Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
During the year, the Seychelles government signed a bilateral trade agreement with the European Union (EU) and took steps to strengthen bilateral economic relations with China, including the signing of a mutual visa waiver agreement. Corruption and extensive drug trafficking continue to plague the archipelago.
In 2011, the country modified its law to allow pirates captured anywhere in the world to be prosecuted in the Seychelles. In February 2013, the EU transferred nine Somali pirates to the Seychelles for prosecution. In October 2013, 11 Somali pirates arrested in 2012 by the Dutch navy were convicted by the Seychelles Supreme Court and sentenced to between 18 months and 16 years’ imprisonment. Somali pirates make up approximately 20 percent of the Seychelles’ prison population.
Political Rights: 25 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 8 / 12
The president and the unicameral National Assembly are elected by universal adult suffrage for five-year terms. The head of government is the president, who appoints the cabinet. President James Michel, running for the People’s Party (Parti Lepep, or PL), won a third term in May 2011 with 55 percent of the vote. The opposition Seychelles National Party (SNP) boycotted parliamentary elections held later that year, citing alleged misconduct by the PL in the presidential vote and Michel’s failure to implement electoral reforms. Of the National Assembly’s 32 members, 25 are directly elected and 7 are allocated on a proportional basis to parties gaining at least 10 percent of the vote. The PL holds all the elected seats and 6 of 7 allocated seats. The ninth seat is held by the Popular Democratic Movement, formed by a dissident SNP member who disagreed with its decision to boycott. Despite the boycott, both the 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections were generally regarded as having met basic international norms.
The Forum for Electoral Reform, made up of representatives from every registered political party, was established by the Electoral Commission (EC) following the 2011 parliamentary elections to review existing electoral registration. In 2013, the Forum completed these reviews and made recommendations to the EC. The proposed reforms were subsequently published by EC.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 10 / 16
The ruling PL—formerly the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF)—remains the dominant party, having held continuous power since 1977. The leftist SPPF was the only legal party until a 1992 constitutional amendment legalized opposition parties. A proposal to increase the number of signatures needed to form a political party—currently just 100—was pending at year’s end. The centralist opposition SNP has claimed that its sympathizers face job discrimination in the public sector and police harassment. The conservative Democratic Party has endured reduced support in recent elections.
C. Functioning of Government: 7 / 12
Concerns over government corruption have focused on a lack of transparency in the privatization and allocation of government-owned land. A December 2011 report released by the auditor-general revealed nearly two decades of dysfunction in government finances, including unprofessional book-keeping, illegal procedures, and embezzlement. President Michel launched an investigation that was pending at year’s end. The Seychelles was ranked 47 out of 177 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Civil Liberties: 42 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 11 / 16
The government controls much of the nation’s print and broadcast media, including the daily Seychelles Nation newspaper. Strict libel laws are sometimes used to harass journalists, leading to self-censorship. The first domestic commercial radio station, Pure FM, began broadcasting in August. The government can restrict the broadcast of material considered to be objectionable. The board of directors of the officially nonpartisan Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation includes several non-PL members, though coverage is biased in favor of the ruling party. There have been reports that the state monitors e-mail, chat rooms, and blogs, and opposition activists claim that the government blocks access to opposition party websites.
Religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed and respected in practice. Churches in this predominantly Roman Catholic country have been strong voices for human rights and democratization, and they generally function without government interference. Academic freedom is also respected, though PL loyalists are reportedly favored in high-level academic appointments.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 9 / 12
The constitution protects freedoms of assembly and association. While public demonstrations are generally tolerated, the government has occasionally impeded opposition gatherings. In 2012, the Electoral Commission submitted a proposal to President Michel outlining a new Public Order Act to modernize outdated statutes accompanying constitutional guarantees for freedoms of speech and assembly. Passage of the law, which would allow political parties to hold public meetings upon giving five days’ notice to the police commissioner instead of requiring permission, was still pending at the end of 2013.
Human rights groups and other nongovernmental organizations operate in the country. Workers have the right to strike, though strikes are illegal until all arbitration procedures have been exhausted. Collective bargaining is rare.
F. Rule of Law: 11 / 16
Judges generally decide cases fairly, but face interference in cases involving major economic or political interests. The majority of the members of the judiciary are naturalized citizens or foreign nationals from other Commonwealth countries, and the impartiality of the non-Seychellois magistrates can be compromised because they are subject to contract renewal. Security forces have at times been accused of using excessive force, including torture and arbitrary detention. Prolonged pretrial detention and overcrowding in prisons are common. Pretrial detainees account for approximately a quarter of the prison population, in large part due to inefficiencies in the judicial process.
The country’s political and economic life is dominated by people of European and South Asian origin. Islanders of Creole extraction face discrimination, and prejudice against foreign workers has also been reported.
Sexual relations between men are illegal. However, a 2006 amendment to the Employment Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the Seychelles pledged in 2011 that it would decriminalize homosexuality.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 11 / 16
The government does not restrict domestic travel but may deny passports for unspecified reasons of “national interest.”
The Seychelles boasts one of the world’s highest percentages of women in parliament: 14 women were elected in 2011 with no quota system. Gender discrimination in employment is illegal, but most women are engaged in subsistence agriculture. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women. Despite a 2008 National Strategy on Domestic Violence, rape and domestic violence remain widespread.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year