Political party leaders complain of intimidation ahead of Seychelles presidential elections
The historic State House building, where the president of Seychelles is based (Gerard Larose, Seychelles Tourism Board)
(Seychelles News Agency) - As Seychelles gears up for the presidential elections set for December 3 to 5, 2015, the political atmosphere is electric in the Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands with a population of around 93,000 people.
Two of the eight officially registered political parties have already announced who they have endorsed to contest the upcoming elections.
Incumbent President James Michel and Vice presidential candidate, Danny Faure will be standing for the ruling ‘Parti Lepep’ [People’s Party] while the ‘Popular Democratic Movement’ (PDM), will be represented by its leader David Pierre and Hervé Anthony as Vice president candidate.
Other political parties should do the same in the coming days leading to nomination Day set for November 11.
For the first time, there should be at least six candidates for the presidential race. While the official campaign is yet to start officially, some of the opposition candidates are already complaining of intimidation.
The first case was reported by the leader of ‘Lalyans Seselwa’ [the Seychellois Alliance], Patrick Pillay.
According to Pillay, one of his dogs was fatally wounded at his home in Port Launay, in the western district of Port Glaud on the Seychelles main island of Mahé. Intruders allegedly entered his home spilling trash in his kitchen.
"We have become a threat especially for the ruling ‘Parti Lepep’ because many of their supporters are now leaving to join us ... and this political haemorrhage has turned us into the enemy,” Pillay told SNA.
Pillay was a high-ranking figure within the Parti Lepep, having served in various ministerial and ambassadorial posts for over 20 years including as the island’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2010 and Seychelles High Commissioner to the UK until 2012, when he retired.
Pillay announced the formation of his own party in May with the help of several former government ministers.
|Lalyans Seselwa leader Patrick Pillay. (Patrick Joubert, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License : CC-BY|
‘Human trafficking allegations is part of a conspiracy’ says Pillay
Recently, the leader of ‘Lalyans Seselwa’ was also summoned by the police after he was accused of human trafficking, for allegedly abusing the rights of a young Sri Lankan man who was employed by him last year.
These allegations had appeared in the thrice weekly newspaper 'Times of Seychelles.'
"I was informed ... that there would be attempts to try and destroy me through a Sri Lankan man who worked for me ... all of this are part of a conspiracy against me," said Pillay.
Meanwhile the Seychelles police have confirmed to the SNA that the investigation against Pillay is still ongoing.
The leader of ‘Lalyans Seselwa’ believes it is a "destabilization attempt to sully his reputation in the eyes of the Seychellois voters."
In the case of human trafficking allegations lodged against him, Pillay says he has decided to press charges against the Sri Lankan national seeking almost $160 thousand in damages for defamation. He is also seeking damages worth around $395 thousand from the Times of Seychelles Newspaper and its publisher for defamation.
The politician has also expressed disappointment over the silence of the Roman Catholic Church to which the majority of the Seychellois population belongs, regarding the incidents against him and Alexia Amesbury, leader of the "Seychelles Party for Social Justice and Democracy" (SPSJD), also the first woman announcing her intention to stand in a presidential race in Seychelles.
‘Intimidation aims at those they feel pose a real threat’ says Amesbury
Amesbury has also spoken about intimidation, as according to her, eight of her dogs have been killed by intruders on her property.
"If someone attacks you during the day, it is ok, but when you are attacked at night ... it's like a hidden enemy, we know he is there, but it is unclear when it will move into action,” Amesbury told SNA.
"The only thing I have is a pen and paper asking people to vote for me."
|Lawyer and now politician Alexia Amesbury, who heads up the Seychelles Party for Social Justice and Democracy (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License : CC-BY|
Amesbury, who is a lawyer by profession, is a newcomer to the Seychelles political scene having only registered her own party in May this year.
"Those who are behind these intimidation are aiming those they feel pose a real threat to them, and this makes me think that my pen and paper are a threat to them ... I do not want to be protected by a security as this would hinder this direct contact with the voters because they will not feel comfortable expressing themselves."
Amesbury has said the intimidation against her are still ongoing and that she is regularly facing incidents at home.
"My determination is as strong as ever, because if you show signs of weakness, you will lose. I will never stop," said Amesbury.
The SPSJD is yet to officially announce its candidates, but the party is expected to hold a press conference at the beginning of November to make known who will be contesting the presidential elections.
Parti Lepep calls for responsible behaviour by all parties
For its part, the ruling Parti Lepep has dissociated itself from the accusations of intimidation citing that it is not in the country’s best interest to experience such incidents.
"We are a party that has always advocated for peace and stability to protect the country’s achievements, built over the past 38 years ... we worked very hard and...we do not want to see it all destroyed, it will not be in the interest of the party" Parti Lepep’s spokesperson, also leader of government business in the National Assembly, Marie Antoinette told SNA.
|Leader of government business in the National Assembly and spokesperson of Parti Lepep Marie-Antoinette Rose. (Joena Bonnelame Seychelles News Agency) Photo License : CC-BY|
"We proposed a motion in the National Assembly [this week] asking that everyone behave responsibly during the elections, but we have also launched a formal appeal to our supporters to do the same,” she added.
Rose believes that everyone should play their part to ensure that the elections take place in a peaceful manner.
Electoral Commission calls for peace
Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission has acknowledged that it was made aware of reports of intimidation, confirming to the SNA that it has received a letter from Amesbury which was referred to the police for further investigation.
"We informed Mrs Amesbury that in this kind of situation, she should address a formal letter to the police for there to be an official investigation. The role of the Commission will be to follow up after the complaint has been made,” the Chairman of the Electoral Commission Hendrick Gappy told SNA.
"We have made a special appeal to everyone ....to request that the upcoming elections is held in a peaceful manner, so that everyone can vote with an open mind. A code of conduct has also been circulated to all stakeholders," said Gappy.
For his part the Seychelles Police Commissioner, Ernest Quatre has said that the police is working with the Electoral Commission on a comprehensive plan to improve security for the imminent elections.
"We are about to give the outcome of investigations into one of two incidents because the police takes such incidents seriously. By the end of the week, we will disclose the results the investigation," Quatre told SNA.
With barely five weeks left before the Seychellois electorate are called to the polls preparations are being intensified and the Electoral Commission indicated in a media briefing on Wednesday that it is already recruiting additional staff and have already set a budget of around $600 thousand (slightly over 8 million Seychelles rupees) for the process.
|Members of the Electoral Commission. (Patrick Joubert, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License : CC-BY|
As for the conduct of the campaign and presidential elections, Gappy has indicated that usual observer missions from organisations including the Commonwealth, Southern African Development Community (SADC) including SADC parliamentarians and the SADC Electoral Commission Forum, the Indian Ocean Commission, La Francophonie have already confirmed their participation. And for the first time the African Union is also requesting to send observers during the Seychelles presidential elections.
There are also domestic observers, one of which already has experience observing local elections and a newcomer that has applied to be accredited.
Since the return of multiparty politics in the country in 1993, when a new Constitution was adopted giving rise to the third republic, the ruling Parti Lepep, has won every presidential elections in the first round with over 54% of the votes.