Presidential debates serve an important service: they pit all the Presidential candidates against one another and permit the electorate a rare opportunity to see the presidential contenders side by side and take their measure for an extended stretch of time in a high pressure setting.
Historically, the ruling party has not been inclined to view public debates as something owed to the people of Seychelles. Following significant pressure from the population and from One Seychelles, President Faure in good grace accepted the call for a televised debate, though he declined to use his platform to organize one. The Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) has announced via their social media platform that there shall be two live debates between the Presidential Candidates; the first shall be on 9th October and the second on 16th October.
To engage the voters in the process, the SBC has invited members of the public via their Facebook page to contribute questions for the debates, which shall be grouped into themes and organized by a panel. The deadline for submitting questions via their Facebook link is 15th September. Many are questioning the impartiality of the process, citing their concerns that panelists may have their own political persuasions and questions may be leaked to give certain politicians an unfair advantage. However, little can be done to prepare a politician adequately for the debates, particularly when other politicians will be ready to undermine a pre-prepared or well-rehearsed response. It is also hoped that a strong and impartial moderator will be in charge of choosing the final questions from the selection short-listed by the panelist.
The excitement of the electorate in regard to the upcoming debates is palpable; they know that some candidates are far quicker on their feet than others, and some are prone to losing their tempers and saying all sorts of things in a fit of anger; some have so many skeletons in their closets that they are probably wishing the entire event is cancelled at the last minute in case their dirty laundry is brought to light by politicians who know their secrets all-to-well.
With elections only a stone’s throw away, mudslinging and the sharing of “fake news” have begun with a vengeance – desperate tactics by those who do not truly have faith that their political party can win the elections purely on their own merits. To the misguided individuals who engage in baseless smear campaigns on social media: if you would not say it directly to someone’s face and feel confident about it, then it is probably best not to publish it on Facebook. Once it is published to a third person, you have left yourself vulnerable to a defamation lawsuit. Even worse, you have exposed your true nature to the Nation as that of a bully.
Cheap politics will get politicians nowhere in the 2020 elections – while a handful of diehard voters hailing primarily from one political party still subscribe to the practice, the rest of the population have moved on and view such tactics with disdain; those who engage in smear campaigns do not realise, or perhaps they do not care, that their behaviour is reflecting negatively on their Party and that they are alienating many voters in the process. These campaigns do more harm than good to those who orchestrate or promote them.
With the Presidential debates set right before the elections and the majority of the population tuning in to watch avidly, and at a pivotal time that is likely to influence countless swing voters, this is the ideal time for politicians who have been subjected to smear campaigns to separate fact from fiction. It is also the opportunity for these politicians to hit back at those who have tried to boost themselves to greater heights by having their followers attempt to tear down the competition; the difference, however, is that the politicians who have been oppressed and denigrated for months will not be flinging untruths.
The Presidential debates will no doubt separate the liars from the honest, the greedy from the good, those with delusions of grandeur from the humble, and the leaders from the sheep. Be sure to tune in, Seychelles, because these debates are certainly not to be missed!