Wednesday, January 6, 2016



The second petition filed by the SNP yesterday contains an alarming number of allegations of irregularities, supported by affidavits, that are said to have taken place during the second round of the election and that unduly influenced the outcome of the process. The SNP also claims that over a thousand letters were distributed to people by the Social Welfare Agency, offering them supplementary income in exchange for their votes.

The Presidential candidate of the Seychelles National Party (SNP), Wavel Ramkalawan has filed a second petition in the Constitutional court yesterday, in which he averred that the 2015 Presidential election should be declared null and void as it did not comply with certain provisions of the Elections Act and because numerous illegal practices were committed by the ruling party, Parti Lepep, thus preventing free and fair elections.

 In this second petition, Mr Ramkalawan avers that the irregularities were so numerous that they cast serious doubts on the fairness of the election process. In those circumstances and in light of the fact that only 193 votes separate Wavel Ramkalawan and James Michel, he has asked that the 2015 Presidential election be declared null and void.

The election petition also states that there were irregularities in the counting of ballot papers and that this affected the results of the election. It thus seeks a recount of the ballot papers used nationwide in the election.

The election petition is the second petition to be filed by the leader of the SNP who contested the Presidential runoff under the banner “Union for Change”, with the support of three other opposition candidates. The election petition has been filed under Article 51 of the Constitution and Section 44 of the Elections Act, CAP 68A.

The first petition filed on Monday 28 December averred that the announcement of the percentage awarded to contender James Michel was incorrect and therefore the Certificate of election issued to Mr Michel “was erroneous, improper and illegal”. It averred that no candidate won more than 50% of the votes cast and asked the court to declare the election null and void and to order a third ballot or subsequent ones until such time one candidate received more than 50% of the votes cast.

 As was the case for the first petition, the second one is also being served against three respondents which are the Electoral Commission represented by its Chairman Hendrick Gappy, James Michel, the leader of Parti lepep and the Attorney General, Ronny Govinden.

 Mr Ramkalawan presented over 20 affidavits to support his claims that the Presidential runoff was marred by illegal practices. These included affidavits from people who were approached and offered large sums of money to vote for the ruling party or who were made offers that sought to write off their loans as well as those who were promised loans.

More specifically, the petition claims that over a thousand letters from the Social Welfare Agency offering supplementary incomes to voters in order to induce them to vote for Parti Lepep, were also issued in the days leading to the Presidential runoff. Long queues were said to have been observed at the agency’s office at Oceangate House.

The petition also claims that opposition supporters who were former government officials and thus close to the ruling party, were approached and offered high positions in government if they agreed to back Parti Lepep. The petition alleges that the leader of Lalyans Seselwa, Patrick Pillay was approached by former President Albert Rene and offered a high post in government if he gave his support to Parti Lepep. Another supporter of Lalyans Seselwa, Vincent Remie Larue, was offered “a good post in the government” if he agreed to change political allegiance while Peter Rodney Jules also from Layans Seselwa was allegedly contacted by Sylvette Pool and offered “anything he wanted, including the writing off his loans with the Small Business Finance Agency, if he procured the vote of former supporters of Parti Lepep who had switched to the opposition”.

The petition also claims that a former Lalyans Seselwa supporter from Roche Caimain, Dania Valentin, who spoke in the Party Political Broadcast (PPB) of Lalyans Seselwa prior to the first round and who subsequently endorsed Parti Lepep in a PPB during the second round, was told her companion who was sentenced to life imprisonment and who had served 15 years already, would be freed if she switched allegiance. According to the petition, her companion was indeed released on the first day of polling of the second round, on December 16. This was a couple of days after she agreed to feature in James Michel’s PPB.

Dania Valentin
The election petition further claims that the authorities used scaremongering tactics to threaten the electorate into voting for the ruling party, including threats that UAE-based airline, Etihad Airways, the minority shareholder of the national airline Air Seychelles, will pull out of its commitment in Seychelles in the eventuality of a victory of the opposition and that this would lead to loss of jobs and economic hardship for Seychelles.

The case of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Patrick Herminie who sought to engage into party politics during the cooling off period was also mentioned. He told viewers of the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) that hardships would ensue if Mr Ramkalawan were to be elected President, as he would not get the support of a Parti Lepep-led National Assembly. He said the National Assembly would block any budget presented to the National Assembly by an SNP-led government, therefore leading to “shutdown”.

The petition also states that scaremongering also targeted civil servants, as they were told they would lose their jobs if they did not keep Parti Lepep in power. The name of Beryl Botsoie, the head teacher of La Rosiere School was cited. This woman, in a school meeting in the days leading to the second ballot, accused SNP leader of arrogance and invited voters not to vote for him “and warned them that if the petitioner (Ed’s note: Mr Ramkalawan) was elected, they risked their livelihoods in general and in particular they won’t be paid as the new government would be unlikely to pass a budget”.

A similar incident was also recorded at a meeting of the Seychelles People’s Defense Forces (SPSD) officers on December 11 2015 where top military personnel including Lt Colonel Clifford Roseline, Reverend Louis Agathine, the SPDF’s chaplain and Major Simon Dine, Coast Guard Commander, accused Mr Ramkalawan “of arrogance, selfishness and being disorderly, or making empty promises and clearly inviting the members of the SPDF not to vote for him”.

The election petition adds that National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) officers also abused their position on December 18, which was main polling day, where they were seen in areas knows to be drug hotspots, to intimidate drug users and prevent them from going to the polls.

Businessman, James Lesperance’s name is also cited in the petition which avers that he paid money to Adolphe Jason Dubel, Ron Philippe Laporte and Steve Elie Labrosse and 12 other young men, “in return for their identity cards so as to prevent them from voting during the second ballot”.

With regards to irregularities in the counting of ballot papers, the petition claims that votes cast in special voting stations did not tally with seven polling stations in electoral areas, showing a discrepancy “amounting to nine votes, two fewer and seven extra”.

These electoral areas were Anse Boileau, Au Cap, Anse Etoile, Bel Air, English River, Glacis and Pointe Larue. For instance, 259 residents of English River had voted at the special polling stations ahead of the main polling day and yet, three extra enveloped were added to the ballot boxes, bringing the total number to 262!

There were also discrepancies in three other polling stations where the number of votes counted did not tally with the number of ballots issued; these were Anse aux Pins Cascade and Glacis. Mr Ramkalawan said the Electoral Commission “has not been able to satisfactorily explain” these discrepancies. The petition also claims that in Anse aux Pins, two ballot papers were marked by ballpoint ink instead of the black marker supplied to voters.

The Election petition also cites a number of cases of non-compliance to the Elections Act by the Electoral Commission. It states the commission failed to ensure that the ink and invisible spray used were of good quality. Furthermore it failed to ensure that each voter could only cast one vote as it allowed a special voting station at the National Library on the main polling day on December 18th and could not satisfactorily verify whether people had voted more than once.

Mr Ramkalawan also states that at least “two unknown persons voted in the special polling station in the names of Damion Charles Hoareau and Stan Nerick Fanchette, both voters registered in the Inner islands electoral area”.

 It said that the Electoral Commission also failed to prevent the “withholding of Identity cards by staff of the North East Point Home for the Elderly and coaching of elderly voters by the Acting nursing sister at the Home”.

The election petition will be served on the three respondents this week, and the case is expected to be heard as soon as the Constitutional Court resumes its session next Monday.

The result of the presidential runoff was declared on December 19, giving SNP, 49.85% of the total votes cast and 50.15% to Parti Lepep, something the opposition is saying is factually incorrect. There were 63,893 votes cast in the second round, with 62,831 valid votes and 1062 votes rejected.

Source: Today in Seychelles