Vote opens in Seychelles, incumbent set to win

Four candidates are in the race and results are expected after 3 days of polls.

Victoria: Residents of the Indian Ocean Seychelles archipelago started voting on Thursday in presidential polls likely to return incumbent James Michel for another term.

The islands, once notorious for a series of coups and attempted coups, are now best known as a top-end holiday destination where the rich and famous rent entire private islands.

British media reported last week that Prince William and his wife Catherine are currently spending their honeymoon on the islands, but authorities there refused to comment.

Four candidates are in the race and results are expected either late on Saturday or early Sunday after three days of voting.

Michel, 66, and his Lepep party have been campaigning on the slogan of "A new Seychelles" and have highlighted the economic reforms they introduced.

The President has been in power since 2004 when he took over from his mentor France-Albert Rene who stepped down after 27 years as head of state.

Rene himself seized power in 1977 in a coup that toppled James Mancham, the archipelago`s first president after independence.

Michel`s main challenger, Wavel Ramkalawan of the Seychelles National Party (SNP), is running for the fourth time.

Also in the race are Ralph Volcer from the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Philippe Boulle, an independent candidate.

Voting started on Silhouette island, northwest of the principal isle of Mahe and on the Alphonse group, 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the coast of Mahe.

The isle of Silhouette has 190 registered voters.

Given the small population of Silhouette and Alphonse, electoral officials transport material by boat or plane and return to the capital Victoria after ballots are cast.

Cynthia Renauld, a 29-year-old nurse, said she was among the first people to vote in Silhouette.

"When I got here there were five voters, either people who live here on Silhouette or people who work on l`ile du Nord," she said, referring to a nearby island whose residents came by boat to Silhouette to vote.

"It took me five minutes to cast my ballot," she said.

The poll is taking place over three days -- Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- because of the logistical difficulties of organising the ballot on this Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 far-flung islands.

The outlying isles will vote on Thursday and Friday and the three main islands Mahe, Praslin and La Digue on Saturday.

Only several hundred people will vote on Thursday and Friday, with the bulk of the nation`s 70,000 voters going to the polls on Saturday in Mahe, Praslin and la Digue.

Bureau Report

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