ELECTIONS SEYCHELLES STYLE – IT TRULY IS ‘ANOTHER WORLD’
The slogan used by the Seychelles Tourist Board ‘Seychelles – Another World’ immediately sprung to mind when observing the elections on Saturday at the main island of Mahe, where this correspondent managed to visit about a dozen polling stations across the island and throughout the day, which were open from 07.00 hrs until 19.00 hrs, with voting compulsory for those above 18 years of age.
Had it not been for the election posters, on electricity poles, in front gardens and on large banners one could be fooled to think it was just ‘Another Day in Paradise’ and while it was a public holiday on the occasion, life on the island continued almost as normal, or so it appeared for the tourists, had it not been for the closure of banks and the less than usual Saturday traffic in and out of the capital Victoria.
Elections in Africa have in many countries become the bane of tourism, due to the tension between the ruling parties and the opposition, and are now wary to have a holiday in destinations with a ‘reputation’ for pre-election and post-election violence, as most recently seen in Uganda where a minute, and in terms of numbers almost insignificant number of people, spurred on by opposition (mis)-leaders – punt fully intended – took to the streets to the joy of international media vultures who were swift to portray our capital city as a war zone, dealing tourism a crushing blow in the process.
Yet, here in the Seychelles the people seem content, almost happy and as witnessed they patiently queued in long lines early in the morning to discharge their duty as citizens to elect their president. In fact, several couples were observed strolling hand in hand towards the polling stations to cast their votes in what must be one of the most unique ways to conduct elections, walking to the polls and back home in the warm sunshine of a Seychelles morning.
From many conversations with voters leaving the polling stations it was soon evident that the campaign had been peaceful too, no scuffles and no fire spitting rhetoric either, with the opposition almost perceived as running a lackluster campaign.
This surely is a lesson for Africa, seeing free and fair elections being organized in a fellow African country, and several SADC election observers freely admitted on condition of anonymity – there were not authorized to speak to the media – that they had not seen such a well organized and almost leisurely conduct of elections in many of the other African countries they had been to for the same purpose.
Election results will be in after midnight, and will be broadcast live on Seychelles TV, and going by the words of a staff of the hotel this correspondent spoke with before leaving for the ‘observer duty’ it will be ‘life goes on tomorrow as normal and if my candidate loses we will try again in 5 years time. But we will accept. There is no point in protesting because the elections will have a result and when that is clear we just move on. The Seychellois people are very peaceful by nature, we do not like to fight and politics is not worth fighting over like you do on the continent.’
Passengers on the flight as well as tourists in hotels, or met on the streets of Victoria, too spoke up when asked their opinion, with most of them however professing that apart from the elections posters they had no idea that Seychelles was holding elections while they were on holiday and adding ‘so what, we are here for a holiday and one does not even realize they are in election mode here’ while on in particular strenuously denied that Seychelles was even part of Africa – so much for Geography lessons made in America.
Wise words for many a politician to heed ahead of the next election campaign on the African continent, especially in those parts of Eastern Africa where some deluded individuals still seem to think they can capture government by violence. Not in the Seychelles for sure and no longer wanted at home either.
Watch this space tomorrow for election results and related updates.