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Latest figure shows 67 percent of Seychellois voters have cast their ballots - voting still ongoing past official closing time

Victoria, Seychelles | December 5, 2015, Saturday @ 19:58 in National » POLITICS | By: Betymie Bonnelame, Salifa Magnan and Sharon Uranie | Views: 4663
Latest figure shows 67 percent of Seychellois voters have cast their ballots - voting still ongoing past official closing time

The Chief Electoral Commission Charles Morin. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - Long queues could still be seen outside of the polling stations as the clock read 7 pm this evening signalling the time voting was supposed to end in the 2015 presidential elections in Seychelles.

The Electoral Commission has confirmed that everyone who were still standing in line at 7 pm will be allowed and that the process may go on until at least 9 pm in some electoral areas.

The latest update reveals that as at 6 pm local time, approximately 48,000 Seychellois voters had cast their votes in the Seychelles presidential elections representing 67 percent of the 70,943 eligible voters.

The last presidential election in 2011 saw an 85.3 percent participation of voters in a year that 69,480 voterswere registered.

Voting had started off a bit slow this morning, as Morin confirmed that by midday that only around 17,000 people had cast their votes representing 24 percent of the 70,943 electorates. 

The largest number of people who had cast their ballots by 11 am was in electoral area of Mont Fleuri, a central district on Mahe, where between 35 to 40 percent of the district’s eligible electorates had performed their civic duty.

Baie St Anne on the second most populated island of Praslin was in second position with 34 percent of voter participation and Cascade and Les Mamelles, two districts on the eastern coast were both at 33 percent.

Starting on Thursday December 3, the presidential elections in the Indian Ocean archipelago entered the third and final day this morning, for voters in all of the 25 electoral areas on the three main populated islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.

According to the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Charles Morin, all stations opened their doors at 7 am local time and that so far everything is going on well.

“Though we had some complaints that voting did not start at exactly 7 am, for the Electoral Commission when the stations opened at 7 am, we started by crossing off the names of voters who had already voted on the outer islands and the special stations. That would take over a half hour to 45 minutes and during that time nobody was allowed to vote but for us the process had  started, this is the most important thing,” Morin told SNA in an interview at around 1.30 pm this afternoon.

The Electoral Commissioner confirmed that there a few issues that arose at the polling stations during the first two to three hours after the opening time.

These were related to voters who turned up and found that their names were not registered in that particular electoral area and upon verification on the master register were found to be registered in another electoral area.

These people were however given a note so that they could be fast-tracked when they get to the right electoral area.  

Other issues that were raised had to do with people who had changed their surnames because of marriage and had not brought their certificates...but once the proper documents were provided they were allowed to vote.

There were also some problem relating to first time voters who had not registered their names assuming they were automatically on the voter’s register.

Voting on La Digue. (Romano Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
Voting process at Baie St Anne, one of the districts on Praslin. (Romano Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Aside of issues arising at the various polling stations concerning the voting process itself, the Electoral Commission has also received complaints from some of the candidates.

“We do not work alone, we have our partners and our stakeholders, one of our key partners is the police and we have been working very closely with them to ensure law and order. The allegations that we have received here at headquarters have been passed on to the police and they have been mobilised to go and see if what is being reported are true,” said Morin.

The polling stations are expected to close at 7pm this evening, after which the votes will be counted, a process which the Electoral Commission expects should be completed by 11.30 pm tonight.

Morin noted however that that there may be issues that can delay this process.

“As you know if there are districts where an agent or candidate wants to do a recount you have to recount all of the votes. If there is a disagreement on whether a ballot paper should be accepted or rejected that would take time only to argue on where or how the mark has been made, for example did it go over the line or outside the box and which candidate the voter wanted to vote for, these arguments do take place in a polling station when it comes to sorting and counting.”

Morin has said that they also have to ensure that all electoral officers have made it to the Electoral Commission’s Headquarters at National Library building in Victoria safe and sound before the final results are announced.

“I imagine the results will be announced at around 1 am to 1.30 am [on Sunday],” says Morin.

To note that five international and two local observer missions have joined efforts to monitor the Seychelles presidential elections

Observers from the Commonwealth, African Union (AU), the 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 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.

For the AU, this is the first time the regional organization has come to observe an election in the 115-island state in the western Indian Ocean.

International Observers from the Commonwealth talking to Independent candidate Phillipe Boulle. (Salifa Magnan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

“So far we can say that everything is going well, we observed the opening at one of the stations and the process has gone well. So far we have covered like 4 stations and the queues are orderly. In terms of the procedure inside, everything is going as per procedure and we don't have any complaints for the time being,”Julia Joiner, the Head of the AU observer mission who is the also the former Commissioner for Political Affairs, African Union Commission told SNA in an interview this afternoon.

The team consists of 20 observers who have been deployed to various polling stations.

According to Joiner, 14 of the observers are permanently located at certain polling stations, whereas she also has a team that is moving to the different stations.

“From here [St Louis at around midday] right now we are going to English River to cover the procedures. We've been to Bel Air and Belonie and everything there was okay.”

For the local observers, the two groups are also observing their first presidential elections.

ARID which was formed at the beginning of this year has deployed over 20 members to observe the elections on all of the three main islands of Mahé, Praslin and la Digue.

Citizens Democracy Watch Seychelles (CDWS) which was formed in 2011 has had experience observing parliamentary elections. For its first time observing CDWS has a working force of 22 observers also scattered across the country on a rotational basis.

There are two local observer groups monitoring the presidential elections; Association for Rights, Information and Democracy, ARID and Citizens Democracy Watch Seychelles, CDWS.(Salifa Magnan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

“So far things are going quite well. There is a calm atmosphere…there are no major issues. There has been [however], I think four people who have not been able to cast their votes [at St Louis]. All of them were not featured on the voters register, out of that; two of them have just turned 18 during the past 2 months” an observer representing CDWS, Audrey Celestine, told SNA this afternoon.

Some of the observer teams did not want to comment as they felt it best to offer the media a general report at the end of the election.

All observers will be holding a press conference with all media on Monday morning to present their respective preliminary reports on the voting process.

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Tags: Electoral Commission, presidential elections, candidates, observer missions

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