My arrival on Mahe, Seychelles, on 17 December coincided with the second round of the country’s general election, the first round, two weeks earlier, having proved inconclusive. Voting was enthusiastic, as was support for the two parties involved in this re-run. On 18 December the result was declared, reporting a win for the ruling party on the narrowest of margins. Rumours abounded of irregularities and the result is being challenged in the Constitutional Court.
However, the Seychellois love celebrations, involving loud noise and music and drinking. There seems to be a tradition that the winning party in an election holds a motorcade around the island following the declaration. This was the case here, with possibly thousands of vehicles driving slowly along the main roads, bedecked with ruling party colours, with shouting, waving, blowing of horns and the incessant “thump thump” of bass speakers emanating from vehicles playing music at full volume. The opposition coalition duplicated this with their own, similarly noisy, motorcade the following day, sporting their own colours and culminating in a rally at Anse Royale.
Christmas was comparatively quiet, many shops opened as usual and there was an air of normally. The capital, Victoria, was decoratively illuminated but elsewhere Christmas appeared to be a much quieter event with smaller social gatherings. However, the desire for music persisted in quieter and smaller beach parties, some with periodic relaxed dancing on the beach.
New Year’s Eve proved very different. On the beach close to where I was staying, a large lorry appeared in the evening and offloaded some of the biggest loudspeakers I have seen. Crowds began to gather and the loudspeakers sprung into life at full volume at 8 pm. They continued, at full volume, until 6.30 on New Year’s Day! Then a glorious silence ensued – but for one hour only. The loudspeakers eventually boarded the lorry and were driven away in the evening, following a noisy start to 2016 that lasted throughout the day – with hearing problems probably lasting a lot longer than the hangovers!
How the political future of Seychelles develops in 2016 remains to be seen. Whatever the outcome, further noisy celebrations of some sort seem inevitable.