Seychelles clergyman clinches election victory marking first opposition victory in 44 years

The Seychelles have elected an Anglican priest, marking the first opposition victory since the Indian Ocean archipelago’s independence from Britain more than four decades ago.

Wavel Ramkalawan won enough votes in the first round to clinch the presidency on his sixth attempt and called for unity after his victory. He defeated President Danny Faure by 54.9% to 43.5%, official results show.

Supporters of Mr Ramkalawan have been celebrating his victory in the capital, Victoria.

“It is important to find how we can reconcile our people to go forward,” he said.

The opposition also won the legislative election that took place from Thursday to Saturday alongside the presidential poll, with Ramkalawan’s party taking 25 seats, or two-thirds of the parliament. The United Seychelles party won 10 seats.

The Indian Ocean archipelago is a former British colony which became independent in 1976.

Mr Faure's United Party seized power in a coup a year later, and retained the presidency in elections after multi-party democracy was restored in 1993.

Faure, who had inherited power from his predecessor four years ago, was unable to distance his party's campaign from mounting evidence of past political murders, torture and corruption when Seychelles was still a one-party state.

The US state department hailed the election as a “another major milestone in Seychelles’s democracy”.

The campaign had taken place mainly over social media, with rallies banned because of the coronavirus.

The Seychelles has recorded only 149 cases of Covid-19, mostly imported, but the pandemic has been a major campaign issue as a result of restrictions which have hit the tourism industry, a major sector for the country’s economy and employer of many of its 98,000 people.

The economy has slowed significantly since the start of the pandemic and unemployment has risen to 6.3%, according to government figures.