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Definition: Seychelles from Collins English Dictionary

pl n

1 a group of volcanic islands in the W Indian Ocean: taken by the British from the French in 1744: became an independent republic within the Commonwealth in 1976, incorporating the British Indian Ocean Territory islands of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Desroches. Languages: Creole, English, and French. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: rupee. Capital: Victoria. Pop: 90 846 (2013 est). Area: 455 sq km (176 sq miles)


Summary Article: Seychelles from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Country in the Indian Ocean, off east Africa, north of Madagascar.

Government Seychelles is a republic within the Commonwealth with a multiparty presidential political system. The 1993 constitution provides for a president, who is directly elected to serve a five-year term and is limited to a maximum of three successive terms. The president is head of both state and government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. There is a single-chamber, 34-member national assembly, 25 of its members elected by direct universal suffrage in single-seat constituencies and nine by proportional representation. It serves a five-year term.

History The islands were first sighted by the Portuguese seafarer Vasco de Gama in 1500. They became a French colony in the mid 18th century and were named after King Louis XV's finance minister, Jean Moreau de Séchelles. They were ceded to Britain by France in 1814 and were ruled as part of Mauritius until it became a crown colony in 1903.

Independence In the 1960s several political parties were formed, campaigning for independence, the most significant being the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP), led by James Mancham, and the Seychelles People's United Party (SPUP), led by France-Albert René. René demanded complete independence, while Mancham favoured integration with the UK.

In October 1975 internal self-government was agreed. The two parties then formed a coalition government with Mancham as prime minister. In June 1976 Seychelles became an independent republic within the Commonwealth, with Mancham as president and René as prime minister.

One-party state On 5 June 1977, René staged an armed coup while Mancham was attending a Commonwealth conference in London, and declared himself president. A new constitution was adopted in 1979, creating a socialist one-party state, with the SPUP being renamed the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF). René, as the only candidate, was formally elected president in 1979 and then re-elected in 1984 and 1989. In 1981 an attempt by South African mercenaries to restore Mancham to power was thwarted by René, with the help of Tanzanian troops. There were further attempted coups between 1982 and 1987.

René followed a policy of non-alignment and prohibited the use of port facilities to vessels carrying nuclear weapons. He maintained close links with Tanzania, which provided military support. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 and the consequential loss of economic support considerably weakened René's position.

Multiparty elections Under pressure from foreign creditors, René restored multi-party democracy in 1991, revising the constitution to allow other parties to operate. In 1992 Mancham returned from exile in the UK to contest the presidency. A multiparty election, the first since 1974, was held July 1992 and won by the SPPF. The election was to a 20-member commission to draft a new, democratic constitution, and in June 1993 a new multiparty constitution was adopted.

René went on to defeat Mancham in the country's first multiparty presidential elections in July 1993. He adopted a free-market economic programme, leading to an acceleration in economic growth based around tourism and tuna fishing. René was re-elected president in March 1988 with 67% of the vote, and in September 2001 with 54% of the vote.

René retires and is succeeded by Michel In April 2004, René retired as president and was succeeded by the vice-president James Michel, who had been a former colonel in the army before 1993. Michel won the July 2006 and May 2011 presidential elections, with 54% and 55% of the vote respectively. His SPPF won a clear majority in the May 2007 national assembly elections. It renamed itself the People's Party (PL) in June 2009 and won the September–October 2011 parliamentary elections with 89% of the vote.

Under Michel, the Seychelles left the Southern African Development Community in July 2004 and strengthened its ties with the Indian Ocean region. Michel liberalized the economy further, but economic recession 2004–06 and 2008–09 forced the Seychelles to turn to the IMF for financial support from 2008 and to float its currency.

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