President Faure moves to dissolve parliament | 31 July 2020
By Elsie Pointe
President Danny Faure yesterday evening announced his intention to dissolve the sixth National Assembly, stating that the move is to protect national interest.
The aim is to allow for the presidential and legislative elections to be organised simultaneously and thereby cut the costs of holding two separate elections.
The presidential election has been provisionally set for October 22-24 while the parliamentary election was scheduled for 2021.
President Faure’s move is in accordance with Article 110 of the Constitution which allows a president to dissolve the parliament.
Article 110 states that the ‘President may, not more than once during a term of office of the President, for any reason which the President considers it to be in the national interest so to do, after giving seven days notice to the Speaker, by Proclamation published in the Gazette, dissolve the National Assembly and the Assembly shall stand dissolved on the day next following the publication of the Proclamation.’
“I have informed and given notice to Speaker (Nicholas Prea) of my intention to dissolve the National Assembly for national interest, as the Constitution states,” President Faure revealed in an address to the nation last night.
He noted that his proclamation of the dissolution will be gazetted in seven days, after which the sixth National Assembly will disband.
As the rationale for his decision, President Faure explained that the upcoming elections would put significant financial pressure on the country as it strives to overcome the economic outfall of Covid-19.
The budget for the 2020 presidential election was set at R15 million and the amount for the legislative election was expected to be even higher in 2021, President Faure offered as explanation.
He also highlighted that holding both elections this year will give the country and its people the opportunity to focus all of its efforts in re-building the economy in 2021 without any distractions and divisions.
“Elections are an essential part of democracy but at the same time they take up a lot of efforts and resources […] It is especially important in an uncertain and difficult climate, such as this one, for the people to choose the person that can best guide the country as president, as well as the National Assembly.”
“Once this is done, the country will gain the political stability and unity that it strongly needs for us to survive as a nation,” President Faure added.
He took the opportunity to thank the sixth National Assembly for its work since 2016, although acknowledging that his interactions with the opposition-led National Assembly had not always been smooth sailing.
“Now that we are coming to the end of this journey I have taken the opportunity to thank the sixth National Assembly, the two speakers and the leader of the opposition and the leader of government business and all the members of the two parties," said President Faure.
This is the fourth time since the return of multi-party democracy that a President dissolves the National Assembly.
In 1998, President France Albert Rene dissolved the assembly which had met for a very short while that year (from February 2-19) and presidential and parliamentary elections were held at the same time in March.
In October 2002 President Rene again dissolved parliament and called for early legislative elections in December. The ruling Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) won the elections, but the main opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP) made significant inroads, winning 43 percent of the vote.
In March 2007, President James Michel dissolved the National Assembly when delivering his State-of-the-Nation address.
Meanwhile, in July 2011, leader of government business Marie-Louise Potter put forward a motion for the dissolution of the assembly. The motion was approved by a two-third majority vote.
Apart from all members of the Parti Lepep, opposition member Jane Carpin also voted in favour of the motion.
Speaker Patrick Herminie said Mrs Potter moved that the assembly be dissolved for several reasons.
He said the opposition has been boycotting meetings of the National Assembly and the day before Mrs Potter presented her motion, opposition leader, Wavel Ramkalawan, made an attempt to replace two of its proportionally elected members – Jane Carpin and Anthony Derjacques.
“Both members have chosen to challenge this decision in the constitutional court.”
The Constitution makes provision for the assembly to be dissolved in two ways. The President of the Republic has the privilege to dissolve the assembly once for any reason which he feels appropriate. If he chooses to dissolve it a second time, then he must also resign together with the National Assembly and in this case a general election has to take place.
Another option is that the National Assembly can dissolve itself with a two-third majority.
However, the majority of President Faure’s 20-minute address yesterday evening spoke of the economic crisis that has come with the pandemic as well as measures undertaken by the government to put a stopper to the growing challenges, even if some are temporary.
President Faure stated that more sacrifices are expected to be made in the long run to deal with budget deficits, increasing exchange rates and surge in prices of commodities.
This year’s revised budget alone will cause a 14% deficit compared to the 4% surplus predicted in the pre-Covid budget.
President Faure also made it clear that the decision to reopen the airspace and allow commercial flights back in was not taken lightly but rather came after a number of multi-sectoral discussions were conducted.
With the tourism industry “on its knees” and hence a largely reduced amount of foreign exchange entering the country, President Faure explained that Seychelles cannot afford to keep its borders closed since the country does not produce medication, fuel or generate enough food for sustenance.
The foreign exchange reserve which took around 12 years to build up is gradually depleting and it has been estimated that the reserve will only reach the satisfactory pre-Covid level in five years. However, this estimate has been made with the optimist outlook for a vaccine that could keep the virus at bay.
Through the Financial Assistance for Job Retention (FA4JR) relief programme, the government has spent around R513 million from April up to July 2020, to help employees working in the private sector.
This permitted a total of 16,299 employees to be able to continue providing for their families and honour their other commitments such as loans and mortgages.
“R513 million is a lot of money for a small economy like ours but I strongly believe that the dignity of our people has no price, as long as our means permit,” President Faure said.
Social assistance through the Agency for Social Protection (ASP) also skyrocketed, where the agency went from assisting 2,266 families in June 2019 to assisting 5,399 in June 2020.
Again, President Faure stressed that “this is the price we have to pay to ensure no one is left behind, no one is left starving”.
President Faure also made several pleas for the country to remain united during this public health emergency that has brought about damaging economic and social crises.