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Supporters of opposition candidate Wavel Ramkalawan celebrate after his election win

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Opposition’s Ramkalawan wins Seychelles presidential vote

Supporters of opposition candidate Wavel Ramkalawan celebrate after his election win © AFP / Rassin VANNIER

Victoria, Seychelles, Oct 26 – Wavel Ramkalawan on Sunday won the presidential election in the Seychelles, the first opposition victory since the Indian Ocean archipelago’s independence from Britain over four decades ago.

The opposition also won the legislative election that took place from Thursday to Saturday alongside the presidential poll, with Ramkalawan’s party alone taking 25 seats, or two thirds of the parliament.

Ramkalawan — an Anglican priest who won enough votes in the first round to clinch the presidency on his sixth attempt — called for unity after his victory.

“It is important to find how we can reconcile our people to go forward,” he said, as his jubilant supporters began celebrating in the streets of the capital Victoria.

Incumbent Danny Faure, 58, running under the recently renamed United Seychelles ruling party which had been in power since 1977, conceded defeat and wished his successor “good luck”.

Wavel Ramkalawan called for reconciliaton after his win © AFP / Rassin VANNIER

Ramkalawan of the Linyon Democratik Seselwa (Seychelles Democratic Alliance), garnered 54.9 percent of the vote to 43.5 percent for Faure to become the fifth president of the Seychelles, the electoral commission said.

– ‘Major milestone’ –

The opposition, narrowly defeated in a presidential election in 2015 and buoyed by a landmark victory in a parliamentary poll a year later, had been hoping for its first presidential win in the 44 years since independence from Britain.

The US State Department hailed the election as a “another major milestone in Seychelle’s democracy,” according to a statement.

It said Washington looks “forward to expanding cooperation on a wide range of mutual interests including maritime security, good governance, and fighting drug abuse, piracy, and terrorism”.

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The vote campaign had taken place mainly over social media, with rallies banned due to the coronavirus.

The Seychelles has recorded only 149 cases, mostly imported, but the pandemic has been a burning campaign issue as restrictions on global travel hit the tourism industry — a major earner for the Seychelles and employer for many of its 98,000 people.

Wavel Ramkalawan’s victory is the first presidential election win by the oppositon since the Seychelles became independent from Britain © AFP / Rassin VANNIER

Visitor numbers have collapsed since March in the archipelago nation of 115 islands, normally a popular destination for honeymooners and paradise-seekers drawn by its fine sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

The economy has slowed significantly since the start of the pandemic and unemployment has risen to 6.3 percent, according to government figures.

While average income is among the highest in Africa, the national statistics agency says about 40 percent of Seychellois live in poverty because of the high cost of living.

Map of the Seychelles © AFP

The US State Department hailed the election as a “another major milestone in Seychelle’s democracy,” according to a statement.

It said Washington looks “forward to expanding cooperation on a wide range of mutual interests including maritime security, good governance, and fighting drug abuse, piracy, and terrorism”.

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