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The Republic of Seychelles, a country consisting of well over a hundred islands on the western edge of the Indian Ocean, has always been a vital link in the commerce between Asia and Africa. France took control in 1756, naming the island chain after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, the Minister of Finance under Louis XV. The British and the French competed for control of the Seychelles from 1794 to 1810. Negotiations continued for a few years until 1814 when France finally ceded of possession of the colony of Mauritius along with the Seychelles islands to the British.
History of Politics in the Seychelles
The Seychelles was officially separated from the territory of Mauritius and became a British Crown Colony in 1903; in 1976, the islands became a independent republic within the British Commonwealth. However, in 1977, a coup overthrew the republic's first president, James Mancham, and installed a socialist administration run by two men over the next few decades: France Albert René from 1977 through 2004, James Michel from 2004 to the present. A constitution essentially mandating socialism and a one-party system was proclaimed in 1979 and lasted until 1991; a new replacement constitution allowing opposition parties was not put into effect, however, until it was approved in 1993 by the island's voters.
Organization of the Seychelles Government
The President of the Seychelles is both the head of the government and the head of state. Selection of the President is by popular vote in an election held every five years. No opposition candidate ran for President until the elections of 1994. The government headed by the President wields executive power through an appointed cabinet. Legislative power is based in the National Assembly, twenty-five of whose members are elected to five-year terms by popular vote in specific constituencies, with the remaining nine out of the thirty-four seats appointed by the government based on a proportional formula allocating those seats to members of political parties by the percentage of votes in the election for that party. The membership of the President's cabinet must be approved by the National Assembly.
There are twenty-five administrative regions that form the constituencies of the National Assembly. The collection of eight districts that comprise the capital city on the main island of Mahé is called Greater Victoria; the remainder of the rural areas on the island of Mahé comprise another fourteen districts. Two more districts are on the island of Praslin; the district based on the island of La Digue includes some other smaller nearby islands. All the other Outer Islands do not belong to any district and have no distinct representation in the National Assembly.
Current State of Political Parties in the Seychelles
As of 2012, there are two political parties in the Seychelles, the ruling People's Party (PP) and the opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP). In the last national election in 2007, the People's Party won well over fifty per cent of the popular vote, which continued the incumbent James Michel in the office of President. The People's Party acquired twenty-three out of the thirty-four seats available in the National Assembly as a result of that same election. The next national election is scheduled for the spring of 2012.
The People's Party
The history of the People's Party stretches back to 1964, when the Seychelles was still a British colony. At that time, the organization, then known as the Seychelles People's United Party (SPUP) and led by France-Albert Rene, opposed British colonial rule and advocated the creation of an independent socialist government in the Seychelles. In 1977, this group changed its name to Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) and ran the coup that overthrew the President installed upon independence from Britain in the previous year. In 2009, this political organization changed its name to the People's Party. The SPUP/SPPF/PP has ruled the Seychelles since 1977, winning every national presidential election, though the opposition SNP claims the buying of votes has been a major factor in those victories.
The National Party
The SNP, the current opposition party in the Seychelles, has its roots in the 1990s when the constitution approved in 1993 allowed opposition candidates to run in national elections. At that time, three political parties opposed the rule of President René, at that time having continually been in power for sixteen years:
o the Seychelles National Movement, with leader Gérard Hoarau
o the National Alliance Party, with leader Philippe Boullé
o the Parti Seselwa, with leader Wavel Ramkalawan.
These three political parties merged in 1994 to from the Seychelles National Party with Ramkalawan, a priest in the Anglican faith, as its leader. In recent elections, Ramkalawan, acquiring between 42-46% of the presidential vote, has come in a close second to the ruling party's candidate. In the current National Assembly, the SNP now holds seven seats by constituency vote and four seats by the proportional appointment rule for a total of eleven seats out of the thirty-four total. The SNP is considered a liberal party, emphasizing economic reforms, democracy based on multiple political parties and an official respect for individual rights.
International Reputation of the Seychelles Government
Despite what the situation may appear from the above description of internal politics, the current government of the Seychelles ranks second only to Mauritius in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, a ranking on the excellence of government operations as it pertains to the delivery of essential goods, services and basic rights to its citizens. The index covers all forty-eight sub-Saharan nations, ranking them in many different ways and including such categories as Human Development, Human Rights and Safety/Security. In addition, the Seychelles actively participates in such global organizations as the British Commonwealth of Nations, La Francophonie and the Indian Ocean Commission.