A chronology into the birth of the Third Republic | 17 June 2017
Seychelles is today celebrating the 24th anniversary of the birth of the Third Republic with the drafting of the new Constitution in 1993 that heralded the return of multi-party politics in the country.
Seychelles NATION retraces the important dates which led to the transformation of the country’s political landscape.
December 4, 1991 ‒ After almost 16 years of one-party rule, President France-Albert René announced a return to the multiparty system of government at an Extraordinary Congress of the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF).
The decision by Heads of Government at their Harare Meeting in October 1991 to place the Commonwealth firmly behind the democratisation process in member States was an important catalyst for change in Seychelles. Within six weeks of his return from Harare, President René made the dramatic announcement that would transform Seychelles from a “single-party popular democracy to a pluralistic democratic system”.
December 27, 1991 ‒The Constitution of Seychelles was amended by the Seychelles People's Assembly to allow for the registration of political parties. A well respected former judge, Andre Sauzier, was appointed as Registrar of Political Parties.
April 1992 ‒The People’s Assembly duly passed the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles (Preparation and Promulgation) Act, 1992 (Act 2 of 1992) to provide for: the establishment of a Constitutional Commission for the purpose of preparing the draft of a new Constitution; the composition and regulation of the proceedings of the Commission; the submission of the draft Constitution to the people of Seychelles for their approval or otherwise through a referendum; the coming into effect of the new Constitution after its approval by referendum.
April 1992 ‒The return of Sir James Mancham and other Seychellois like Ralph Volcère and Paul Chow from exile. Mr Mancham, who returned to revive his party, the Democratic Party (DP), was welcomed back into the country by a massive crowd of supporters who met him at the Seychelles International Airport at Pointe Larue, chanting ‘Papa La Barbe’. By the end of that month, eight political parties had registered to contest the election of the Constitutional Commission.
July 23-26, 1992 ‒ The election of the Constitutional Commission was held and the candidates were contesting for 22 seats. The SPPF won 14 seats while DP won 8 seats. Some of the SPPF members on the commission include Joseph Belmont, William Herminie, France Bonté and some representatives from DP included Paul Chow, Georges Bibi and Daniel Belle.
August 27, 1992 ‒ The Constitutional Commission started work with both President René and Mr Mancham calling for national reconciliation and consensus on a new democratic Constitution. However, any hopes of constructive engagement between the two rival parties soon faded and the DP walked out two weeks later, accusing the SPPF of limiting discussion on issues to be covered in the draft Constitution. A compromise was reached whereby unfinished discussions of issues of substance was to be carried over to another sitting.
September 24, 1992 ‒The DP returned to the negotiation table, only to walk out again. The Commission continued to meet with its 14 SPPF members, exceeding the legal quorum of 10.
October 16, 1992 ‒ In the continued absence of the DP a draft Constitution was duly adopted, submitted to the President, approved and gazetted on the same day.
November 12-15, 1992 ‒The first referendum was held to approve the draft Constitution. The DP together with the five smaller parties formed a united opposition to campaign against the draft Constitution. The law required the draft to be approved by not less than 60% of the votes cast. It failed to pass when only 53.7% voted in favour and 44.6% voted against.
January 11, 1993 ‒The Constitutional Commission was reconvened to prepare a fresh draft. A new spirit of co-operation and compromise quickly became evident. President René appointed Bernardin Renaud, former Chief Electoral Officer and now the Director of Elections, to chair the Commission replacing Mr Sauzier. The proceedings of the Commission were opened up to the public with live broadcasts over radio and daily transmission on television. The smaller political parties, the churches and members of the public were able to make representations to the Commission. Both President René and Sir James Mancham called for an end to confrontational politics, and reiterated their earlier calls for national reconciliation. Both expressed a determination to formulate a Constitution acceptable to all. Decisions, even on contentious issues, were eventually made by consensus.
May 7, 1993 ‒ A consensus text was agreed upon and a referendum to approve it was called for in June.
June 15-18, 1993 ‒ The draft was approved with 73.9% of the electorate in favour of it and 24.1% against. The DP and the SPPF called for the draft to be approved, while Parti Seselwa, the National Alliance Party and the Seychelles National Movement campaigned against the draft.
July 23-26, 1993 ‒Seychelles’ first multiparty presidential and legislative elections were held under the new Constitution with a resounding victory for President René. Three political groups contested the elections – the SPPF, the DP, and the United Opposition (UO) – a coalition of three smaller political parties, including Parti Seselwa, the National Alliance Party and Seychelles National Movement. Two other smaller opposition parties threw in their lot with the DP. After having organised three national elections within two years, the general election of 1993 recorded no hassles. The exceptionally high turnout of voters suggested a strong commitment on the part of the people of Seychelles for the restoration of multi-party politics, and saw the elections as a means of selecting their representatives to govern. The low proportion of spoiled or rejected ballots indicated that voters were familiar with the technicalities of voting procedures, and that voter education programmes aimed at explaining and clarifying these procedures were successful, furthermore the secrecy of the ballot was greatly assured. All participating parties and international observer groups accepted the results as "free and fair."