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Seychelles opposition's Ramkalawan upsets incumbent in presidential vote

Reuters logo Reuters 25/10/2020
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Voters queue at a polling station to cast their ballots during the presidential and parliamentary elections in Victoria © Reuters/STRINGER Voters queue at a polling station to cast their ballots during the presidential and parliamentary elections in Victoria

VICTORIA, Seychelles (Reuters) - Seychelles opposition candidate Wavel Ramkalawan upset President Danny Faure from the archipelago's long-ruling party on Sunday after two decades of failed attempts for the office.

"I declare ... Ramkalawan as the elected candidate," said electoral commission chairman Danny Lucas. He won with 54.9% of valid votes cast, the commission said.

Seychelles' tourism-dependent economy has been battered by COVID-19, and it is expected contract by 13.8% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, reversing some fragile progress since the government defaulted on its debt in 2008 and sought an IMF Fund bailout.

Wavel Ramkalawan standing in front of a box: Seychelles presidential candidate Ramkalawan casts his vote at a polling station in St. Louise constituency © Reuters/George Thande Seychelles presidential candidate Ramkalawan casts his vote at a polling station in St. Louise constituency

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Ramkalawan of the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa party had unsuccessfully contested the presidency since 1998. He and another opposition candidate, Alain St Ange of the One Seychelles party, had both promised voters they would raise the minimum wage.

Faure's United Seychelles has been in power since 1977. Faure, a former vice president, became president when his predecessor resigned after a constitutional amendment was passed limiting presidents to two terms.

Last week's vote was Faure's first time contesting directly, and he had been viewed as likely to retain power because of a divided opposition.

"Today's presidential and national assembly elections is a testimony that Seychelles has achieved a high level as a democracy," Lucas said.

(Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by William Mallard)

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