By Malik Hossain and Wanjohi Kabukuru
[Victoria, Seychelles] After 12 years in power President James Alix Michel is leaving State House, Seychelles and relinquishing his presidency on October 16th 2016. President Michel’s move has caught many by surprise given that he is just about to complete 10 months in his third and final mandate as head of state and government of Seychelles. The outgoing leader has already served two five-year terms.
Seychelles President James Michel is leaving office after 12 years as leader of the Indian ocean Island nation [Image: SHS]
“I am leaving the Office of the President with a sense of mission accomplished.” President Michel announced last night in a televised address to the nation. “During these 12 years that you gave me the honour and privilege to lead our nation, I have completed my responsibility and my duty.”
Vice-President Danny Faure will be sworn in as Seychelles fourth President on the day Michel leaves office.
The move has sent political watchers of the western Indian Ocean affairs in a spin. “I will always thank you, people of Seychelles, for your support. Thank you for your trust in me.…At the end of the day, there is nothing more important, more honorable, more noble, than national unity.” President Michel said in his announcement that left many in shock. “Let us make national unity our priority. National unity will guide us in our action and illuminate the future of our country.”
President Michel’s move is being viewed as tactical and the launching of a three-pronged political strategy. Part one of the President Michel’s early retirement strategy is aimed at stealing the thunder from the opposition alliance Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) which recently won the majority in the parliamentary elections. So far this seems to have worked as President Michel’s evening announcement upstaged the swearing-in of the LDS-controlled parliament earlier in the day where the opposition boasts of 19 out of the 33 seats. Part two of the strategy is aimed at boosting and reengineering Parti Lepep (the People’s party) and the third part of this strategy is to shore up Vice President Danny Faure’s political career. The strategy thrusts Faure the Cuban trained political scientist into the limelight and grants him the much needed leeway to repackage government in readiness to counter an emboldened opposition.
Vice President Danny Faure will succeed President James Michel from October 16th 2016 [Image: DPI]
After a consistent poor show in past elections the four main opposition groups followed a time-tested pattern used by opposition parties in mainland African nations to form LDS (Seychelles Democratic Alliance). The opposition parties that coalesced to form LDS were Seychelles United Party, Seychelles National party (SNP), Seychellois Alliance and Seychelles Party for Social Justice and Democracy (SPSJD). Leading LDS into the parliamentary victory was former journalist and editor Roger Mancienne.
In the new parliament former Seychelles foreign affairs minister and now key LDS member Patrick Pillay was elected as Speaker taking over from Patrick Herminie. SNP long-serving leader Wavel Ramkalawan will lead the opposition side in parliament.
“Many decisions were made this year. One of the decisions was the amendment to the Constitution to limit the terms of the President to two mandates.” President Michel said in the broadcast. “And tonight I am announcing my decision to resign from the post of President of the Republic,”
Analysts of the politics of the island nation of Seychelles did not anticipate this move by Michel and are now bound to draw concordant historical parallels in President Michel’s announcement echoing that of his predecessor’s 12 years ago. On April 14 2004, President Michel took the reins of power of the idyllic Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles from retiring President France Albert Rene. Michel had been vice president since 1996.
Come 2016 and President Michel has played the same card that his predecessor President France Albert Rene harnessed to good effect in 2004, when he quit early giving his deputy at the time (Michel) to familiarize himself with the office and smoothly win an impending election. By the time President Rene quit he had been in power for some 27 years.
“I am leaving power, but I am not abandoning you. For me, power is not an aim in itself but a means to do good. To do good for our people.” President Michel said in his first of his farewell addresses to the nation. “Together we did it, as much as the means and circumstances permitted us. The interest of the nation comes first.”
The Indian Ocean archipelago of Seychelles. [Image: Vidiani]
As he steps out into the sunset President Michel will best be remembered as the main proponent of the “Blue Economy” concept and championing climate change concerns affecting small island developing states across the world. President Michel a former journalist will also be remembered for his lead international diplomacy role in setting up the Global Island States partnership (GLISPA) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) as key interests groups for island nations.
“After 12 years as President, the time has come to hand over the reins of power to a new leader. A new leader who will take Seychelles to the next frontier of its development. To face and overcome the challenges of this century, without abandoning our principles,” President Michel said as he prepared the nation to welcome his deputy Danny Faure as the new leader next month.