Seychelles opposition wins election for first time in 43 years

A former Anglican priest in Seychelles has defeated the young president, Danny Faure, in his sixth attempt at running for the presidency

An opposition candidate in Seychelles has been elected as president for the first time since 1977, government officials have announced.

Wavel Ramkalawan, the leader of the Seychelles Democratic Alliance, reaffirmed his pledge to raise the minimum wage to compensate for the stifling effects of COVID-19 on the islands’ tourism-dependent economy.

Ramkalawan, a former Anglican priest, defeated President Danny Faure after three decades of unsuccessful runs for the presidency of the East African nation, an Indian Ocean archipelago famed for its natural beauty and rare wildlife.

Ramkalawan won 54.9% of the vote while Faure secured 43.5% in the election that started on Thursday (22 October) and ended yesterday (Saturday 24 October), the Electoral Commission of Seychelles announced.

In a good-natured transfer of power, Ramkalawan has promised to continue working with Faure. The cordial changing of the guard is unusual in a context where rulers of many other African countries holding elections this year are eliminating term limits and cracking down on political opposition.

No losers and no winners

“Mr Faure and I are good friends. And an election does not mean the end of one’s contribution to one’s motherland,” Ramkalawan said in his victory speech.

“In this election, there were no losers, there were no winners. Our country was given the opportunity as the ultimate winner.”

As he spoke, Faure sat nearby, nodding his head.

Back in 1977, power changed hands in a coup that led to 27 years of rule by Albert René. René’s time in office was punctuated by many coup attempts, including one in 1981 by South African-backed mercenaries under the leadership of a British soldier of fortune, “Mad” Mike Hoare, masquerading as holidaying rugby players.

Faure’s United Seychelles party had been in power over the past 43 years but this was the first time he was facing voters in his own right. He was vice-president when his predecessor, James Michel, resigned in 2016 after a constitutional amendment was passed limiting presidents to two terms.

Faure’s chances may have been damaged by the economic downturn. Travel restrictions imposed to counter the COVID-19 pandemic have had a severe effect on the Seychelloise economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that the economy will contract by 13.8% this year.

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