Final day of voting gets underway in ‘highly contested’ Seychelles presidential election as electorates choose among six candidates
Voting today is taking place in the 25 electoral districts on the three main inhabited islands of Seychelles, Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The main day of voting got underway this morning with over 70,900 eligible Seychellois citizens among the island nation’s population of around 93,000 being called to the polls this Saturday December 5, also a public holiday.
The 25 voting stations on the three main inhabited islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue opened their doors at 7 am local time and all voting stations are expected to close at 7pm.
Electoral Officers have been dispatched with all their materials from the Electoral Commission's Headquarters since early before dawn, heading to their respective electoral districts.
At Anse Etoile, the largest electoral district in terms of the voter population with a total of 4,082 registered voters among which 2,069 women and 2,013 men, there was already a long queue at 7am.
Some of the voters who spoke to SNA said they had come down as early as 4 am to wait for their turn to vote at the polling station located at the district’s Community Centre.
|The Electoral Officer at Plaisance, a district on the eastern Coast ensuring that the first ballot box is empty before voting can start. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The Electoral Officer in charge of the Anse Etoile voting station, Douglas Accouche, says provisions have been made to cater for the large number of people expected to vote in the district.
“We have more polling agents at Anse Etoile because we know it is the largest electoral district in Seychelles, therefore additional logistics have been added in the station to make sure that voters do not spend a lot of time in the cue and that the voting process itself runs smoothly,” says Accouche.
It is a bright sunny morning in the Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands and the same long queues can be seen in all of the districts across the island.
At Grand Anse Mahe, the first voters could only cast their ballots at around 8 am as the Electoral Officers had a long list of names of 109 voters who had already exercised their civic duty on the two previous days to cross out on the master register to highlight that they had already voted.
This includes names of people who have voted on the outer islands, detained persons, either in holding cells or prisoners awaiting trial as well as people working in essential duties and who are on duty today.
The list also comprised of people who live at Ile Perseverance, the largest social housing project undertaken by the Seychelles government on a reclaimed land next to the main island of Mahé.
Residents of the reclaimed island are currently registered in other electoral areas, as a motion proposing for Ile Perseverance to become the 26th electoral district in Seychelles was only approved by the National Assembly in October this year.
They had the opportunity to vote at the special station on Friday but those who chose not to do so can vote on the main polling day this Saturday.
“I came early at 6 am because I need to go to work...they should have told us to come at 8 to allow them to sort out everything regarding the list of people who have already voted,” Robert told SNA.
“There’s a bit of delay…but I will wait I have patience,” says Ange who has always been a resident of Grand Anse Mahé.
|Long queues have been observed in all the districts since this morning. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
While Anse Etoile is the largest electoral area in terms of voter population, Port Glaud, a district on the western Coast is the smallest with only 1,910 voters.
“I am a bit sick, so I was fast-tracked and everything went well,” Terry, a voter at Port Glaud told SNA.
“I stood for about one hour but to vote the process was fast..I come early because you exercise my right and then can go home to get down to the house chores,” says Jacqueline, adding that she had already made up her mind a long time ago.
At Bel Air, by 7.25 am Rita Saldanha an elderly lady accompanied by a relative had already cast her ballot.
“I live close by but I have a leg problem so I decided to come as early as possible to vote and then go home to rest.”
Some of the people coming to vote early are also going to be working during the day like Franky Rachel.
“I came down at 5.30 am because I have to go to work….I have always voted in the Bel Air district and I always come early,” Rachel told SNA.
At Les Mamelles, a district on the eastern Coast at least a hundred people had voted by 8.30 am and the Electoral Officer in charge Helena De Letourdis is calling for more people to come down to vote as early as possible and not to wait for the last minute.
"All is going well now. We started with a bit of pressure because the station was handed over to me a bit late yesterday. We started to allow voters in by 7:15 am because we were a bit late in reading out the names of the voters who have already voted on Thursday and Friday...so far we have receive only one first time voter who was unable to vote because her name was not on the list," De Letourdis told SNA.
|Eligible voters have until 7pm to cast their ballots on the main and last day of voting in the 2015 presidential elections. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Apart from voting that is ongoing in the 25 electoral districts, people who are from the inner islands and would normally vote on La Digue as well as people from Praslin but who are temporarily working and living on Mahé are also casting their ballots at the National Library building in the capital of Victoria. The special station will be open until midday.
International and regional observer missions from the Commonwealth, African Union, Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Indian Ocean Commission and the Electoral Commission Forum alongside two local observer groups Citizens Democracy Watch Seychelles (CDWS) and the Association for Rights, Information and Democracy (Arid) have also been deploying their members to the various polling stations for the presidential vote.
A number of locally-based diplomatic missions are also observing the elections.
Seychellois voters are choosing among six candidates including the incumbent President James Michel, leader of the ruling ‘Parti Lepep’ [People’s Party], who is seeking a third and last mandate at the helm of the island nation’s government.
There are also three first timers; David Pierre leader of the Popular Democratic Movement, Patrick Pillay a former high-ranking figure with ‘Parti Lepep’ who formed ‘Lalyans Seselwa’ [Seychellois Alliance in May] and Alexia Amesbury, a Seychellois lawyer and also Seychelles’ first female presidential candidate who formed her Seychelles Party for Social Justice and Democracy in May.
The remaining two are Wavel Ramkalawan, who is standing for the fifth time and the only independent candidate Philippe Boullé, who is standing for the fourth time as an Independent candidate.
This is one of the most highly contested vote, with a record number of six candidates contesting a presidential election in Seychelles, since the establishment of the third republic when the country adopted its current constitution in 1993.
Since the establishment of the Third Republic, which saw the return of multi-party system in 1993, the ruling ‘Parti Lepep’ has won every single presidential election in the first round.
Incumbent James Michel won the last vote in 2011 with 55.46 percent of the votes, Wavel Ramkalawan won 41.43 percent and Philippe Boullé won 1.66 percent.
The last presidential election in 2011 saw an 85.3 percent participation of voters in a year that 69,480 voters were registered.