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Seychelles National Assembly election: Voters head to polls on first of three-day vote

Victoria, Seychelles | September 8, 2016, Thursday @ 13:09 in National » POLITICS | By: Patsy Athanase, Madiha Philo, Betymie Bonnelame, Sharon Uranie, Sharon Meriton-Jean and Rassin Vanni | Views: 2703
Seychelles National Assembly election: Voters head to polls on first of three-day vote

A voter casting his ballot on Silhouette on the first day of voting in the Seychelles parliamentary elections on Thursday. (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency)

Photo license  

(Seychelles News Agency) - Voters in Seychelles began casting ballots to elect the island nation’s sixth National Assembly on Thursday, the first of three days of voting.

Over 5,000 people are expected to vote on Thursday at 14 special polling stations. Those include five special voting stations on the main island of Mahé, one on the second-largest island, Praslin, another on the third-largest island, Silhouette, and seven on outer islands.

Stations were to open as of 7 a.m. 

Speaking to SNA, the chief electoral officer, Joseph Athanasius, said he is satisfied with the way voting is going so far.

Voting is taking place at the special stations as per our expectations. There have been one or two hiccups but we have been able to sort them out,” said Athanasius.

The most voters -- around 2,100 -- are expected at the English River’s special station in central Mahé for people who will be on duty on the main polling day -- Saturday -- and for those who will be travelling that day.

The chief electoral officer at English River Special Voting Station, Michel Mellie, told SNA that neary 300  of 2,143 registered voters had cast ballots in the first two hours of voting.

Mellie said about five people who did not register at the special station but who would be travelling on Saturday were allowed to vote, though their ballots were recorded separately.

The most voters -- around 2,100 -- are expected at the English River’s special station in central Mahé for people who will be on duty on the main polling day -- Saturday -- and for those who will be travelling that day. (Louis Toussaint, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

There is also a special voting station for around 1,900 residents of Ile Perseverance. The Seychelles’ Constitutional Court last week ruled that residents of Ile Perseverance will vote only once, and in their former districts, cancelling a provision that would have allowed them to vote again within a year to elect their own representative in the assembly.

Alex Souffe, the chief electoral officer of Ile Perseverance's special voting station, told SNA that by 9:15 a.m., over 270 people had already voted.

"Everything is going well. The queue is not that long there is about 30 people at a time in the queue so all is good so far.”

Souffe added that the only issue they are having is residents coming to vote thinking that their names are automatically registered on the voters list.

Over 5,000 people are expected to vote on Thursday at 14 special polling stations. (Louis Toussaint, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

SNA also spoke with two residents of Ile Perseverance who cast their votes this morning.

Voter Phillipe Figaro, 52, voting in the Roche Caiman district, said that the voting process went quite fast.

"I chose to vote today because it is easier for me since I have work commitments on Saturday. I like the fact that it is a quiet day so far and that everyone is voting in peace. Let’s hope it stays this way,” said Figaro.

Valerie Ernesta, 51, also said the voting process went smoothly and that she is voting for a candidate in the northern district of Beau Vallon.

‘Since Perseverance is not yet ready to have its own MNA then it's normal for us to vote in our respective district,” said Ernesta.

A special voting station has been set up at the Montagne Posée prison for voters currently on remand and the North East Point Home for the elderly in the northern part of the island.

Voters from Praslin and La Digue working on Mahe are voting at the special voting station located at the National House building, in Victoria.

Mahe residents presently residing on Praslin are casting their vote in a special voting station set up in Baie Ste Anne district.

Over 500 voters eligible voters can vote at Baie St Anne on Thursday. This includes people coming from neighbouring islands including Curieuse, Aride and Felicité.

"Seventeen of us chose to come and vote today from Felicité," said Ronny Bathilde, who is registered in the Anse Boileau district.

Hillary Gay who works for a tourism establishment on Praslin said: "It was best for me to vote today as I will be working on Saturday," adding that she had found the voting process to be quite fast.

A special voting station has been set up at the Montagne Posée prison for voters currently on remand and the North East Point Home for the elderly in the northern part of the island. (Louis Toussaint, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Voting is also taking place on the third largest island, Silhouette, where voters on the island, most of whom work for Labriz Resort and those on nearby North Island can cast their votes. Around 168 people are registered to vote on Silhouette.

Residents on Silhouette vote for the Inner island candidate who also represents La Digue, the third-most inhabited island. Compared to the December 2015 presidential run-off, this time Silhouette is not an all voting station but a special one catering only for those living on the island and working on North Island.

With this change a number of people who recently moved to Silhouette were unable to vote as their names does not feature on the list and some elderly people are also registered directly on la Digue.

"I have lived on Silhouette for many years and cannot understand why I cannot vote," one elderly resident, Modestie Magnan, told SNA.

The electoral officer in charge of the polling station, Justin Mathiot, told SNA that: “Following consultations with the Electoral Commission and taking into account that these people are registered on La Digue they are being allowed to vote.”

Voting is also taking place on seven outer islands, namely Darros, Remire, Alphone, Platte, Coetivy, Desroches and Farquhar.

The legislative elections in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian ocean are taking place Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There are 71,932 eligible voters who can vote in 25 constituencies.

Over 500 voters eligible voters can vote at Baie St Anne on Thursday. This includes people coming from neighbouring islands including Curieuse, Aride and Felicite. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Parliamentary elections in Seychelles are held every five years. In the last election -- in 2011 -- the ruling Parti Lepep won all 25 directly elected seats.

Parti Lepep that has always won a majority in National Assembly elections, since the return of a multi-party system in 1993, is seeking to maintain its majority in parliament.

In 2011, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), which currently holds the 7th proportional seat in the house, was the only contender alongside Parti Lepep. The main opposition parties boycotted the elections.

While PDM is not contesting the ongoing vote, the 2016 legislative polls is setting out to be one of the most contested in the island nation since the return of multiparty democracy in 1993, with the participation of two opposition groups.

An opposition coalition -- Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) -- is seeking to reverse the trend and as the party has also expressed confidence that it will win a majority. The coalition is made up of four political parties including the Seychelles National Party (SNP), which boycotted the 2011 polls

While Parti Lepep and LDS are fielding candidates to contest the 25 electoral districts, another opposition group -- the Seychelles Patriotic Movement -- is fielding candidates for 23 out of the 25 districts.

Three independent candidates are also standing in three different districts – Au Cap and Anse Aux Pins on the east side of the main island Mahe and in Mont Buxton – a central district.

The second day of voting on Friday will see the casting of ballots on some other remote islands. The majority of eligible voters will cast their vote on Saturday, the main polling day.

This is the second time in less than a year that voters in Seychelles are heading to the polls.

A presidential election which ran into a historic run off was held in December. The leader of Parti Lepep, President James Michel, was declared the winner with 50.15 percent of the votes against the SNP leader Wavel Ramkalawan who won 49.85 percent. Only 193 votes separated the two candidates.

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Tags: National Assembly, parliamentary elections, special voting stations, voting, Electoral Commission, Parti Lepep, Linyon Demokratik Seselwa, independent candidates

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