The Seychelles islands remained uninhabited for more than 150 years
after they became known to Western explorers. The islands appeared on Portuguese
charts as early as 1505, although Arabs may have visited them much earlier.
In 1742, the French Governor of Mauritius, Mahe de Labourdonais, sent an
expedition to the islands. A second expedition in 1756 reasserted formal
possession by France and gave the islands their present name in honor of
the French finance minister under King Louis XV. The new French colony
barely survived its first decade and did not begin to flourish until 1794,
when Queau de Quincy became commandant.
The Seychelles islands were captured and freed several times during
the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, then passed officially to
the British under the 1814 Treaty of Paris.
From the date of its founding by the French until 1903, the Seychelles
colony was regarded as a dependency of Mauritius, which also passed from
the French to British rule in 1814. In 1888, a separate administrator and
executive and administrative councils were established for the Seychelles
archipelago. Nine years later, the administrator acquired full powers of
a British colonial governor, and on August 31, 1903, Seychelles became
a separate British Crown Colony.
By 1963, political parties had developed in the Seychelles colony. Elections
in 1963 were contested for the first time on party lines. In 1964 two new
parties, the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP) led by James Mancham, and
the Seychelles People's Unity Party (SPUP) led by France Albert Rene, replaced
In March 1970, colonial and political representatives of Seychelles
met in London for a constitutional convention. Elections in November 1970
brought the resulting constitution into effect. In the November 1970 elections,
the SDP won 10 seats, and the SPUP won 5 in the Legislative Assembly. Under
the new constitution, Mancham became the Chief Minister of the colony.
Further elections were held in April 1974, in which both major political
parties campaigned for independence. During the April 1974 elections, the
SDP increased its majority in the Legislative Assembly by 3 seats, gaining
all but 2 of the 15 seats. Demarcation of constituencies was such that
the SDP achieved this majority by winning only 52% of the popular vote.
Following the 1974 election, negotiations with the British resulted
in an agreement by which Seychelles became a sovereign republic on June
29, 1976. The SDP and SPUP formed a coalition government in June 1975 to
lead Seychelles to independence. The British Government was asked to appoint
an electoral review commission so that divergent views on the electoral
system and composition of the legislature could be reconciled. As a result,
10 seats were added to the Legislative Assembly, 5 to be nominated by each
party. A cabinet of ministers also was formed consisting of 8 members of
the SDP and 4 of the SPUP, with Chief Minister Mancham becoming Prime Minister.
With independence on June 29, 1976, Mancham assumed the office of President
and Rene became Prime Minister.
The negotiations following the 1974 elections also restored the islands
of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Des Roches to Seychelles upon independence; those
islands had been transferred in November 1965 from Seychelles to form part
of the new British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).
Although the SDP/SPUP coalition appeared to operate smoothly, political
divisions between the two parties continued. On June 5, 1977, during Mancham's
absence at the London Commonwealth Conference, supporters of Prime Minister
Rene overthrew Mancham in a smoothly executed coup and installed Rene as
President. President Rene suspended the constitution and dismissed the
parliament. The country was ruled by decree until June 1979, when a new
constitution was adopted.
In November 1981, a group of mercenaries attempted to overthrow the
Rene government but failed when they were detected at the airport and repelled.
The government was threatened again by an army mutiny in August 1982, but
it was quelled after 2 days when loyal troops, reinforced by Tanzanian
forces, recaptured rebel-held installations.
At an Extraordinary Congress of the Seychelles People's Progressive
Front (SPPF) on December 4, 1991, President Rene announced a return to
the multiparty system of government after almost 16 years of one-party
rule. On December 27, 1991, the Constitution of Seychelles was amended
to allow for the registration of political parties. Among the exiles returning
to Seychelles was James Mancham, who returned in April 1992 to revive his
party, the Democratic Party (DP). By the end of that month, eight political
parties had registered to contest the first stage of the transition process:
election to the constitutional commission, which took place on July 23-26,
The constitutional commission was made up of 22 elected members, 14
from the SPPF and 8 from the DP. It commenced work on August 27, 1992 with
both President Rene and Mancham calling for national reconciliation and
consensus on a new democratic constitution. A consensus text was agreed
upon on May 7, 1993, and a referendum to approve it was called for June
15-18. The draft was approved with 73.9% of the electorate in favor of
it and 24.1% against.
July 23-26, 1993 saw the first multiparty presidential and legislative
elections held under the new constitution, as well as a resounding victory
for President Rene. Three political groups contested the elections--the
SPPF, the DP, and the United Opposition (UO)--a coalition of three smaller
political parties, including Parti Seselwa. Two other smaller opposition
parties threw in their lot with the DP. All participating parties and international
observer groups accepted the results as "free and fair."
Three candidates contested the March 20-22, 1998 presidential election--Albert
Rene, SPPF; James Mancham, DP; and Wavel Ramkalawan--and once again President
Rene and his SPPF party won a landslide victory. The President's popularity
in elections jumped to 66.6% in 1998 from 59.5% in 1993, while the SPPF
garnered 61.7% of the total votes cast in the 1998 National Assembly election,
compared to 56.5% in 1993.