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Cablegate: Sppf Loses Chance to Change Constitution but Casts a Shadow

VZCZCXRO6103
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHPL #0267/01 2071036
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251036Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY PORT LOUIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4119
INFO RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 2992
RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PORT LOUIS 000267

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/E FOR MARIA BEYZEROV
NAIROBI FOR RANDY FLEITMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PROP PINS KDEM PINR SE
SUBJECT: SPPF LOSES CHANCE TO CHANGE CONSTITUTION BUT CASTS A SHADOW
ON SEYCHELLES' ELECTIONS

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) The Seychelles National Party (SNP) won the July 18
by-election provoked by the resignation of Jean Francois Ferrari,
thus, the ruling Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF)
remains one seat shy of being able to amend the constitution. Oddly
enough, had the SPPF won this seat, it could have gained a
two-thirds majority in the Parliament and thus obtained the ability
to change the constitution unilaterally. The SPPF, however,
boycotted the election at the instruction of former President Albert
Rene, reportedly to save resources for general elections rather than
contest a seat in an SNP stronghold. Rumors of SPPF-conducted voter
intimidation -- meant to keep voter turnout low -- abound in the
press. Some public sources cite this as the reason for the low
voter turnout rate of 26 percent.

--------------------------------------
FERRARI RESIGNS FROM NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
--------------------------------------
2. (U) On June 17 during a session of the National Assembly, House
Speaker, Dr. Patrick Herminie, allegedly ignored a motion made by an
opposition National Assembly member Jean Francois Ferrari, who
wanted to intervene on the Civil Servants Ethics Bill. When Herminie
failed to allow motion, Ferrari protested and the Speaker
subsequently ousted him from the National Assembly and ordered the
Police to physically remove Ferrari from the building. Ferrari, an
SNP Member of National Assembly (MNA), then announced his
resignation on June 20, as a protest for the treatment he received
in the National Assembly. According to opposition newspapers, this
incident was the "last straw in a long list of mind games" played by
Herminie on Opposition MNAs.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
VOTER INTIMIDATION POSSIBLE CONTRIBUTOR TO LOW VOTER TURNOUT
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (U) Post contacts reported that since Ferrari's constituency,
Mont Fleuri, is currently an SNP bastion, there was little chance
that the party would have lost this by-election. The SPPF seemed to
think along these same lines, with local press reporting that the
SPPF planned to use the money saved on this bid towards the 2011
Legislative elections. According to both press reports and EMBOFFS
conversations with opposition contacts, since SPPF had little hope
of winning the election they would rather undermine the election
through an organized boycott-- therefore sacrificing the opportunity
to gain the two- thirds majority in Parliament necessary to be able
to change the constitution unilaterally. In a June 26 interview on
the state-owned Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation television
network, former President Albert Ren called on SPPF supporters to
"stay at home" on Election Day. The SPPF party also issued a press
release announcing that they would not participate in the
by-election, which it dubbed "childish and a farce" (The Nation,
June 27).

4. (SBU) According to press reports, Mont Fleuri public servants
feared reprisals were they to vote in the election. On 28 June, a
group of public servants wrote a letter to Paul Chow, leader of the
Democratic Party (DP), to ask him to withdraw his party's candidate
from the by-election race, so only the SNP candidate would remain on
the ballot. With only one candidate, a vote would not be necessary
and public servants would no longer be vulnerable to any
voting-related reprisals. (NOTE: Public servants make up the
majority of the workforce throughout the country. After the
unexpected sacking of 56 officials in July 2007, many of them
continue to fear losing their job for voicing opposition to the
SPPF. END NOTE.) SNP leader, Wavel Ramkalawan, told EMBOFFS that
some voters feared losing their jobs, or that their bank loan or
license applications could be rejected.

5. (SBU) The June 28 letter addressed to Chow referred to monitoring
done by SPPF supporters that allegedly took place since Ferrari's
resignation announcement. The civil servants' letter voiced
concerned that, "... [The] SPPF have now become more violent than
ever."

6. (U) After the by-election, officials from both factions of the
opposition, SNP and DP, complained of SPPF voter monitoring done on
Election Day. SNP head, Wavel Ramkalawan, said that his party filed
harassment complaints with the Electoral Commissioner's Office.

7. (U) Only 704 out of 2,655 registered voters (26 percent) voted.
This is considerably low compared to the usual high voter turnout
(87.6 percent in 2007 general elections) for the Seychelles. As
this was the first by-election since the multi-party system began

PORT LOUIS 00000267 002 OF 002


with the Third Republic in 1992, comparisons only can be made with
general election turnouts. The opposition, however, attributed the
low voter turnout directly to what they labeled a "terror campaign"
conducted by the SPPF.

--------------------------
OPPOSITION REMAINS DIVIDED
--------------------------

8. (U) The three-week campaign leading to the by-election also
revealed that opposition parties, SNP and DP, are not any closer to
brokering a new political alliance or rebuilding the relationship
they once shared. This informal alliance between SNP and DP ended
in October 2007 following divergent views on the One-China policy
and a Seychelles-France surveillance agreement for Seychelles'
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). As a result, Frank Elizabeth, the
then proportional elected DP candidate, lost his seat to an SNP
candidate. The relations between the two opposition parties have
been sour ever since. (Note: This relationship is important because
it was the joining of the two opposition parties in May 2007 that
prevented the SPPF from obtaining full control of the National
Assembly. End Note.)

9. (SBU) Ramkalawan told EMBOFFS that any alliance with DP is now
"dead" because DP stood against the SNP in this by-election;
however, both the Seychelles Weekly and The Nation reported
exchanges of correspondences between both opposition leaders.
Ramkalawan failed to mention the aforementioned exchange of
correspondences, but did say that Chow does not represent the DP
directorate. According to press articles before the by-election,
Chow said that his party would be ready to withdraw their candidate
if SNP would only accept going into alliance again.

--------
COMMENT
--------

10. (SBU) Albert Ren's appeal to voters to not vote and the
apparent fear expressed by some public servants could have impacted
the voter turn-out. Regardless, the manner in which the
by-elections came about suggests that Ren, who stepped down as
leader in 2004, is still a key player in the SPPF party and in
Seychelles politics. For some time, Embassy contacts have reported
growing uneasiness among a variety of senior SPPF officials, to
include President James Alix Michel, who feel constrained in their
ability to make decisions. It is interesting to note, therefore,
that it was Rene and not Michel who made the public statements about
the by-election.

CABRERA

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