Seychelles' top court reinstates registration of two political parties, overturning Supreme Court decision
Seychelles' courts building 'Palais de Justice' at Ile du Port, where also sits the Court of Appeal. (Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles Court of Appeal on Friday overturned decisions of the island nation’s Supreme Court that ordered the Electoral Commission to cancel the registration of two political parties.
In its decision the appeal’s court stated that the Electoral Commission’s decision to register both names were “maintained and confirmed.”
The case relates to the registration of the names ‘Linyon Sanzman’ and ‘Lafors Sosyal Demokratik’ (LSD) as political parties ahead of parliamentary polls held between September 8 to 10, 2016.
Both names could not be used during the September polls after being struck off the official registrar by the Electoral Commission.
Supreme Court judge Durai Karunakaran had ordered an interim injunction prohibiting the registration of the names Linyon Sanzman and Lafors Sosyal Demokratik (LSD) on August 18.
The judge’s order was in response to two petitions lodged before the court by an opposition coalition -- Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS).
LDS had asked for a ‘judicial review’ of the Electoral Commission’s decision to register LSD as a political party, arguing that the name Lafors Sosyal Demokratik (LSD) was identical or so nearly resembles the name of Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS).
With regards to Linyon Sanzman, LDS said this was the same name used by the opposition coalition to campaign for a presidential run-off in December 2015, adding that LDS had planned to register the name Linyon Sanzman as the banner under which they would contest the National Assembly elections held in September.
The Electoral Commission announced its decision to strike the names of two political parties from the official registrar on August 23, after it was given 24 hours to comply with the court order.
Lawyer Raja Sundaram, representing both Linyon Sanzman (LS) and Lafors Sosyal Demokratik (LSD) appealed against the Supreme Court’s decision, raising a number of issues including the right to intervene, ex-parte orders and the right to be heard, recusal and the right to participate in an election.
“There was a judicial review between the LDS and the electoral commission, which also talked about my clients, namely Linyon Sanzman and Lafors Sosyal Demokratik and as an interested party I sought intervention to the Supreme Court headed by Judge Karunakaran, so that I could give my views but I was shut out,” he told SNA.
|The Court of Appeal’s decision on the cancellation of the two political parties’ registration was among 12 cases in which the Seychelles top court gave its decision on Friday. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
When quashing the Supreme Court decisions on Friday, appeal’s court judge Satyabhooshun Gupt Domah said judge Karunakaran erred on a number of issues.
Judge Domah said that judge Karunakaran had abused the court process “and allowed himself to use the court process for an objective and in a manner not permissible under the rule of law, within the limits of judicial discretion under the law or within the confines of the powers of his office as a judge.”
He said a court should be vigilant in election matters “to exercise some border control under the doctrine of separation of powers” adding that “the rule should be that the whole machinery of an Electoral Exercise should not be hampered by applications before the Courts.”
“In this case, parties have used the process of court to score political points,” he added.
Martin Aglae, who registered Linyon Sanzman, and later joined LSD on Friday welcomed the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
“Since the beginning I have said that our party was the legitimate Linyon Sanzman and that judge Karunakaran ignored and abused the law, so I’m happy that the Court of Appeal has today made it clear that judge Karunakaran abused Seychelles law,” he said.
Aglae who said his party was denied the right to take part in an election, has indicated that he will file new cases before the courts next week, without giving further details.
For his part, the lawyer representing Linyon Demokratik Seselwa, (LDS), Anthony Derjacques, said his petitions had merits, and although he strongly respects the Court of Appeal, he still maintains that judge Karunakanan made the right ruling in August.
“We definitely had grounds to file petitions before the [supreme] court, considering that over 31 thousand voters had voted for Wavel Ramkalawan in the presidential runoff in December 2015, under the banner Linyon Sanzman, and that the name had suddenly been taken by a smaller newly-formed political party, and that a party with an acronym LSD, close to ours, had also registered a day before nomination day,” said Derjacques.
He added that with the National Assembly election fast approaching at the time, LDS had to react swiftly to prevent any political party from misleading LDS supporters.
The Court of Appeal’s decision on the cancellation of the two political parties’ registration was among 12 cases in which the Seychelles top court gave its decision on Friday. This was at the end of its last session for 2016.