One of three candidates – namely Danny Faure, Alain St.Ange, & Wavel Ramkalawan – shall be elected to the highest office of the land at the end of this month. For the first time in our Nation’s history, two formidable opposition camps have risen to contest the seat, with one notably having elbowed its way between two entrenched political parties and establishing itself as a true force to be reckoned with astonishingly quickly.
The existence of two powerful opposition camps, both of which have strong backing and support from sections of the public, indicates that the masses are, after nearly half a century, ready to take the reins from the ruling party. The red party is tired, spent, and all but lacking in innovation. It has, in every sense, run its natural course. Never having really had to fight to maintain its seat in governance, activists and members of the red party seem hazy on what they are really fighting for anymore.
When any of the activists are questioned, their main response is typically, “we cannot let Ramkalawan win”, or they otherwise cite all the ways that former President Albert Rene helped them. These reasons for holding on so dearly are just not enough. Yes, the history between the red and green camps is full of tangled webs and marred by antagonism, sometimes blatant loathing, violence, and countless lawsuits. A dirty past that many cannot see beyond.
In light of the muddy past and continued strained relationship between the two entrenched superpowers, a number of citizens gathered several years ago with an idea. What began as a flame quickly grew into a raging fire as more and more people banded together with a common vision. Soon, One Seychelles came to be. Some were quick to laugh derisively when One Seychelles materialized on the scene, laughter which extinguished as Alain St.Ange made his presence felt and known during our Nation-first Presidential Debate. Few believed that a new force on the political scene could withstand the adversity and gather momentum. But, those who doubted the success of this political party clearly did not know Alain St.Ange.
Despite St.Ange saying for months that he would be in the second-round, this sentiment was only echoed and accepted by the masses after the first Debate, when they were forced to sit up and take notice of him. They were forced to accept why countless others had flocked to St.Ange’s side over the course of the past year and a half.
Alain St.Ange effortlessly commands the room and the attention of viewers as no one else can. While one candidate tripped over himself on occasion (“you have politicized politics”, “drug traffickers are victims”), and the other treated the Debate as just another press conference, St.Ange remained composed and measured throughout. He has a strong presence and the kind of charisma that easily make him the envy of his rivals. This was widely accepted by many on an infamous political Facebook group, before the horrified Admin hastily deleted the offending posts (and blocked many from the group who had dared exercise their freedom of expression and speak the truth).
His personal accounts and his eagerness to share the stories and experiences of Seychellois within the districts that had resonated with him also moved the entire viewing population. What began as a very technical and impersonal debate was quickly personalized and put into perspective with St.Ange’s anecdotes, particularly the one about the mother who’s dog was sold so that her son could afford his drug fix.
This account may have been amusing for a small handful who cannot imagine anything so unusual, but it sobered up the masses who understand and appreciate the dark struggles being experienced by countless Seychellois grappling with unemployment, substance abuse and poverty. There is a dark underbelly to our “island paradise” that few have seen. The surprised reactions by Faure and Ramkalawan when St.Ange shared the above account call into question whether they are aware of what is really going on in Seychelles.
While it is clear that all three participants have great love for their Country, the statements of some raised many eyebrows and generated much skepticism about their plans for the future. For instance, when asked about the policies that each candidate would put in place for the youths who feel that salaries and opportunities at their disposal are not necessarily commensurate with qualifications, Ramkalawan announced a programme somewhat similar to an audit in which students’ progress would be tracked and monitored over the years; Faure made reference to a housing allowance scheme for young graduates [which, we note, countless graduates have never benefited from]; and St. Ange emphasized the necessity for equal opportunities for all graduates, stating, “Can we really say that when our young graduates return, they are treated equally? There is a disparity which should not exist.”
Similarly, when the topic of the fishing sector came up indirectly, Alain St.Ange questioned the logic behind the Assembly ratifying questionable EU fishing agreements, which do little to benefit Seychelles in the long-run, and Wavel Ramkalawan stated that, “the fishing industry is our gold mine that we need to exploit,” making environmentalists and those working within the fishing industry rather apprehensive. It is hoped that his stance on the issue shall be clarified in the second debate (tonight).
The truth of the matter is that the population has realized how beneficial these debates are for our democracy, and in helping voters remain informed on their candidates’ policies, leadership skills and temperament. These debates are more beneficial than any rally or motorcade could ever hope to be, and it is remarkable to note the amount of programmes being carried out, and interviews being done with all three candidates, to make the presidential candidates and their manifestos more accessible to the public.
Only a few days separate us from a newly constituted National Assembly and a potentially new Head of State. This should be a sobering thought for many who take local politics lightly and prefer to waste their vote or to not vote at all. In a race split three ways, and a voting population as small as ours, the elections are anyone’s game, and it is guaranteed to be a tight race. One vote can and will make the difference.
What is on the ballot this year? Not three men. No, on the ballot this year is our tourism industry, our economy, the rights of the oppressed and vulnerable members of society, poverty, and countless other issues that affect your life and the lives of your loved ones, whether directly or indirectly. Do not vote for the sake of voting, do not vote for the safe and familiar option – vote as though your life and future depend on it because, in many ways, they do.
- Contributed article