Voters in Seychelles began casting their ballots in a parliamentary election that should hand the ruling People’s Party a large majority after the main opposition group said it would boycott the poll.
A comfortable win for the People’s Party, headed by President James Michel who was elected to a second term in office in May, would pave the way for further economic reforms to liberalise an economy that faced bankruptcy three years ago.
The leader of the opposition Seychelles National Party called the boycott in protest at the lack of electoral reform that he says deprived him of victory in the presidential election, but his call has left his party deeply divided, reuters reports.
“There is no doubt the ruling People’s Party will win the forthcoming election with a large majority,” said local political commentator John Lablache.
“They have won all other elections even when the opposition was strong but now with the opposition fragmented, it will be almost a walkover for the ruling party,” he said.
Michel has overseen a raft of economic reforms to liberalise the economy after the palm-fringed archipelago faced an acute balance of payments crisis.
Under Michel’s leadership, Seychelles has opened its doors to foreign investors, notably from Europe and the Gulf states, to invest in the tourism and real estate sectors.
Voters in the Indian Ocean archipelago’s remotest islands will cast their ballots on Thursday and Friday, while the rest of the country’s 69,480 voters will do so on Saturday.
The only opposition party fielding candidates is the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), which was hurriedly formed by breakaway members of the Seychelles National Party after the boycott call from Wavel Ramkalawan.
Ramkalawan has been demanding reforms to the electoral system since his defeat in May’ s presidential poll, which he said was marred by voter bribery. The PDM said a boycott would kill politics on the archipelago.
“The main reason we are standing is that we do not want the country to go back to the days of a one-party state. If we do not take part then we will have People’s Party occupying all the seats in the National Assembly, in which case People’s Party would be able to change the laws however they want, whenever they want,” PDM leader David Pierre told Reuters.
Seychelles’ National Assembly has 34 seats. Twenty five are filled by directly elected members and nine candidates are appointed by party leaders, with the number allocated to each party proportional to the party’s performance.
The SNP held 11 seats in the last assembly, while the People’s Party had 23.