ALL ROADS LEAD TO SEYCHELLES – ELECTIONS OR NOT
Elections for the office of president are special anywhere around the world with the biggest exposure every four years given to the US presidential elections of course, around which an entire media circus has been created, which comes to the TV screens, like it or not, weeks before the actual day and at times weeks afterwards, in case of contentious results like in the Bush – Gore race.
Presidential elections, in fact all elections in Africa are regularly eyed with concern, to put it mildly, by the global tourism fraternity, when they take place in key tourism destinations like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Southern African countries and of course also in West and North Africa.
Experience over the 3 ½ decades I have spent in East Africa shows, that not all those concerns are baseless and it is in fact wise to liaise closely with contacts on the ground to remain informed and get constant situation updates. Hence, election times are times tourism in many of these countries hits the proverbial ‘bump in the road’ with distinct downward spikes in arrival numbers as tour operators and travel agents prefer, if for nothing else but to elude any liability claims by their clients should they end up in ‘trouble’, book them elsewhere.
Not so in the Creole paradise islands of the Seychelles however, where presidential elections are now going underway, and will last three days due to the great geographic expanse of the archipelago.
A quick interaction with aviation personnel at the Mahe International Airport shows that to the contrary flights to Mahe are getting fuller, elections or not, and a quiet background check also revealed that seemingly no travel agent has bothered to even take elections cycles into account when booking their clients to the Creole island paradise.
Has ‘Brand Seychelles’ pushed concerns about elections in this African country – yes the Seychelles are geographically and politically part of the African continent – so far aside that no one seems to bother but the Seychellois people actually going to the polls, with about half of the roughly 90.000 citizens eligible to vote? Seemingly so, inspite of the archipelago’s political past which was described to me as ‘intense’, in other words with the main protagonists spitting fire at each other. There have been energetic debates in parliament between the opposition, which has never managed since independence to actually win enough seats to form a government, and the ruling party of President James Michel, who is facing 3 challengers to his quest for re-election in coming days.
Expect some reports from polling stations around the main island of Mahe over the coming days, but also feedback, if any that is, from tourists presently holidaying on the archipelago, many of whom many of course be blissfully unaware that it is election time in the islands, so relatively quiet, for foreign visitors at least, was the build up to these decisive three days.
In the meantime, for this correspondent, it was ‘Seychelles here I come too, elections or not’. Watch this space.