Cohabitation in tatters – the earlier the elections are called the better

The Cohabitation between US and LDS may have started with good intentions. To give it a chance to work, President Faure went as far as ‘divorcing’ himself from the Party that won and presented him the Presidency on a golden platter. However, the short honeymoon that prevailed between the Executive, and the Legislative is  fast disintegrating with the gaping differences being more apparent than the consensual predicament that is not only necessary, but also critical for a cohabitation to work for the people and the Constitution that both parties profess to serve and uphold. 

It is clear today, that the political cohabitation has buckled and broken under the changing dynamics of the political landscape; as both protagonists, leaders of US and LDS, position themselves to win points over each other for a ‘judgment day’ future general election. On the sidelines, other electoral hopefuls watch with great interest and will undoubtedly highlight the failures of the cohabitation.  

The civil servants in particular are the ones bearing the brunt of the discord as their budget-approved salary increase has been stalled indefinitely due to serious dis-accord between the two sides. The difference is not in the amount to be given but rather how the agreed and approved amount is to be distributed in terms of percentage to the eligible civil servants. This week the Supreme Court referred the case brought by the Executive against the National Assembly about the proposed salary increase to the Constitutional Court. 

The President of the Republic has taken the Legislative to court after the latter did not approve the Bill that sought to formalize the 5% across the board increase in public service salary. The National Assembly who had previously ‘approved’ the proposal, as it formed part of the national budget that they had voted for, counter-proposed that the approved budgeted amount be distributed equally to all eligible public civil servant. For this reason, the National Assembly (NA) repealed the SI that the Executive had tabled to implement the across the board 5% salary increase. Given the difference in opinion on the modalities of the distribution of the approved amount budgeted for the salary increase, the matter ended up in court!

As the Supreme Court has deferred the case to the Constitutional Court; it seems unlikely that the issue will be solved before the end of the present fiscal year. This would be problematic for the Executive because if it eventually wins the case, due to it’s commitment to paying the proposed increase in arrears, back-dated from the date when it was initially supposed to come in force, it could find itself in some complexity.

In the midst of all this, the essence and even semblance of a cohabitation that is validated by ‘working together,’ has to all intents and purposes been abandoned. The two opposing sides are now going for the jugular at every given opportunity. 

On its part, the ruling party flexed its muscle to stop a two-third majority vote, which would have passed an LDS Private Members Bill that proposed the elimination of the time limit (3 years from the date of leaving office)during which a former president can be taken to court for any action carried out during his mandate. Currently after the three year-time limit the former president becomes immune from such prosecution. This was immediately followed by the LDS using its parliamentary majority to say no to a Bill on referendum brought by the Executive. They voted against it even if their suggestions and amendments had been incorporated in the revised draft of the bill on which voting had been postponed so that the corrections could be made. It’s now a tit for tat muscle flexing between the Executive and the Legislature!

The members of United Seychelles were very vocal as to why they were going to block the amendment to the Constitutional provision that stated that a former president can only be taken to court for matters arising from his mandate only during the first three years since leaving office. They more or less accused LDS of a witch-hunt on the former President James Alix Michel. On their part, LDS did not make a song and dance about the subsequent referendum bill that the Vice President presented. They just voted against it to demonstrate their adeptness at tit for tat!  

The debate on the two bills and actions in the legislature showed, more than anything, that the fragile cohabitation has shattered and there is no hope of reconciliation as the two parties now have irreconcilable differences. The gloves have been taken off and the content of the interventions by the MNAs went way off topic, with Deputy Speaker Ahmed Afif who was presiding for the day, allowing the barely concealed and quite caustic verbal sparring for public live viewing.

Commenting on the stalemate, One Seychelles Secretary General Peter Sinon said;

‘It is unfortunate that the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature has sunk to a renewed low whilst the general public suffers the consequences of stalemate as is the case with the proposed and approved salary increase, where political and judicial theatrics are now at play with no immediate resolution in sight. Both are failing the hard working people of Seychelles. In such a case the earlier the election is called the better because I am certain that the people’s voice will be heard loud and clear as they will singularly pass judgment on the failed performances that do not take into account their interest.’