28 September 2016

Seychelles: President James Michel Steps Down After Change in Law

Photo: Rassin Vannier/Seychelles News Agency
Former president James Michel and the new President Danny Faure (file photo).

Seychellois President James Alix Michel announced on Tuesday he was stepping down from office, following a constitutional amendment earlier this year that meant he had exceeded his term in office.

In a televised State address and whose speech was posted on the country's Statehouse website, Mr Michel, 72, said he will leave office on October 16 to be replaced by Vice-President Danny Faure.

"After 12 years as President, the time has come to hand over the reins of power to a new leader.

"A new leader who will take Seychelles to the next frontier of its development, to face and overcome the challenges of this century, without abandoning our principles," he said in the address initially delivered in Seychellois Creole but later translated to English.

Mr Michel, a former teacher, came to power in April 2004 after serving as VP to his predecessor France-Albert René between 1996 and 2004.

He has led the Indian Ocean archipelago since then and was even in his third term following re-election in December.

But earlier this year in April, the country's National Assembly passed a unanimous constitutional amendment to cap presidential and vice-presidential tenure at two terms.

Mr Michel had already served two terms until last year. Though the new law did not truncate his third term, Mr Michel said he had made the decision to resign after the changes to the constitution.

"Many decisions were made this year. One of the decisions was the amendment to the Constitution to limit the terms of the President to two mandates.

"And tonight, I am announcing my decision to resign from the post of President of the Republic," he said in the broadcast.

"For me, power is not an aim in itself but a means to do good. To do good for our people. The interest of the nation comes first... I am leaving the Office of the President with a sense of mission accomplished."

VOLUNTARILY LEFT

By offering to leave office, Michel joins the club of few African leaders who have voluntarily left office without creating scenes.

Zambia's Frederick Chiluba once left office in 2002 after his ten years but it only followed his failed bid to extend it.

Other sitting leaders such as Nigeria's Gooduck Jonathan and Malawi's Joyce Banda agreed to leave office after being defeated in elections.

In 2002, Kenya's Daniel Moi stepped down after 24 years in office. It followed the introduction of term limits though.

Others such as Burkina Faso's Blaise Campaore left office after being chased out of town by his own fed-up electorate.

According to the Seychelles law, a resigning President must hand in a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly. Michel's office said the letter will be sent on Wednesday.

It means the 92,000 inhabitants of the 115-island nation will now be led by Ugandan-born Faure who had been the Vice President since 2010.

Mr Faure is also the current Finance Minister.

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