Under the 1993 constitution, Seychelles is a unitary republic with a multiparty democracy, a unicameral parliament and an executive president who is permitted to serve for a maximum of three five-year terms.
The independence constitution provided for a multiparty state. The 1979 constitution rendered Seychelles a one-party state, the sole candidate for a presidential election to be nominated by the ruling party. This constitution was amended in 1992 when multiparty democracy was reintroduced.
Under the 1993 constitution, the president is head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and is empowered to rule by decree.
The president appoints a cabinet of between seven and 14 members – not including members of parliament – subject to approval of the majority in the National Assembly.
The National Assembly comprises up to 35 seats, of which 25 are elected by universal adult suffrage, on a first-past-the-post basis, and up to ten additional seats are allocated on the basis of proportional representation. Parliamentary elections take place every five years, not necessarily at the same time as the presidential elections.
In 1996 the constitution was amended to create the office of vice-president.
The 1993 constitution provides for separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary. The judicial system derives from English common law and the French Napoleonic Code, and also includes elements of customary law.
The most serious civil and criminal cases, and appeals from the magistrates’ courts, come before the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court is a division of the Supreme Court and deals with human rights as well as constitutional matters. Appeals from the Supreme Court are heard by the Court of Appeal. Other courts include the rent tribunal and the industrial court.
Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean; in population terms it is Africa’s smallest state. Seychelles’ granitic islands are the world’s oldest ocean islands.
Although visited by Phoenicians, Arabs and other groups, Seychelles remained largely uninhabited until the seventeenth century. The French claimed possession of the islands in 1756 and French settlers from Mauritius, with their African slaves, began to arrive from 1770. After the Napoleonic Wars, Seychelles was ceded to Britain, together with Mauritius.
In 1964 the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP), led by James Mancham, and the Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP), led by France Albert René, were founded. The SDP favoured retaining close ties with the UK, while the SPUP campaigned for autonomy. In 1974 Seychelles achieved internal self-government, and in 1976 Seychelles became independent with Mancham as president and René as prime minister.
The SPUP staged an armed coup in 1977, overthrowing Mancham. Seychelles became a socialist one-party state with René as president. The SPUP was renamed the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF), the sole political party.
Opposition from exiled political supporters of the SDP and Mancham continued throughout the 1980s.
Socialist rule ended with a new constitution and multiparty elections in 1993. René was re-elected as president, and the SPPF won 27 of the 33 seats in the National Assembly.
René, who had served as president since 1977, was re-elected in 1998 and in 2001, but he stepped down three years later. The vice president, James Michel, became president and in July 2006 was elected to a new five-year term. He was re-elected in May 2011.
Following the presidential election in May 2011 the SNP boycotted parliament, citing the slow pace of electoral reform. Some disaffected SNP members then formed a new party, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), to fight the parliamentary elections held in September-August 2011. The elections were again won by the SPPF, taking all elective seats in the National Assembly.