What is at stake in the two forthcoming elections?

Seychelles is set to vote for its President and legislative representatives in a double election towards the end of October. What is at stake in these elections and what is the status quo of the political parties and independent candidates taking part?

The baseline actually is now that none of the political parties in Seychelles seem likely to win either election outright. Based on results of the last elections the two main parties will still rely on the smaller entities to decide the winner of the presidency and those same entities, will probably bring about a change of scenery in the results of the legislative elections.

Even if the ruling party has already lost ground to the main opposition contender in the 2016 legislative elections, this time around, the scenario has changed among the opposition grouping, with three of the four leaders in the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa leaving the party. All the same this has not necessarily worked to the advantage of Danny Faure’s United Seychelles. LDS was formed in 2016 to contest the National Assembly elections and it brought together all the opposition parties under one banner, while at the same time those parties continued to exist as separate entities on their own. This was from the start an arrangement that was doomed to fail eventually. It did achieve the objective of obtaining the majority in the National Assembly but fell short of securing a two third majority, which would have enabled LDS to force the hand of the president into calling for general elections, or as it could have passed a vote of no confidence in the government at the first valid opportunity and topple the James Michel administration.

The 15/10 win by the LDS in the National Assembly election, did however force the ruling party into an uneasy cohabitation. The elected President would have none of it and barely one year into his third mandate James Michel, quit and passed on the presidency to his running mate in accordance with the Constitution. LDS cried foul, but could only come to an arrangement with the successor Danny Faure, to amend the Constitution to make it mandatory to have fresh elections if a president resigns from office. They had to agree that despite the amendment, as Faure was already in office, he would see out his term of four years, which was left from the Michel’s mandate. Thus the cohabitation came about, with Faure publicly resigning from the ruling party so that he could pretend to be the President for all Seychellois.That was his first mistake, since he relies on the party which was then called Parti Lepep, to push his agenda in the National Assembly and many supporters felt he was betraying the SPUP/SPPF/PL cause. Cornered by cohabitation, Faure and LDS had to find their footing supposedly for the national benefit. This worked for a few months, while the new boards of directors for the different government entities were appointed based on a more democratic format. This saw many known opposition followers taking up posts on these boards.

In his second faux pas, Danny Faure under pressure from the (PL/US) ruling party appointed most of the former National Assembly members from Parti Lepep who were voted out, senior and chief executive appointments in his ministries and agencies, without much thought as to their ability to deliver in those areas. Within less than two years most had either resigned or been asked to transfer elsewhere. Needless to say, this resulted in a lot of anger and disappointment among those who had been working diligently in the hope of moving up in their careers, but who suddenly found someone else coming in from nowhere and take the top positions.Meanwhile, in the opposition camp after just over fourteen months of unity, a massive rift appearedin LDS. Patrick Pillay, who created and after only seven months led the Lalyans Seselwa into a 15% gathering of votes in the first round of the 2015 elections and this forced a historic second round, announced he was moving his party from the LDS and he was resigning from his seat as elected member for the Anse Boileau District as well as Speaker of the National Assembly. In so doing, Pillay dealt the second and almost fatal blow to his own party. He did not consult others before taking this decision and he was soon to reap the catastrophic results.The six LDS Members of the National Assembly who came from Lalyans Seselwa, all decided to abandon their original party and Patrick Pillay -opting to stay within the LDS. This was the evidence enough if anyone needed any, that personal considerations come before everything. Pillay should have realized that his team had many “me first” opportunists in it when, after James Michel won the presidential elections and the ‘coalition with SNP and others was being negotiated, the National Committee Members were quick to decide that they would be the ones standing for elections in those districts assigned to Lalyans Seselwa, despite the fact that a whole cohort of candidates had been formed and trained by the party for that. Needless to say, the disappointed would be candidates left Lalyans and many joined to form the Seychelles Patriotic Movement.

It was therefore no surprise that the six were quite happy to quit Lalyans and after a weak attempt to usurp the party’s leadership, they gave up Lalyans Seselwa altogether. Among them is one who begged and pleaded and cried to be nominated as a National Assembly candidate and he got the opportunity over those who had been there before him and were working diligently. Another of the six is someone to whom Lalyans Seselwa gave a lifeline even after his performance did not bring the desired results.

With those members from his team who are most known in the public domain and with no funds coming in from LDS despite Lalyans Seselwa having contributed over 8000 votes to the election win, Patrick Pillay found himself and his party very much weakened, but somehow they managed to keep things together for another year, before its mouthpiece stopped publishing and Lalyans Seselwa faded from public view. Nonetheless, Pillay kept on making the odd public appearance in the news and come 2020 he announced that he would again be among the contenders for the presidency.

What are his chances and what can he offer?

Pillay is already in his seventies and slowing down as one would expect. His party is at best in dis-array and sorely lacking in funds. This notwithstanding, he is a highly intelligent charismatic per-son with diplomatic experience and over ten years of Ministerial practice. The main body of his support base was never only those who were present at the rallies and public gatherings, but the quiet hidden middle level civil servant and intelligentsia, who shied away from the noise and quietly cast their vote. Despite the fact that right now, Lalyans Seselwa looks like a disappearing breed, Ton Pat has been able to keep some supporters, including the ones whom everybody has labelled the dregs of society. Will he be able to give a repeat performance of 2015? While it does not seem likely, Lalyans Seselwa has a few very well calibrated supporters, and it is after all taking part in the democratic process of the country…

(To be continued)