Country in the Indian Ocean, off east Africa, north of Madagascar.
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.
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.
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 Britain.
In 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.
The following year 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. There were several unsuccessful attempts to overthrow him, the last reported in 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 demise of the USSR and the consequential loss of economic support considerably weakened René's position.
The constitution was revised in 1991 to allow for multiparty politics. In 1992 James Mancham, the former president, returned from exile in the UK, announcing that he hoped 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 defeated Mancham in the country's first multiparty presidential elections in July 1993.
In March 1998, René was re-elected with 67% of the vote. He won again in September 2001, with 54% of the vote, but the main opposition party, the Seychelles National Party, captured 46% of the vote, while the SDP boycotted the poll.
In April 2004, René retired as president and was succeeded by James Michel, formerly the vice-president. Michel won the July 2006 presidential elections, with 54% of the vote, and his SPPF won a majority in the May 2007 national assembly elections.
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