, VICTORIA, Seychelles, Sep 11 – The Seychelles opposition on Sunday hailed its “historic” victory at parliamentary polls after gaining control of the Indian Ocean nation’s parliament for the first time in more than two decades.
Before the result was announced, President James Michel pledged to work with the newly elected legislature, which had been expected to slip from his party’s control.
“The results just announced by the electoral commission are historic for our country and I feel somewhat proud,” said Roger Mancienne, head of the opposition coalition of the Seychellois Democratic Alliance (known by its Creole acronym LDS).
The LDS won 15 seats, with the Parti Lepep (meaning People’s Party in the local Seychellois Creole language), which has been in power since 1977, taking the remaining 10.
In percentage points it was a slim victory, with 48.37 percent for the LDS and 48.01 percent for Lepep. This means each party will also be allocated four parliamentary seats under an additional proportional system.
The National Assembly has a maximum 35 seats, 25 of them elected at the ballot box and the remainder attributed proportionally, with one seat for every 10 percent of the vote.
The main opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP) partnered with four smaller opposition parties — together known as The Seychellois Alliance and made up of former leaders from the dominant Parti Lepep — to strengthen its bid for power.
In a recent sign of growing opposition popularity, the SNP’s leader Wavel Ramkalawan came a close second in presidential elections in December 2015, losing to the incumbent James Michel by just 193 votes.
It marked the first time a candidate from Lepep had been forced into a second round.
– ‘Work for the common good’ –
As both head of state and government, the president will now have to rule without a parliamentary majority.
“My hope is that this spirit of consultation continues in the new National Assembly, where we all work together for the common good of our nation,” said Michel.
The results were announced in the early hours of Sunday morning, and just a few scattered groups of opposition supporters took to the streets of the capital Victoria to celebrate the victory, an AFP journalist at the scene said.
The vote in the tourism-dependent archipelago nation of 115 islands took place over three days, ending Saturday.
Voting began on the islands furthest away from the main island of Mahe, and its capital Victoria.
Mahe voted on Saturday, along with the two other main islands Praslin and La Digue. The three account for 98 percent of the Indian Ocean nation’s 90,000 people.
Turnout was 87 percent.
The SNP, which had refused to take part in the 2011 elections claiming they would not be fair, won 11 of the opposition’s 15 seats.
Lepep has maintained a majority in parliament since the return of multiparty politics in 1993.
There is little political difference between the two, but the Parti Lepep claimed to offer a guarantee of economic stability while the SNP argued the ruling party suffered from an erosion of power.