A lengthy struggle between France and Great Britain for the islands ended in 1814, when they were ceded to the latter. Independence came in 1976. Socialist rule was brought to a close with a new constitution and free elections in 1993. The most recent presidential elections were held in 2001, when President Albert Rene, who had served since 1977, was re-elected.
In April 2004 Rene stepped down and Vice President James Michel was sworn in as president.
Covering an area of 455 square kilometres, about 2.5 times the size of Washington DC, the Republic of Seychelles is a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean, some 1,600 km east of mainland Africa and northeast of the island of Madagascar. Other nearby island countries and territories include Mauritius and Reunion to the south, Comoros and Mayotte to the southwest, and the Maldives to the northeast.
The country is divised in 23 administrative districts: Anse aux Pins, Anse Boileau, Anse Etoile, Anse Louis, Anse Royale, Baie Lazare, Baie Sainte Anne, Beau Vallon, Bel Air, Bel Ombre, Cascade, Glacis, Grand' Anse (on Mahe), Grand' Anse (on Praslin), La Digue, La Riviere Anglaise, Mont Buxton, Mont Fleuri, Plaisance, Pointe La Rue, Port Glaud, Saint Louis and Takamaka.
The current estimated population is 81,188 and is one of mixed French, African, Indian, Chinese, and Arab descent. Besides other Christian churches, approximately 82.3 percent of the population are Roman Catholic and 6.4 percent are Anglican. Hinduism, Islam, and the Baha'i Faith also are practiced. Almost 50 percent of the population is estimated to practice their faith regularly.
Creole is the native language of 94% of the people, however, English and French are commonly used. English remains the language of government and commerce.
The Seychelles constitute an archipelago of about 115 islands, of which 33 are inhabited. The group of islands around Mahe consist of granite and are the largest and most populated of the country. The remaining outer group consists of smaller coralline atolls.
The capital city, Victoria, is situated on Mahe, which is the largest island and home to about 90% of the total population. The two other islands with significant permanent populations are Praslin and La Digue.
Praslin, the second largest island of the Seychelles archipelago, it is most known for Vallee de Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for the famous "Coco de Mer", the largest seed in the plant kingdom. Also listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and protected from human influence, Aldabra, the largest atoll in the world, is the home to 152,000 giant tortoises.
The islands experience a sub tropical marine climate that is generally warm and humid, averaging 29ºC (84ºF) throughout the year, with more rain around November to March. The cooler season is during southeast monsoon (late May to September) while the warmer season is during northwest monsoon (March to May). Because most of the islands lie outside the cyclone belt, severe storms are rare.