By Wanjohi Kabukuru – Seychelles third president James Michel successfully won his third term as president of the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles on Saturday defeating his main opponent Wavel Ramkalawan.
Michel garnered 31,966 (55.46 percent) of the vote against Ramkalawan’s 23,878 (41.45 percent). This electoral victory has seen Michel’s rating rising after major political setbacks necessitated by his reforms in 2008. In 2006 Michel was re-elected with 53.7 percent of the vote against the 45.7 percent scooped by Ramkalawan’s SNP.
In a generally peaceful election but mired by accusations and counter accusations of the main rival parties out of 69,000 registered voters some 58,000 voters cast their ballot in the three-day voting exercise. Voting was extended to allow people on outlying islands the chance to participate. The Seychelles archipelago is a constellation of some 116 islands.
Michel’s party, Parti Lepep, Ramkalawan’s Seychelles National Party (SNP) Ralph Volcere’s (New Democratic Party) and independent candidate Philip Boulle accused each other of bribing voters. Volcere’s NDP and independent candidate Boulle performed dismally by scraping 833 and 956 votes respectively.
In a broadcast message to the nation streamed through the national broadcaster Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) soon after his election Michel oozed poetic confidence: “Every moment in history leaves a mark, a precious moment, a unique moment, but there is a moment that marks us the most; when the voice of the people and the will of our Creator decides the future and the path of our country… in a few hours when the first rays of sunshine strike on the earth, they will shine on a New Seychelles.” He said. “A New Seychelles which will let us write another chapter in our history, another chapter which we will write together, where we will continue to see the smiles on the faces of our children. We will continue to see the courage and hope in the hearts of our workers and pride in the eyes of our elderly. We will create this New Seychelles together, in peace and harmony, respectful of the diversity of opinions, and we will put our differences aside, and build the New Seychelles together.”
Michel took over as Seychelles President in 2004 when France Albert Rene leader of the Socialist Seychelles Peoples Progressive Front (SPPF) stepped down after 27 years in power.
Michel who is a former journalist and army colonel has managed to steer the country’s economy from an inflation rate of more than 60% in 2008 and now the country boasts of surpassing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) growth target of 4% by reaching the 6% economic growth mark this year.
In the last two years, Michel’s administration swallowed a bitter pill of floating the Seychelles rupee and liberalizing Port Victoria’s economy. He earned the wrath of the opposition and even the IMF projected that it would take several years before the Seychelles economy stabilized again. Politically, his fortunes suffered.
Surprisingly the Indian Ocean nation clocked an impressive 6.2% economic growth mainly bolsterd by fishing and tourism. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which saw some US$290million injected into her economy and a record number of high end tourists totaling more than 170,000 salvaged Michel’s politics and were ample fodder for his re-election campaign. Among the high-end tourists to the island nation is Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who just completed their honeymoon in Seychelles North Island.
Indian Ocean observers had predicted a Michel win due to his progressive and liberal economic and governance policies not to mention a cabinet reshuffle last year that saw Michel bring in fresh technocrats with international experience such as Peter Sinon from the African Development Bank (AfDB).
“People of Seychelles, I will always remain the President of all Seychellois. My arms will remain open and my doors will remain open. I will work for the wellbeing of all Seychellois, without exception.” Says Michel.