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Opposition candidate wins Seychelles presidential election

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RASSIN VANNIER/AFP or licensors

Seychelles

Seychelles has a new president. Opposition candidate Wavel Ramkalawan was declared winner of Saturday's vote, upsetting incumbent Danny Faure.

Ramkalawan polled nearly 54.9% according to the country's electoral commission.

Faure, in power since 2016, was widely expected to win as the opposition fielded two candidates.

A priest, Ramkalawan had sought the presidency six times before emerging victorious. His win ends the dominance of the United Seychelles Party, which has governed since 1977.

Ramkalawan of the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa party campaigned on the pledge to raise the Indian Ocean country's minimum wage.

Virus and economy

The main concern of voters is the economic situation in the country, which has suffered the loss of vital tourism -- its main earner -- because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Seychelles has recorded only 149 mostly imported cases, but the virus has been a key campaign issue, with the health minister banning election rallies which would have been a barometer of support for various candidates in a country without a polling institute.

The campaign mainly happened over social media, where the opposition and its supporters are the most active, and on television where the country held its first ever debates between the candidates, which proved extremely popular.

Since the start of the pandemic, the economy has slowed significantly, with some 700 Seychellois losing their jobs, according to government figures.

And while average income is among the highest in Africa, the national statistics agency says that about 40 percent of Seychellois live in poverty because of the high cost of living.

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