Seychelles President Scrapes Wafer-Thin Third-Term Win

Seychelles President James Michel won a third term in power by the narrowest of margins of just 193 votes, with the opposition calling for a recount, the election commission said Saturday.

"Today the people made their choice. The people have said that they wish that I continue on the path that I have commenced... for me to continue to lead Seychelles forward in stability, peace, and prosperity," Michel said in a broadcast on national SBC television.

"The election has tested the maturity of our democracy."

Michel, 71, won 50.15 percent with 31,512 votes in the unprecedented second round run-off on the Indian Ocean archipelago, compared to opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan's 49.85 percent with 31,319 votes, according to official results.

"At this point in time, it is necessary, more than ever, that we continue to create more unity in our country. Today, more than ever, we need to work together as Seychellois, we need to ensure we bring our people together," Michel added.

But Ramkalawan, 54, an Anglican priest, said there were "several irregularities", according to the Seychelles News Agency (SNA), and referring to reports of cash being given to voters ahead of the polls.

"We do not accept the results of the elections because we thought we were participating in an election -- but it turned out to be an auction," Ramkalawan said, according to SNA.

He said he had written to the electoral commission asking for a recount, while calling for people to "remain calm and peaceful and to refrain from provocations."

Electoral Commission chief Hendrick Gappy has called for all citizens to "respect the results and to maintain a peaceful atmosphere."

Michel, who won elections in 2004 with 54 percent of the vote and in 2011 with 55 percent, also called for calm.

"The president that has been elected is the president of all Seychellois, and we all need to work together for our Seychelles," Michel said.

Turnout was high, with 87 percent of registered voters casting their ballots in each of the two rounds.

Michel has pledged to boost the economy and eradicate poverty in the Seychelles, long seen as a tax haven for the world's super-rich.

Balloting on more remote islands began on Wednesday but the main vote took place Friday on the main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, home to most of the Seychelles' estimated 91,000 citizens.

Tourism and fisheries are the pillars of the Seychelles' economy, with its white-sand beaches and tropical forests a favorite with well-heeled newly-weds.

A former British colony, the Seychelles is made up of 115 islands lying off the coast of east Africa, some scattered up to 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from the capital Victoria.

World Bank data estimated 2014 per capita gross national income at $13,990 (around 13,000 euros today), one of the highest in Africa.

Source: Agence France Presse

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