|Mr Viral Dhanjee|
2015 Presidential Elections -1-The Players.
Peaceful, Free and Fair? Peaceful, Free but NOT Fair. – Which will it be? And who benefits from either?
Yet another Election Day fast approaches, a day that most believe could well be the most important day in our republic's history. Others are not so optimistic.
The players: What started with eight political parties and a declared independent candidate in the run-up, the hype and political temperature, and especially expectations naturally on the high. Will there be a new beginning?
Will there be any new players at this last minute? At least players that could make a difference?
Four weeks before the election, we already have some drop outs from the race. Having done some initial contributions, but having failed to really take off, ICUS now supports the candidature of the independent candidate, Mr. Philip Boule, and SUP supports the candidature of Lalyans Seselwa. Having failed to create a space for themselves, one wonders if these two political parties will now have any future.
These micro-alliances would have raised certain eyebrows. ICUS would have been seen close to other political parties throughout the time of its inception, but never, never to Mr. Boulle. So what went wrong in this courting relationship that led ICUS to make a clean break from the opposition parties it was courting? It is understood other political parties would not have given ICUS the necessary space to exist as an entity (within an alliance),and that space provided by Mr Boule holds along a longer-term strategy. SUP backing of Lalyans Seselwa would in itself not be surprising, but what is unexpected is the fact that, after a couple of years existence, SUP would have chosen not to test its popularity by going it alone. – giving credibility to the adage, ‘’Nothing in politics ever surprises’’.
In all likelihood SFP will also not take part in the election, as they always boycott – and god knows there are always very important reasons to boycott the flawed elections processes of the Seychelles.
Going forward, we now have five political parties plus an independent candidates confirming participation in the presidential election.
By far the most important development last week was the confirmation, on Monday, by PDM that it will participate in the coming Presidential Elections, on that day naming its candidate and running mate.
The participation of PDM in the Presidential Elections is a tell-tale story. It is generally believed it would be doing so only after receiving the green light. It is being played and fielded, and that in itself is very indicative of events to come.
The other development of interest last week was the voting arrangement for people living on Perseverance Island. If anything, this goes to highlight not only the flawed election process of the Seychelles, but also that the Opposition as a whole have been sleeping and never saw this card being play by Parti Lepep. Having all the time in the world before the pitched elector battle started, no moves were made to rectify this. The opposition slept and now calls foul. Foul it is, but what else to do but call foul. It is what I call the permanent ‘’politik gele’’ of the opposition; never fighting the battle that must be fought, but only the battles they can win. That hardly wins an election, and the opposition leaders have again fallen short in ensuring a level playing field.
My attempt to create interest some 3 months ago urging politicians to address the political status of Perseverance Island as a district all but fell on deaf ears. Everyone being interested in securing one more vote, but letting victory escape. And then forever cry – ‘’politik gele’’.
Even with a reduced number of participants, there is an impression of an overcrowded playing field compared to the only two traditional players (SPPF/Pl and SNP) plus an independent player who faithfully always participates. Yet they all want to leave their mark and must be given the space and encouragement to do so, for they would necessarily have found their energies and raison d’etre from the failures of the two traditional political parties. This would increased democracy in the country and change the political landscape of the Seychelles and therefore cannot be a bad thing.
Amongst the old and familiar faces, there are new ones hoping to cash in on the failures of others.
Together these contenders would represent the whole mosaic of characters, showing what a strange breed of people politicians are -- from the cruelest and the most brutal criminals whose past record of failing the people, denying them even the basics of Human Rights and ruling through an atmosphere of fear, terror and intimidation without parallel to the opposition who, for whatever reason, never fought the battle that needed fighting (by design or otherwise) and thereby also always failing the people, to those whose philosophy seems to address only major principles of righteousness and have the best interest of people at heart, and those in between these two extremes.
People of the Seychelles just love politics and have really enjoyed the hype of the ten months leading to the declaration of elections. I expect the campaigning period to be even more so. It will be more interesting and the people will be more involved. Pity the party time was cut short by the calling of early elections. YouTube programs like ‘’Annou Koze Seselwa’’ has helped not only empower, but more importantly emboldened the people like never before. This has been helped by the number of challenges brought by concerned citizens in the Constitutional Court, and by the ‘’Sov Cap Ternay’’ campaign that showed the people that they could, if and when they wanted, force the government to reverse any decision that they, the people, saw as being harmful to the country, and also by the increased number of political parties that germinated. Regardless of the results of the Presidential Elections, politics in the Seychelles will never ever be the same again.
That was the time the people would have taken the lead in politics, leaving the political parties to follow. Being called Internet politicians and grandstanding politicians has not deterred the people to voice out theri concerns and opinion. It can be strongly argued that whilst the politicians change the position of the goal posts, this time round the height of the bar is being set by the people. Political debates would have certainly assured that by leaving politicians with no place to hide.
But being empowered and being emboldened is one thing. It naturally leads to expectations, but how real are the expectations? It is candidates (politicians), and not the people who are contesting and these possibly for personal agendas that may include a wish to acquire power, money, international influence and/or legitimacy. People will have to choose between the candidates, but will any, whoever the winner be, represent the aspirations of the people? It seems a self-defeating action. And when it comes to party support we find the electorate partisan and divided with matters of national interest and concern giving way to party affiliation. If, however, we had democracy in the country, and more importantly a series of national political debates, the people would be better informed as who to vote for. As things stand we do not, the process seeming more like a lucky dip game with a wait of another 5 years to play again.
All the above scenario of players could have come to an end if the various political parties had formed a strategic alliance to topple the ruling party. Multi-party participation does have potential advantages through increased likelihood of throwing an election into a second round. That has value in a healthy democracy. The main objective now, however, remains creating new leadership and a new ruling party. The DNA of the parties does not match, that has been clear from the start, but the fact the political parties could not rise above minor disagreement was, and is, a major disappointment for the masses. All want JAM out, but clear is just how badly each lust for power; personal agendas again. A ‘lalyans pou tou Seselwa’ (The Alliance for the Seychelles People), yet not managing to agree to form a simple alliance that could, once and for all, remove Seychelles from the hell hole it is for its citizens seems a misnomer. Talk of being an inclusive government, yet not accommodating other philosophies and lines of thought feels disingenuous. An absence of this strategic alliance leading yet again to an SPPF/PL win, will be read and remembered by the disappointed public as the various opposition political parties being more comfortable with a SPPF/PL government than with each other. The reasons for that would be very clear as well.
What also comes to mind is what the political climate might be if the SPPF/Pl had fielded another candidate rather than JAM, JAM having chosen the Mo Ibrahim programme option. Would we have seen the emergence of all these political parties? The card that people were dissatisfied with JAM but not with SPPF/PL could have been played then. It is not too late. Let us see who registers on the registration day.
The situation remains fluid as everything in politics always is. The party with by far the biggest wallet and direct use of government machinery remains SPPF/PL, which came into power nearly forty years ago through a bloody coup-d’etat and stayed in power through brutal and repressive tactics. Clearly such a party must move to remain in power at all cost, as the taste of power today is even sweeter than it was forty years ago, and the consequences for losing more potentially devastating. In the coming weeks there will be extra last-minute efforts to manipulate the playing field with serious money on offer, being much easier and more acceptable than another Coup d’Etat – but will the offers be more than those promised by various backers of the various candidates? ( It would be naïve to believe that there were none.) The promise of more, if and when in power, being in addition to the prestige that goes with the position.
Viral V. Dhanjee
Union Vale 6th. November, 2015