Mixed reactions after President of Seychelles proposes referendum on voting rights for overseas citizens
File Photo: Seychellois voters going through verification of details before casting ballots in parliamentary polls held in September 2016. (Patrick Joubert, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Reactions are mixed in response to the announcement of President Danny Faure on Monday that he is asking the Electoral Commission to organise a referendum for electorates to decide on whether or not non-residents can vote in elections in Seychelles.
On Tuesday, Roger Mancienne, the leader of the opposition coalition, Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) said in a press release that the statements made by the President and the referendum proposed are not in accordance with the Constitution and the law.
“Citizens of Seychelles living overseas have not been able to vote at will in our elections only because they are disqualified to register as voters under the Elections Act unless they have been issued with a National Identity Card and have resided in an electoral area for at least three months immediately prior to registration,” said Mancienne.
He added that “therefore, Mr Faure’s contention that the issue in question needs to be decided by a Constitutional Amendment through a referendum is wrong. It only requires amendment of the Elections Act and the National Identity Card Act.”
LDS holds that the organisation of a referendum can only be based on a law passed by the National Assembly, the legislative branch.
The Seychelles' constitution provides for a separation of powers between the three arms of government -- the executive, legislature and judiciary.
LDS said that it will be communicating its views on this matter to the Electoral Commission for its urgent consideration.
SNA sought the reaction from members of the public.
Andrew Etheve, 35, told SNA that he believes the parametres for being given citizenship have been too broad.
“Now that they have given the Seychellois citizenship to foreigners left, right and centre, they want to do this. The president wants to rig the election and this will not work with the people of Seychelles,” he said.
Jeanne Auguste, 52, said that there are a lot of pressing matters that need to be solved in the country and that she is “simply not going to vote as I see it as a waste of time.”
Shania Uzice, a strong opposition supporter said this is wasting public funds for something that the constitution has already guaranteed.
“How much are we going to spend on all the logistics? Are we prepared for this kind of logistic when we take three days to vote in a small country like Seychelles,” she asked.
Article 14 of the Seychelles constitution states that every citizen who has attained the age of 18 has a right to be registered as a voter for the purpose of and to vote by secret ballot at public elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage.
Simone Bistoquet said that this debate has been going on for years now and “I thank the president for putting forth the referendum and leaving it to the resident citizens of Seychelles to decide."
Anne-Marie Holden from the United Kingdom said living abroad should not be a basis to decide whether or not a Seychellois should be able to vote.
“As long as you were born in Seychelles and you are a citizen, you should be able to cast a vote to decide a good future for your family and homeland,” said Holden.
At present, Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has around 30,000 of its citizens living abroad.
The last referendum in Seychelles was in 1993 following the amendment of the constitution in 1992 when multiparty democracy was reintroduced.