‘Elections should promote national consensus and unity’


Dr Payet addressing delegates at the opening of the workshopEnvironment and Energy Minister Rolph Payet said this while opening a workshop on “Elections and the management of diversity in Seychelles” held on Monday at the Seychelles Trading Company’s conference hall.

The one-day workshop, sponsored by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca), attracted good participation from various sectors of the civil society, as well as a fair number of MNAs and members of the Electoral Commission.

The main item on the agenda was discussion of a report drawn up for Uneca by StraConsult of Mauritius, which had commissioned Ambassador Marie-Pierre-Lloyd and Marie-Nella Azemia as their local consultants.

Altogether over 200 residents representing various sectors of Seychelles society were polled.
The study in Seychelles was launched in January 2011 and took 16 months to complete, mainly because of two elections -- presidential and parliamentary -- last year.

Inaugurating the workshop, Dr Payet paid tribute to the late Mathew Servina, former minister and prominent leader of civil society.

Dr Payet said it is through elections that governments derive their legitimacy to rule, as it constitutes a reflection of the wish of the people.

“We are all aware that elections and the management of diversity are some of the most critical governance issues,” he said, adding “since last year, we have all watched with great interest the surge of calls for more openness, transparency and equality through the Arab Spring”.

Dr Payet said the study was carried out in a very busy election year, where we saw the presidential election in May 20011 followed by the National Assembly polls in September, meaning that the respondents were truly submerged in the throes of political election debates and so well versed with the issues.

The elections in 2011 did demonstrate that Seychelles are recognised for having free, credible and fair elections, Dr Payet said.

“We continue to firmly believe that elections should provide a basis for promoting national consensus, popular will and should also serve as an instrument to promote unity and inclusiveness despite the competition that such processes intrinsically bring with them,” he added.

Dr Payet said democracy, however, is a process that cannot be considered complete and there is no country in the world where governance cannot be improved.

The many electoral reforms undertaken since last year and the ones which will be implemented in the months to come have created a momentum which the government is committed to sustaining, he added.

The report submitted for discussions contained five main issues: elections, diversity management, gender, corruption and language difficulties.

Said Adejumobi of Uneca said that the election period is one where diversities are mobilised, adding that though ethnic divisions are hardly existent in Seychelles, there is still diversity in gender, social and professional groups as well as incomes.

Delegates at the opening of the workshop

He said a similar Uneca exercise has been conducted in 41 African countries.
According to Mr Adejumobi, though Seychelles has had a dominant party in the recent past, this is different from single-party states. 

He noted that other political parties are allowed to exist and power emanates from an electoral process, which allows freedom of participation to all and is in addition both credible and fair.
Amedee Darga, lead consultant of StraConsult of Mauritius, described Seychelles as “a micro-city with a small population”. 

He added that though Seychelles has been subject to 35 years of rule by the same party, it is very different from the harsh repression and human rights abuses, characteristic of African one party regimes.

He said in addition, Seychelles has an excellent track record of sound economics and good governance, which makes it the envy of most African states.

Seychelles is however not perfect, Mr Darga said, and it is for this reason that the country is seeking to improve its democratic institutions.

He told the press later that many of the people surveyed had expressed the view that those who are known supporters of the dominant party are often given the best jobs.
Mr Darga said if this is the practice, it should be discouraged.

He also said to promote democracy, regulations should be eased for the setting up of independent radio and television stations.

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