afrol News, 24 February - The President of Seychelles, France Albert René, today announced that he will step down later this year, handing over powers to Vice-President James Michel. President René has been in power since leading a coup in 1977, only one year after independence.
- I shall be handing over the Presidency to Vice-President James Michel later this year, President René told Parliament in Victoria during his televised state of the nation speech today. The 68-year-old President said he wanted to retire after 27 years in power in the Indian Ocean archipelago of 80,000 inhabitants.
Mr René is one of Africa's longest ruling leaders. Half of the Seychellois population doesn't remember any other political leadership that the soft-edged dictatorship of President René. The announcement of his retirement thus came as a total surprise to the few Seychellois listening to the President's state of the nation speech live on SBC television and radio at 5 pm local time.
One year after the archipelago of Seychelles gained its independence from Britain, in 1977, then Prime Minister René staged a bloodless coup against President James Mancham. Mr René still clams the coup was organised without his knowledge.
The legacy of President René is twofold; one of political stability and economic growth; one of dictatorship and oppressi
Vice-President James Michel: To assume power in Seychelles "later this year."
on. Mr René ruled the Seychelles as a one-party state from 1978 to 1991 and the multi-party system was only reintroduced after strong international pressure.
According to opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan, real democracy and press freedom yet has to be re-introduced in Seychelles. The government controls most of the media and repeatedly muzzles the few attempts of critical journalism. Polls however tended to become freer, and in 2001, President René came close to lose out to Mr Ramkalawan.
Economically, President René has led a relatively successful and popular policy, combining growth and social security. The Seychelles has become one of Africa's most affluent nations, mainly based on the successes in establishing a luxury tourism industry. Living standards are also among Africa's highest.
Within few months, President René will however let politics be politics and enjoy retirement, he announced. The retired leader then can turn to his favour leisure interests, which, according to his website, include gardening, fishing, sailing and cooking.
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