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May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Voters in the Seychelles began casting their ballots in a presidential election today with the ruling party and the opposition exchanging allegations of voter fraud.

President James Michel’s People’s Party was bribing voters at their offices, National Party spokesman Sandy Arrisol said in a telephone interview from the capital, Victoria, today. The ruling party will issue counter-complaints against the National Party, Michel’s campaign spokeswoman Marie-Antoinette Rose said.

“We dismiss claims that we have bribed anyone and are confident that we’ve followed all electoral laws because it is in our interest to have the election declared free and fair,” Rose said in a mobile phone interview from the main island of Mahe today.

The Electoral Commissioner’s office said it had received complaints about campaign posters within 200 meters (656 feet) of polling stations. No complaints had been lodged alleging bribery, said a spokeswoman for the commission, who declined to be named in line with the organization’s policy.

Michel has been in office since 2004 after replacing the People’s Party leader France Albert Rene, who came to power in a coup in 1977. Michel was re-elected in 2006 with 53.7 percent of the vote against the 45.7 percent won by the National Party’s candidate, Wavel Ramkalawan.

Rose said allegations of “heavy bribery in the north of the island” had been made against the National Party. The charges were denied by Arrisol.

Voting on the first day of the three day election was confined to people living on the outer-islands of the archipelago, essential services, the elderly and the disabled.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Johannesburg at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gordon Bell at

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