Seychelles president re-elected amid opposition outcry

Seychelles opposition cry foul over irregularities as James Michel is re-elected president

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Seychelles President James Michel speaks at a session on sustainable oceans during the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting in New York, in this September 28, 2015

Incumbent James Michel won the run-off vote in Seychelles' presidential election, after securing 50.2 percent of votes cast, the election commission said on Saturday, while the opposition cried foul over irregularities.

Voting started on Wednesday and ran for three days because of huge distances between some of the 115 islands that are home to 93,000 people. Some 62,831 people voted in the run-off.

Michel secured 193 more votes than his rival Wavel Ramkalawan, who said he rejected the results “on the grounds of many irregularities”.

“I therefore declare president James Michel as the winner of this election,” Hendrick Gappy, chairman of the Seychelles Electoral Commission, said early on Saturday after the counting of the ballots ended.

The run-off vote was held after none of six candidates won the necessary 50 percent of votes needed to be declared a winner in the first round held on Dec. 3-5.

Michel, 71, campaigned for a third term by touting the Indian Ocean archipelago's economic expansion under his watch.

“We missed victory by about 2 percent last time, which we have now obtained, so today we will celebrate with a motorcade,” he said at the electoral commission headquarters right after the result announcement.

Michel, whose ruling Parti Lepep party, or People's Party in Creole, has been in power for 38 years, was seen having the edge over Ramkalawan, a 54-year-old Anglican priest-turned-politician.

Ramkalawan of the Seychelles National Party demanded a recount.

“There have been many irregularities like the buying of votes by the ruling Parti Lepep and on the basis of the narrow margin of a mere 193 votes by which Michel has won, I demand a recount and reject the results,” Ramkalawan, also present at the electoral commission, said.

Michel can only serve three elected terms. He was part of a group that seized power in a bloodless coup in 1977 and his party has won elections since 1993 when multi-party politics resumed.

Seychelles' economy, which depends heavily on tourism, is forecast to expand by more than 4 percent in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country has also been working to build up a financial services sector.