Seychelles' president says confident of poll win

21st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Seychelles' President James Michel said Saturday he was confident of re-election as residents of the archipelago's three main islands voted on the final day of a three-day polling.

The 66-year-old Michel, who inherited power in 2004 before being elected two years later, said he would better his 53.7 percent score in the 2006 elections, and hailed the conduct of Saturday's vote.

"I am confident that the people of Seychelles have appreciated the work I have done these past five years and that they will show confidence (in me) for the next five years," Michel told reporters after voting.

"When results are announced this evening, I will improve on my previous score without the need for a second round," the president added, accompanied by his wife Nathalie.

His main challenger Wavel Ramkalawan of the Seychelles National Party also expressed confidence of victory.

"My score has improved over the past elections and tonight I will get the required numbers to be elected in the first round," said Ramkalawan, a three-time presidential loser.

"As results are announced, the people will turn the page on corruption," added the opposition candidate who has accused Michel's ruling Lepep party of buying votes.

Results are expected late on Saturday or early Sunday.

Saturday's polls on the main islands of Mahe, Praslin and la Digue comes after inhabitants of the Indian Ocean archipelago's outer isles cast their ballots on Thursday and Friday.

The bulk of the 70,000 registered voters reside on the three main islands.

Michel's critics have also denounced alleged corruption and a slump in the purchasing power of citizens of this top holiday destination, where the rich and famous rent entire private islands.

Britain's Prince William and his new bride Catherine spent "a memorable and special ten days" in the Seychelles on honeymoon following their wedding on April 29, a St James's Palace spokesman confirmed Saturday.

"Some ruling party members are paying voters to vote for President Michel," Ramkalawan charged, while the president said it was up to electoral observers to establish any cases of malpractice.

Other candidates are Ralph Volcer of the New Democratic Party and Philippe Boulle, independent candidate.

"I came early to vote because I have to go to work. It was my first time to vote and I was a bit apprehensive about how it would go, but it went quickly because I had already made my choice," said 18-year-old Karen Labiche.

Theresia Tirant, an electoral official at a polling station in Mahe, said the voting, which began at 0400 GMT, was calm.

Electoral officials have transported voting materials over the last two days to far-flung islands by air or sea to the few hundred voters who work on beach hotels and resorts.

On Friday, they ferried ballots to Assomption isle, located some 1,000 kilometres (600 miles), from the main island of Mahe and where there are only 38 registered voters.

The Seychelles islands were once notorious for coups and attempted coups. Michel's predecessor France-Albert Rene, who stepped down after 27 years in power, took power in a 1977 coup that toppled first president James Mancham.

After his 2006 election, Michel vowed to continue Rene's mix of socialist welfare-state policies with gradual economic liberalisation.

But the 2008 global economic downturn forced the country to abandon its command economy known for the highest social security coverage in Africa in favour of unpopular austerity measures, job lay-offs and devaluation, overseen by the International Monetary Fund.

Seychelles, a former British and French colony, has a population of around 85,000.

© 2011 AFP

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