Seychelles

Partly Free
72
100
PR Political Rights 29 40
CL Civil Liberties 43 60
Last Year's Score & Status
71 100 Partly Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Since 2016, when an opposition coalition won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, Seychelles has seen an increase political pluralism. However, government corruption remains a problem, as does lengthy pretrial detention. Migrant workers remain vulnerable to abuse.

header2 Key Developments in 2019

  • In October, a labor agreement was signed between the governments of Seychelles and Bangladesh to protect Bangladeshi workers from labor exploitation in Seychelles.
  • The National Assembly amended its anticorruption law in July 2019 to increase the Anti-Corruption Commission’s resources, clarify its strength, explicitly give it investigative powers, and enhance its law enforcement provisions.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

The president is chief of state and head of government; the winning candidate is directly elected for up to two five-year terms. The president nominates cabinet ministers and a vice president, all of which require approval from the National Assembly.

President James Michel of the People’s Party (PL) was narrowly reelected in 2015. International observers noted allegations of vote buying. In October 2016, President Michel resigned. He gave no reason for his resignation, but it followed parliamentary elections in which the opposition coalition, the Seychelles Democratic Alliance (LDS), took control of the legislature. Vice President Danny Faure became president and will complete Michel’s five-year term. In October 2019, he was endorsed by PL, renamed United Seychelles (US), to run in the 2020 presidential election.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

Members of the unicameral National Assembly are directly elected in 25 constituencies, while up to 10 additional seats are assigned by parties according to a proportional calculation of the vote.

The opposition coalition LDS won the majority of seats in the 2016 National Assembly elections, marking the first transfer of power between parties in the country’s post-independence period. An African Union (AU) election monitoring mission generally praised the elections but noted reports of attempted vote buying.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3.003 4.004

The country’s Electoral Commission has faced some criticism from opposition parties and others for enforcing its mandates inconsistently. The 2016 AU election monitoring mission recommended steps be taken to improve transparency, carefully scrutinize the voter rolls, and improve efforts to inform the public about voter registration processes and voting procedures. In December 2018, President Faure approved an amendment to the Elections Act establishing a permanent chief electoral officer to oversee the Electoral Commission secretariat and its operations. The amendment also intended to alleviate concerns about the efficiency of the previous system, in which a chief electoral officer was appointed a few months before an election.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 3.003 4.004

There are no restrictions on the right to organize political parties or other competitive political groupings. However, during the 2015 presidential election, several opposition parties claimed the government was engaged in systematic harassment and intimidation of candidates.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 3.003 4.004

The 2016 National Assembly elections changed the political scene significantly, as the LDS, a new alliance of opposition parties, became the first political grouping to defeat the PL and gain a majority of legislative seats. The developments reflected increasing political pluralism in Seychelles.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 3.003 4.004

The people’s political choices are generally free from domination by powerful groups that are not democratically accountable. However, there have been reports of vote buying and voter intimidation by political parties.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 2.002 4.004

The constitution mandates equal suffrage for adult citizens. Early voting procedures are designed to encourage the participation of some groups, including pregnant women, the elderly, and those with disabilities.

There are still no mechanisms to allow citizens living abroad to vote. Few women hold senior political office as a result of a number of factors, including longstanding traditional beliefs about the role of women, and a lack of commitment on the part of political parties to nominate women for office. PL is the only party that typically includes high numbers of women among its political candidates. Political life is dominated by people of European and South Asian origin.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 3.003 4.004

The head of government and national legislative representatives are generally able to determine the policies of the government, though widespread corruption can influence policymaking.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3.003 4.004

Concerns about government corruption persist, but there has been significant improvement. In 2016, the National Assembly passed an anticorruption law that established the country’s first independent Anti-Corruption Commission and strengthened the legal framework to fight corruption. Complaints and Communications Manager of the Anti-Corruption Commission itself, Abison de Giorgio, was sentenced in December 2018 to eight years imprisonment for extortion, bribery, and tampering with an investigation. In recognition of the success of the Commission, the National Assembly amended the anticorruption law in July 2019 to increase the number of its commissioners, clarify its strength, explicitly give it investigative powers, and enhance its law enforcement provisions. Transparency International increased Seychelles’s score by six points for 2019, labeling it the least corrupt country in sub-Saharan Africa. By the end of 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission had recorded 178 complaints of potential infractions.

Score Change: The score improved from 2 to 3 because the government has made efforts to address corruption.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2.002 4.004

There are laws allowing public access to government information, but compliance is inconsistent. Some government officials are required to declare assets, but they do not always comply, and the declarations are not made public unless a legal challenge forces their release. The Access to Information Act of 2018 seeks to increase openness and transparency of government. Article 54 of the Act created an Information Commission, established in September 2019, with the responsibility to provide government information and resources to citizens for particular disclosures. It has the power to impose fines when citizens are not provided information in a given time frame.

Concerns about corruption often focus on a lack of transparency in the privatization and allocation of government-owned land, as well as in Seychelles’s facilitation of international finance.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 2.002 4.004

The Seychelles Media Commission Act of 2010 establishes relatively strict guidelines for journalists. There are two privately owned newspapers, five political party weeklies, and the online news of the Seychelles News Agency. The government owns the only television station and two radio stations; there is one independent radio station. The law prohibits political parties and religious organizations from operating public radio broadcasts.

Media workers practice a degree of self-censorship to protect their earnings from advertising. Newspaper reporting is generally politicized. Although Seychelles has strict defamation laws, they have not been used for years. As the government seeks to maintain the country’s image as ideal for tourism, many outlets will temper their commentary on sensitive national issues.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

Religious freedom is generally respected. The government grants larger religious groups programming time on state radio, subject in most cases to advance review and approval. Smaller religious groups do not have access to dedicated broadcast time. Non-Catholic students in public schools providing Catholic instruction have no access to alternative activities during those classes.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 3.003 4.004

The Charter of the University of Seychelles places academic freedom at the center of its activities, labeling it an ethical concern. While the constitution only indirectly references academic freedom, a 2016 study from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized Seychelles as having high compliance in institutional autonomy, tenure, individual rights, and democratic structure in the country’s two universities. Some activists have claimed that the government limits academic freedom by not allowing educators to reach senior positions in the academic bureaucracy without demonstrating at least nominal loyalty to the PL, which holds the presidency and has historically dominated parliament.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 3.003 4.004

As the government seeks above all to protect the country’s image as a tourist’s paradise, many sensitive subjects are considered off limits. Individuals who criticize the government publicly or privately sometimes suffer reprisals, such as harassment by police or the loss of jobs or contracts.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 3.003 4.004

The government passed a revised law in 2015 on public assembly, which several observers credited with permitting a more open and free political environment. However, the law still contains some restrictive provisions, including the need to give five days’ notice to the police for assemblies. It also empowers the head of police to disperse public meetings on grounds of preserving public health, morality, and safety, and sets conditions on the timing and location of large gatherings.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 3.003 4.004

Human rights groups and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate without restriction. However, some groups lack the resources necessary to operate and advocate effectively.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 3.003 4.004

Unions are permitted, but only about 15 percent of the workforce is unionized, and collective bargaining is relatively rare. Workers have the right to strike, but only if all other arbitration procedures have been exhausted.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2.002 4.004

Judges sometimes face interference in cases involving major commercial or political interests. Due to the low number of legal professionals in Seychelles, the country brings in expatriate judges to serve fixed-term contracts on the Supreme Court. The government controls the negotiations and renewal of expatriate contracts, potentially allowing officials to compromise the impartiality of the non-Seychellois magistrates. The judiciary also lacks budgetary independence from the executive and can be subject to external influence. The Supreme Court remains a target of political threats and intimidation.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 3.003 4.004

While constitutional rights to due process are generally respected, prolonged pretrial detention is common. The courts introduced new systems in 2016 intended to expedite the processing of cases, but their effect has been limited.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3.003 4.004

Security forces have occasionally been accused of using excessive force, and impunity for such offenses remains a problem. Police corruption continues, particularly the solicitation of bribes. Prisons remain overcrowded.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3.003 4.004

Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 2016, though societal discrimination against LGBT+ activists remains a problem. Prejudice against foreign workers has been reported.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3.003 4.004

The government does not restrict domestic travel but may deny passports for arbitrary reasons based on “national interest.”

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 3.003 4.004

Individuals may generally exercise the right to own property and establish private business without undue interference from state or nonstate actors. An underdeveloped legal framework can hamper business activities, as can corruption.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 2.002 4.004

Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women, and the government does not impose explicit restrictions on personal social freedoms. However, domestic violence against women remains a problem.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 3.003 4.004

Economic life is dominated by people of European and South Asian origin. The government has made minimal progress in preventing or prosecuting instances of human trafficking and labor exploitation. Worker rights in the Seychelles International Trade Zone are different from the rest of the islands, and migrant laborers are vulnerable to abuse there. There were some reports of employers seizing migrant workers’ passports upon arrival, a practice that is not currently illegal under Seychelles law.

Bangladeshi workers have been victims of human trafficking abuses such as seizure of travel documents, unpaid work, and extreme labor exploitation at a particularly high frequency in Seychelles. Many migrants spoke little to no English and arrived in the country particularly vulnerable to abuses. In October 2019, a labor agreement was signed between the governments of Seychelles and Bangladesh to protect migrants and regulate the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers. The legislation provides employers in Seychelles two designated authorities to approve individuals being sent over. The authorities will ensure that the workers have an employment contract, speak basic English, and are well prepared to leave Bangladesh.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    72 100 partly free