Thursday, 21 January 2016

Tensions in the Seychelles after neck and neck elections

Although everyday life in the Seychelles remains as peaceful as ever – living up to the islands’ paradisiacal tourist image – there have been tensions brewing below the surface ever since disputed elections last month.

In the presidential election on 16–18 December, President James Michel was officially re-elected, beating his closest rival by a mere 193 votes – a razor sharp margin even in a country with a population of just 90,000 people. The opposition, led by Wavel Ramkalawan, immediately called for a review, intimating that there had been vote rigging and irregularities.

The Supreme Court is currently scrutinising the electoral process following petitions from the opposition and will eventually decide whether the poll will be re-run later this year.

In the meantime, accusations are being thrown in both directions. There are rumours, gleefully disseminated by the opposition Seychelles Weekly, that poor people were paid up to Rs5,000 ($380) to give up their identity cards until after the election. Meanwhile, the government-friendly Times of Seychelles has reported that attempts to set fire to a local party office and primary school have been discovered, alleging that supporters of the opposition may have been behind them.

The ruling party accuses the opposition of being sore losers, while the latter accuse the president and his supporters of being cheats.

How popular is Michel?
There are genuine ideological differences between Michel and Ramkalawan. Whereas Michel continues the moderate socialist policies of his predecessor, Ramkalawan runs on a liberal-conservative platform. And while the ruling SPPF accuses the opposition of incompetence and opportunism, intimating that only they have the skills to run the country, the SNP alleges that its rivals rule through cronyism and have been unable to instigate necessary reforms in the Seychellois economy. They have now also added electoral fraud to their list of accusations.

Among the electorate, it is difficult to say how popular the long-serving James Michel really is. “Yes, he is competent, honest and wants the best for his people,” say some. However, others claim that the “people are fed up with him” and that “if he had been popular, he would have got 55, or 60, or even 70% of the vote”.

Supporters of the government say that if there were a change of power, welfare would decline and inequality would increase, while those sympathetic to the opposition insist the country can do better and point to recent statistics that suggest 40% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Some others simply complain that there is a lack of choice. One small businessman, exasperated with the rules and regulations of what he sees as “still in many ways a one-party state”, jokes that even the road network doesn’t give people alternatives. “There’s just one road to Victoria [the capital] – there is too little choice in this country!”

It’s a small world
Perhaps the most characteristic aspect of Seychellois politics and economics is its tiny scale. With only 90,000 citizens, anonymity is difficult to achieve and developing a state bureaucracy without drawing on personal networks is virtually impossible. People in the political class know each other either personally or through common acquaintances, and they know who they can trust and who to avoid.

One example of this attitude can be seen in the rumours that spread at one point that Etihad Airlines would pull out of Seychelles if Ramkalawan won the presidential election. Clearly unfounded, this far-fetched idea is indicative of the widespread faith here that personal networks are the key to everything.

The significance of personal networks cannot be spirited away since it concerns the very fabric of small-scale Seychellois society. Moreover, the stark dualism of Seychellois politics encourages polarisation rather than compromise.

This is unlikely to change unless there is electoral reform that could incorporate strong proportionality. This might in turn enable party pluralism, dampening the dualism which is currently creating an unproductive tension in Seychellois society.

Without this, we are likely to see similar conflicts arise later this year when parliamentary elections – and perhaps re-run presidential polls depending on how the court rules – will see the same two rival parties pitted against each other once again.

 Posted on

Monday, 18 January 2016

Seychelles Suspends United Nations Council Seat In Unexplained Rationale

Seychelles, has finally broken its silence about ditching its interest in a non-permanent member seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) during 2017-2018.

The withdrawal information on Seychelles’ bid was made public on Wednesday January 13, 2016 by the country’s Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs Maurice Loustau-Lalanne. The Seychelles official confirmed to the Seychelles News Agency (SNA), “The official announcement of Seychelles’ withdrawing in favour of Ethiopia will be done at the next African Union summit for heads of state,” which would convene at the end of this month in Addis Abeba.


Seychelles’ rationale as unconvincing as it is, it states that it took this action: “For solidarity reasons we have decided to support Ethiopia.”

While that has come out loud and clear, Principal Foreign Secretary Maurice Loustau-Lalanne also knows full well that his country’s withdrawal justification: “For solidarity reasons” would be hard put to convince the diplomatic world and UN observers, especially aware that Victoria started its for membership in UNSC campaign in earnest and in 2012

The SADC body provided its support and endorsement twice to Seychelles: in March 2015 at ministerial level and in July from the candidature committee. SADC at the time reported that it had conducted discussions on Seychelles’ request in an informed manner and “on a wide array of matters which are of interest to the archipelago and the region, especially in line with the maintenance of peace and stability within the SADC, and the development of an even more secure and integrated region.”

The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO) on January 8, 2016 boldly linked its suspicion of the then alleged withdrawal, as announced by Ethiopia'a Foreign Minister to “a mysterious horse trading” between the two countries.
TEO’s view, which has now been corroborated, is predicated on the fact of, firstly, Seychelles’ decision became sudden, after a prolonged campaign – in the words of its President James Michel – basing it in 2012 on the theme of: “We have values that we can share with and impart to the rest of the world. These values are solidly anchored in our abiding faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.”

Secondly, withdrawal of Seychelles announcement was made at the new year broke by Ethiopia that announced, instead of the Seychelles – even for reasons of deference and believability; and, thirdly, the claim by the Seychelles that it was doing this out of a sense of solidarity seemed out of place, when there is no record of an appeal at any official forum to them from the Ethiopian side or the East African intermediaries.

TEO continues to maintain that Ethiopia’s bargaining chip is the weekly flights by the Ethiopian Airlines to the island nation, for which the two countries have ample experiences in that regard.
Note that the Seychelles has two major islands as tourist attraction with airports: Mahé, it being the largest about 155 sqkm and 79,000 residents and home to the capital city Victoria. The other is Praslin island and 38 sqkm, home for about 6,500 people is known as “a wicked seductress”, because of its attraction to tourists – serviced through chartered flights by Air Seychelles (AS) only.
Ethiopian airlines makes three weekly flights to Mahé, the largest island, using Boeing 737-800 jests, with carrying capacity of 154 persons.

As discussed in the above-mentioned TEO article, Ethiopian resumed its flight in October 2014, after a six-month interruption, sending Victoria delegations to scramble in every direction. Even during the interruption of Ethiopian flights to Seychelles, the island nation had made it public that its tourism business was severly affected, tourists from the Americas, China and Europe totally cut off, according to Transport and Home Affairs Minister Joel Morgan.

We are also aware that since December 1, 2015, there have been fresh terms and conditions Ethiopian Airlines has imposed on the Seychelles concerning “discounted fare and other privileges”.
While there are a number of internationally known names of airlines companies flying to Seychelles, because of its widespread reach in five continents, it is possible that there is a covert blackmail to which the island nation has been subjected by the TPLF regime. In fact, an Ethiopian official in December 2015 told the Seychelles Tourism Academy, “I would like to affirm the Ethiopian Airlines commitment to offer convenient and seamless connections to and from our more than 92 international destinations across five continents using modern and youngest fleet in Africa.”

At the moment, Ethiopian flies four times a week to Mahé as of September 2015, revising the October 2014 agreement of three weekly connections between the two countries.

Who would tell the international community – Ethiopia or the Seychelles – the truth of what transactions took place between the TPLF regime in Addis Abeba and the Seychelles’ officials for the latter to hold back its aspirations for which it had spent several man hours and hard won resources fishing the goodwill of nations dispatching delegations to capitals to secure their support?

http://ethiopiaobservatory.com

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Breaking News - Ophir pulls out of farm-out agreement in Seychelles


Ophir Energy has chosen to exit a farm-out agreement of a number of blocks in the Seychelles.
According to Australian energy company WHL Energy, the move will see blocks 5B/1, 5B2 and 5B3 reverted back to the Seychelles Government.

PetroSeychelles has formally notified PQI that the petroleum agreement which was struck in 2014 has now been terminated.

WHL Energy said it is currently in discussions with the Seychelles government to continue its participation in the blocks and will update the market in due course following these discussions.


https://www.energyvoice.com/oilandgas/98678/ophir-pulls-out-of-farm-out-agreement-in-seychelles/