the Election Act unconstitutional, and while there was pending before it an amendment to the Public Order Act – are all clear indications that the government had no intention of effecting necessary electoral reforms.
e. The abdication of any agenda for electoral reform to the Electoral Commission by the government and the lack of direction given to that commission for reform indicate that the government is not genuine in its so-called pledge to have necessary reforms implemented.
For them to be meaningful exercises and to reflect the popular will, elections must be held in an atmosphere of genuine fairness and equality of arms between all participants. Without the reforms to funding limits of political parties, control of the state-funded media by the government and the use by it of state resources, amongst other subjects in need of immediate and radical reform, we feel that participating in elections will only serve to validate an unfair and flawed system and ensure its continuity. We are not minded to do so.
We are of the view that the government – if it were so minded – had ample time to effect the main and most important reforms to the electoral system prior to holding any fresh elections in the country.
We have said before and we repeat this here that, as politicians and persons engaged in the pursuit of what is best for our country, we are committed to participation in all elections held. Our past actions speak for themselves in that regard. However, until and unless the electoral landscape is modified so as to enable the popular will to be genuinely reflected and not subverted by abuses, gifts, favours and pressures, we are unable to participate in what is likely to be another pre-ordained political charade.
We have reached this decision after much reflection and as responsible and patriotic Seychellois who need to state what we feel and act as we see to be in the best interest of our country.
Finally, we wish it to be known that our position taken in this release is predicated upon the government failing to carry out any further reforms prior to the forthcoming National Assembly elections. We are committed to participatory politics. We therefore call on the government to postpone the elections and carry out the reforms necessary prior to these so as to ensure that the elections can be genuinely contested in a fair and credible manner and in conformity with democratic norms.
We set out below the issues which require addressing prior to any fresh elections being held:
1. Amendment of the Elections Act to:
a. Grant the Electoral Commission its independence and power to enforce breaches of laws, codes and protocols agreed upon, and to enjoin state organisations such as police, security forces and state-funded media in matters having a direct bearing on the polls.
b. Give effect to the Constitutional Court decision regarding the eligibility of persons on remand and detainees to vote.
c. Prevent the use of money and material gifts to influence voters and put a cap on campaign spending.
d. Prevent the abuse of the secrecy of the vote by disallowing the practice of voters being accompanied by party activists.
e. Modify the voters’ register materially by allowing stakeholders to have access to an electronic copy thereof, removing names of underage voters therefrom, including the results of the 2010 census in the register, replacing the ID card by a voters’ card or an electronic database, keeping the register open permanently save for a few days prior to elections.
f. Remove the cooling-off period, or to enforce it.
g. Prevent all abuse of public and government resources and use of public officers for campaigning and participation in political activities in the scope of their employment.
h. Provide for voting on a single day.
i. Review the residency criteria for voting.
2. Amendment of the Public Order Act to render it constitutional and permit unrestricted freedom of assembly and expression as well as preventing the necessity for prior permission being abused.
3. An in-depth review of the composition of the board and management of state-funded media so as to ensure that they act independently of the executive and in accordance with clear guidelines allowing balanced reporting and access by all political parties playing a national role.
4. Proper guidelines or legislation to prevent the use and abuse of state resources for political ends. This must include review of the political role of District Administrators and the role of the government as a caretaker unable to launch initiatives immediately prior to or during a political campaign.
5. Introduce legislation to provide for smooth and clear procedures for transition of power upon a change of Government.
6. The Electoral Commission should be properly funded and equipped in order to carry out its role effectively.
7. Local observer groups to monitor elections should be allowed and encouraged.
This release was signed by
More information on the opposition movement in the Seychelles can be found: http://www.snpseychelles.sc/