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Seychelles presidential vote begins

n this file photo taken on November 21, 2019 shows an underwater view underwater in Cousin Island, the nature reserve managed by Nature Seychelles   -  
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Voters in Seychelles are starting to cast their ballots in the presidential and national assembly elections.

It comes at a crucial time for the nation of 115 islands off East Africa, Voters will decide if President Danny Faure will be elected for the first time after taking over from predecessor James Michel, who resigned.

His People's Party, which has been in power since 1977 also faces an unprecedented challenge

The vote will run across three days across the islands.

Faure is facing two rivals. The main one is Wavel Ramkalawan of the Linyon Democratik Seselwa (Seychelles Democratic Alliance) opposition party, the majority party in parliament after winning 19 of 34 seats in the last election.

He is an Anglican priest and has run for president six times

But the opposition parties have not managed to unite in this election.

The other candidate is Alain St Ange, who was in the opposition before joining the government tourism minister.

He is running for the One Seychelles party which he created a year ago.

The main concern for the voters is the economy, which has slowed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

About 700 people have lost their jobs, according to government figures. The idyllic islands famed for their white beaches are a hub for tourism, particularly with those on their honeymoon.

But the coronavirus pandemic has closed borders, hampering the key tourism industry. 

Another key theme of the campaign has been corruption, a largely taboo topic in the tiny country where everyone knows everyone and business and politics are often intertwined.

The Seychelles is classed by Transparency International as being perceived as the least corrupt country in Africa and among the 30 least corrupt in the world.

However it is also a tax paradise housing numerous offshore companies.