Monday, February 13, 2012

James Michel

Colonel James Alix Michel (born August 16, 1944) is a Seychellois politician who has been President of Seychelles since April 16, 2004. He previously served as Vice-President under his predecessor, France-Albert René, from 1996 to 2004. He began as a teacher, but became involved in the archipelago's booming tourism industry and joined René's political party before independence in 1976.

Michel followed President René through different political posts during all periods of the Seychelles' history as an independent entity. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Seychelles People's United Party from 1974 to 1977; subsequently, when the party was transformed into the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF), he became a member of its Central Executive Committee. René staged a coup against the country's first President, James Mancham, only one year after independence, and Michel was appointed as Minister of Public Administration and Information in June 1977. During the 1977–1993 one-party socialist dictatorship, Michel held various ruling party and ministerial portfolios. In 1984 he became the SPPF's Deputy Secretary-General, and in 1994 he became its Secretary-General.

During the rule of President René, Michel was the head of the Seychellois economy on several occasions. In these 27 years, the Seychelles has experienced an economic boom based on its tourism and fishery sectors. This, according to the opposition,[citation needed] has been jeopardised during the last few years due to an accumulated budget deficit.

Michel played a role in the country's democratisation process, which started with multi-party elections in 1993. However, Seychelles still suffers from limited freedom and transparency of the press and, according to the opposition, rigged elections.[citation needed] According to official results, President René and his Seychelles People's Progressive Front party won presidential and legislative elections in 2001 and 2002 respectively, with about 54% of the vote in both cases.

After serving as Vice-President for nearly eight years, beginning in August 1996, Michel became President in April 2004, when René stepped down. At that point, Michel was René's longest-serving cabinet minister. As President, he currently holds the portfolios of Defence, Police, Information, and Risk & Disaster Management.

Seychelles' opposition leader, Wavel Ramkalawan, has expressed increased concern over the negative trends in the national economy and demanded more dialogue with the ruling party. The leader of the Seychelles National Party furthermore said that he would be cooperating with President Michel.

Michel won the presidential election of July 28–30, 2006, taking 53.7% of the vote. He was sworn in for his new term on August 1, 2006.

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