Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
SEYCHELLESPresident France Albert Rene and his Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) have governed since a 1977 military coup. In the 1990's, the SPPF guided the return to a multiparty political system, which culminated in July 1993 in the country's first free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections since 1977. President Rene was continued in power, and the SPPF won 27 of the 33 National Assembly seats, 21 by direct election and 6 by proportional representation. Despite the elections, the President and the SPPF continued to dominate the country through a pervasive system of political patronage and control over government jobs, contracts, and resources. The judiciary's independence has been questioned. The Constitution was amended in 1995 to allow for the appointment of a vice president. The judiciary is inefficient, lacks resources, and is subject to executive interference. The President has complete control over the security apparatus, which includes a national guard force, the army, and the police. There is also an armed paramilitary Police Mobile Unit. There were several credible reports that the security forces abused persons in custody. The economy provides the country's 75,000 residents an average per capita income of more than $6,000 per year and generally adequate social services. The Government has successfully begun to diversify the economy and move it away from its heavy reliance on tourism. Revenues from fishing rights and fish processing have grown sharply in recent years. Overall growth has remained sluggish, however, due largely to shortages of foreign exchange and the pervasive presence of inefficient state enterprises. Progress toward privatization has been slow. The Seychelles' application to join the World Trade Organization has forced it to consider reforming its trade and foreign exchange regimes, but it has made few substantive changes to date. The human rights situation continued to improve, and the Government generally respected the rights of its citizens. However, despite parliamentary formalities, the President continued to wield power virtually unchecked. Security forces used excessive force in a few instances, although police brutality was not widespread. The authorities investigated complaints of police abuse. Violence against women and child abuse remained problems.