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article imageOpposition eyes victory as 3-day Seychelles vote winds up

By Rassin Vannier (AFP)     Sep 10, 2016 in World

Voters in the tourism-dependent nation of Seychelles cast their ballots Saturday, the third and final day of a poll that may see the opposition win control of parliament for the first time in two decades.

Polls in the Indian Ocean nation kicked off Thursday to allow the roughly 70,000 registered voters of the archipelago nation of 115 islands to choose their representatives.

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 archipelago's 90,000 people.

Voting appeared to have taken place peacefully though some booths closed behind schedule, possibly delaying first results, which are expected in the following hours.

"I hope that the process continues to be peaceful, that everyone goes to exercise their rights and goes home to await the final results,” President James Michel told the Seychelles News Agency.

The main opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP) shunned the 2011 election claiming it would not be fair but is contesting this time.

SNP leader Wavel Ramkalawan came a close second in presidential elections in December 2015, losing to Michel by just 193 votes.

Seychelles' opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan came a close second in the December 2015 preside...
Seychelles' opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan came a close second in the December 2015 presidential elections, losing by 193 votes
Rassin Vannier, AFP/File

It marked the first time a candidate from the dominant Parti Lepep (meaning People's Party in the local Seychellois Creole language), in power since 1977, was forced into a second round.

Lepep has maintained a majority in parliament since the return of multiparty politics in 1993, but now the ascendant SNP hopes to take control.

In a bid to strengthen its showing, the SNP has partnered with four smaller opposition parties -- together known as The Seychellois Alliance and made up of former Lepep leaders -- to form the Seychellois Democratic Alliance (known by its creole acronym, LDS, standing for Linyon Demokratik Seselwa).

Together, opposition candidates won 52 percent of votes cast in the first round of December's presidential vote, but were then beaten in the run-off after failing to coalesce around a single candidate. They now hope to emulate that first round majority in this week's parliamentary vote.

The Seychelles  an archipelago nation of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean.
The Seychelles, an archipelago nation of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean.
Alberto Pizzoli, AFP/File

"If the voters vote as they did in the first round of the presidential elections, the opposition would have won. But if it is like the second round, there will be districts that will be in the balance," said Paul Chow, an economist and former MP.

Voters this week will choose just 25 directly-elected members of the National Assembly.

The remaining 10 members are allocated to each party according to its proportional representation in the parliamentary elections.

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