Africa

November 11, 2019

Each day, 21votes gathers election news, analysis, and opinions from a different region of the world. We explore Africa elections on Mondays. Click the map pins. 

Our weekly briefings are currently on hiatus, but will return soon.

Nigeria Kogi and Bayelsa State Governorships and Niger State Local Government – November 16, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Party Free
Government Type: Federal Presidential Republic
Population: Nigeria – 203.5 million; Kogi State – 3.1 million; Bayelsa State – 1.7 million; Niger State – 4 million (Nigeria’s largest state)

Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa,” as Nigerians call the continent’s most populous country, has a history of military coups, and since the return to civilian rule, vote-rigging and violence have plagued elections. While the 2015 polls – which handed the opposition its first-ever victory – were considered credible, international and Nigerian observers found that the 2019 polls fell short. The country is in the midst of several security crises.

The two main political parties are the “sort-of-right” People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and “sort-of-left” All Progressives Congress (APC), plus a plethora of smaller parties. Historically, PDP has been strong in Christian areas and in the south, while APC has been strong in the mostly-Muslim north. Nigeria is about half Christian and half Muslim, and there is some religious conflict, but religion is not the only driver of conflict in the country. There is a handshake agreement that the presidency will rotate between the north and the south every eight years, regardless of which party wins; thus, for the 2019 election, both major parties chose candidates from the north. PDP nominated Atiku Abubakar to challenge APC incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, who won narrowly. APC also won a majority in the legislature.

A debate over federalism played a major role in Nigeria’s February 2019 general elections. Atiku advocated for a greater devolution of powers to state governments, a proposal that Buhari categorically opposed. Political power is currently highly centralized, but many argue that it is dysfunctional.

Voters in 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states elected governors during the general elections in February 2019. Bayelsa State in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta, and Kogi State in the Middle Belt have gubernatorial elections in mid-November. (The Middle Belt is a largely-agricultural area that forms the border between the mostly-Muslim north and mostly Christian south, and the site of a deadly conflict between farmers and herders.) PDP currently control Bayelsa (and 13 other states), and APC currently controls the remaining states, including Kogi. These state elections are taking place in the context of continued litigation over the national elections. Atiku has challenged his defeat in court, alleging electoral fraud. A tribunal rejected his complaint, and he lost his appeal.

Tanzania Local – November 24, 2019 and General – October 2020 (due)

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 55.5 million

Tanzania’s socialist Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and its predecessors have been in power since 1961. In the 2015 elections, deemed imperfect but credible by observers, John Magufuli won, and has since launched a crackdown on the opposition, media, civil society, and the private sector. The main opposition center-right Chadema, whose leader Freeman Mbowe recently spent nearly five months in prison on charges of sedition, currently holds 62 out of 384 seats in the unicameral National Assembly. Edward Lowassa, a former CCM prime minister who ran for president in 2015 as the candidate of Chadema and a coalition of other opposition parties, won 40 percent of the vote. Lowassa has since returned to CCM along with other opposition figures who have been bribed or bullied into crossing the aisle and joining the ruling party.

The Economist notes, “Today Tanzania is on the descent from patchy democracy towards slapdash dictatorship.”

Guinea-Bissau Presidential – November 24, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Semi-Presidential Republic
Population: 1.8 million

In March 2019, Guinea-Bissau finally held long-delayed legislative elections. The ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) won 47 out of 102 seats, but made deals with three smaller parties to form a coalition with 54 seats, voting in Aristide Gomes as prime minister. 

Prone to coups (most recently in 2012), no elected leader has served a full term since independence from Portugal. The country remains in a political crisis, with President José Mário Vaz (known as Jomav) in a feud with his own party (PAIGC). Although analysts believed that the March 2019 legislative elections improved the situation, the country regressed once again at the end of October 2019, when Vaz fired Gomes, and Gomes refused to leave office – the third government dissolution in two years. There is a risk of a coup, and the elections could be delayed – there is a debate over whether holding the elections as scheduled or delaying them would be a better move for stability.

Nonetheless, Vaz plans to run for re-election. Dubbed a “narco-state” because the drug trade has penetrated the government, Guinea-Bissau risks once again becoming a hub for drug traffickers. 

Madagascar Local – November 27, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Semi-Presidential Republic
Population: 25.7 million

Madagascar’s politics are turbulent and corruption remains a major problem. In 2009, the country had a coup. Andry Rajoelina, then the 34-year-old populist mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, declared he was in charge and ousted then-president Marc Ravalomanana. While Ravalomanana’s tenure in office was marked by economic growth, the economy slumped under Rajoelina. Elections were restored in 2013. Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina agreed not to run (although both mulled going back on this promise), and Rajoelina’s candidate, former finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina, won.

Madagascar’s most recent presidential election was in late 2018, and an initial crowd of 36 candidates included four former presidents and three former prime ministers. In the runoff, Ravalomanana faced off against Rajoelina, with Rajoelina winning (Rajaonarimampianina, finished third in the first round and thus did not make the runoff). Ravalomanana had promised to accept the result, but he contested it, and protests followed. Rajoelina’s coalition won a majority in the May 2019 parliamentary elections, but the opposition alleged fraud.

For the mayor of Antananarivo, Naina Andriantsitohaina, who recently stepped down as foreign minister, is Rajoelina’s candidate and will face off against opposition candidate Randriamasinoro Tahiry Ny Rina, secretary general of the capital’s urban community. Former president Marc Ravalomanana declined to enter the race, surprising many.

Cameroon Municipal, Legislative, and Regional – February 9, 2020 (delayed from October 2019)

Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 25.6 million

Cameroon is in the midst of several crises. Anglophone separatists seek to form a new country called Ambazonia. The government has accused them of terrorism. The crisis is currently deadlocked, with neither side willing to make concessions, leaving half a million people displaced.

Cameroon also faces a political crisis. President Paul Biya, at age 85 the oldest ruler in Africa, won re-election in October 2018, after having already spent 36 years in power. The election was marred by accusations of ballot-stuffing and intimidation of the opposition. The opposition claims Maurice Kamto actually won the election, and opposition supports have staged a number of protests, which the government answered with a harsh crackdown and hundreds of arrests, including the arrest of Kamto himself. Biya’s Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) holds 142 out of 180 seats in the lower house. The Social Democratic Front is the main opposition in the legislature and hold 18 seats, while Kamto’s Cameroon Resistance Movement (MRC) holds one seat. The political crisis has an ethnic dimension.

Guinea Legislative – February 16, 2019 and Presidential – October 2020 (due)

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 11.9 million

Elections in Guinea routinely see significant delays and have historically been surrounded by ethnic tensions and violence. President Alpha Condé, a former opposition leader who came to power in 2010 following a transition from military to civilian rule, is prevented by the constitution from running for a third term in the presidential polls due in 2020. However, he wants to change the constitution to allow him to do so (which Russia is encouraging because Russian companies have mining interests in Guinea).

The terms of the current legislators expired in January 2019. Condé extended their mandates, and a new election date has not been set. The electoral commission had proposed holding them on December 28, 2019, but the opposition said the date was not realistic. The electoral commission subsequently announced that the elections would take place on February 16, 2020.

Burundi Presidential and Legislative – May 20, 2020

Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 11.8 million

Burundi’s 12-year civil war ended in 2005, but since then, President Pierre Nkurunziza has turned the country into a dictatorship that former U.N. rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein described as one of “the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times.” In 2015, Nkurunziza ran for a third term, a move critics said was unconstitutional. Nkurunziza’s decision sparked a political crisis, and the election was marred by violence and a coup attempt. Nkurunziza won. Nonetheless, some opposition lawmakers did take their seats in parliament.

The upcoming elections are taking place in a climate of fear, with citizens, and especially opposition and civil society activists, being terrorized by state security apparatus and the Imbonerakure, a youth militia connected to Nkurunziza’s National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy party (a party that in fact does the opposite of defending democracy). Nkurunziza has said he would step down in 2020, but some are concerned that he will run for a fourth term. There are also fears that Nkurunziza – a former Hutu rebel commander – is ethnicizing the country’s politics, which could reignite conflict.

Ethiopia Parliamentary – Due May 2020

Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: 108.4 million

In 1974, communist rebels deposed Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie and instituted the Derg (“Committee”), a Marxist military junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, which brought forth famines and a collapse of Ethiopia’s economy. It governed brutally, even genocidally. Following a civil war, the Derg was ousted in 1991 by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of ethnically-based rebel militias. The EPRDF took power and morphed into a coalition of four ethnically-based political parties: Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Amhara Democratic Party (ADP), Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), and Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM). In power, EPRDF instituted a controversial ethnically-based federalist system that has led to a current climate of tension and unrest.

EPRDF has held elections regularly, but aside from the 2005 polls, none were competitive or credible. In the last elections, in 2015, the EPRDF won 100 percent of the parliamentary seats. However, following three years of protests, the EPRDF chose reformer Abiy Ahmed as prime minister in 2018. Abiy began a historic process of democratization, including releasing political prisoners, opening up Ethiopia’s previously closed political space, and holding free and fair elections in 2020. However, Ethiopia’s reformers face many obstacles, including entrenched opposition to democracy within EPRDF. However, ongoing ethnic conflict could threaten Abiy’s reforms. Nonetheless, many Ethiopians are hopeful.

Burkina Faso General – October 2020

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 19.7 million

Burkina Faso’s 2015 presidential and legislative elections – described as the most competitive in the history of the country – ushered Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of the People’s Movement for Progress (MPP) into the presidency with 53 percent of the vote. MPP, which is a member of Socialist International, won 55 of the 127 seats in the National Assembly.

The election removed Blaise Compaoré, who had come to the presidency in 1987 via a coup. Compaoré and his Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) won a series of multiparty elections between 1991 and 2015. Compaoré sought to change the electoral rules so he could run again in 2015, but a united opposition and civil society-led protests forced him out of office, with the military and then a transitional civilian government running the country until the elections.

The reform process continues, Burkina Faso’s democrats face many challenges, including corruption and the constant threat of terrorism. Nevertheless, Burkinabé civil society and media maintain a strong commitment to democracy.

South Sudan General – 2021

Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 10.2 million

South Sudan has been struggling since independence in 2011, and has been in an ethnically-based civil war since 2013, when President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar, fell out. A peace deal in 2015 did not end the conflict. In 2018, Kiir and Machar signed another peace agreement, but the implementation has been marred by delays.

The country has not held elections since independence. Kiir had been president of the semi-autonomous region while it was still part of Sudan, and he remained in office following independence. The legislature’s mandate expired in 2015 (it had been elected in 2010, before independence), and has been extended several times. The latest extension goes through May 2022. Kiir and Machar are discussing the formation of a unity government until elections can be held.

Kenya Kibra By-Election – November 7, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 48.4 million

Kenya’s next general elections are not due until 2022. The August 2017 elections were disputed, and the presidential poll was re-run in October 2017. President Uhuru Kenyatta after opposition leader Raila Odinga encouraged his supporters to boycott the re-run. Kenyan politics is highly polarized with a strong ethnic component.

Kibra constituency is located in Nairobi County and includes Kibera, often called “Africa’s  largest slum.” The seat became open when incumbent Ken Okoth died of cancer in July 2019. Okoth was a member of Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Mauritius Legislative – November 7, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 1.4 million

Mauritius is a free democracy that has seen multiple peaceful transitions of power following competitive elections, but politics are dominated by a handful of powerful families. In the 2014 elections, the social democratic Labour Party of Navin Ramgoolam lost, bringing Sir Anerood Jugnauth and his Alliance Lepep (also social democratic) back into the position of Prime Minister, which he had held on and off since 1982. In 2017, Jugnauth passed the office on to his son, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, a somewhat controversial move. Ramgoolam himself is the son of former prime minister and independence leader Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.

Botswana Parliamentary – October 23, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free 
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 2.2 million

Botswana, the world’s second-largest producer of diamonds, is a stable democracy with regular free, fair, credible elections. In 2018, President Ian Khama stepped down exactly 10 years after his inauguration, in keeping with the constitutional limit of two terms in office (his predecessor had done the same thing).

Mokgweetsi Masisi, the former vice president, is filling the role of the presidency until after the elections, when the National Assembly will choose a new president. Khama’s Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) – founded by his father, Seretse Khama – has dominated politics since independence in 1966, but soon after leaving office, Khama left the BDP to support a new party, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BFP), which has ties to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana’s main opposition coalition. The split has the opportunity to open up debate on actual policy, but it could devolve into a personal power struggle. There is concern that some of Botswana’s institutions are eroding.

The National Assembly elects a new president following the parliamentary elections.

Mozambique Presidential, Legislative, and Provincial – October 15, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 27.2 million

Mozambique’s politics have been dominated by FRELIMO, which has been in power since 1975, when Mozambique became independent, and the main opposition RENAMO. The parties evolved from armed groups that fought a civil war between 1976 and 1992 (and have engaged in clashes since then until an August 2019 peace accord). The Soviet Union backed FRELIMO, while Rhodesia and then apartheid South Africa backed RENAMO.

Mozambique faces an Islamist insurgency in the north and devastation from two tropical cyclones in spring 2019. The country discovered natural gas in 2009, and while major companies are interested in prospecting, it will be a long time before Mozambique sees gas wealth. Russia has ramped up its involvement in Mozambique’s energy and security sectors.

RENAMO disputed the results of the October 2018 local elections, where it received its best-ever result, winning eight of 53 municipalities, but lost several others it had expected to win. RENAMO alleges the losses were due to fraud and irregularities. In the upcoming elections, in addition to voting for president, citizens will elect provincial governors directly for the first time – previously, they had been appointed by the president.

These elections were characterized by violence in the lead-up, including the murder of an election observer. A breakaway faction of RENAMO threatened violence if the elections proceeded. FRELIMO won, but RENAMO alleged fraud and insisted on a re-run (which is unlikely to happen).

Upcoming Africa Elections
Nigeria Kogi and Bayelsa State Governorships and Niger State Local Government – November 16, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Party Free
Government Type: Federal Presidential Republic
Population: Nigeria – 203.5 million; Kogi State – 3.1 million; Bayelsa State – 1.7 million; Niger State – 4 million (Nigeria’s largest state)

Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa,” as Nigerians call the continent’s most populous country, has a history of military coups, and since the return to civilian rule, vote-rigging and violence have plagued elections. While the 2015 polls – which handed the opposition its first-ever victory – were considered credible, international and Nigerian observers found that the 2019 polls fell short. The country is in the midst of several security crises.

The two main political parties are the “sort-of-right” People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and “sort-of-left” All Progressives Congress (APC), plus a plethora of smaller parties. Historically, PDP has been strong in Christian areas and in the south, while APC has been strong in the mostly-Muslim north. Nigeria is about half Christian and half Muslim, and there is some religious conflict, but religion is not the only driver of conflict in the country. There is a handshake agreement that the presidency will rotate between the north and the south every eight years, regardless of which party wins; thus, for the 2019 election, both major parties chose candidates from the north. PDP nominated Atiku Abubakar to challenge APC incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, who won narrowly. APC also won a majority in the legislature.

A debate over federalism played a major role in Nigeria’s February 2019 general elections. Atiku advocated for a greater devolution of powers to state governments, a proposal that Buhari categorically opposed. Political power is currently highly centralized, but many argue that it is dysfunctional.

Voters in 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states elected governors during the general elections in February 2019. Bayelsa State in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta, and Kogi State in the Middle Belt have gubernatorial elections in mid-November. (The Middle Belt is a largely-agricultural area that forms the border between the mostly-Muslim north and mostly Christian south, and the site of a deadly conflict between farmers and herders.) PDP currently control Bayelsa (and 13 other states), and APC currently controls the remaining states, including Kogi. These state elections are taking place in the context of continued litigation over the national elections. Atiku has challenged his defeat in court, alleging electoral fraud. A tribunal rejected his complaint, and he lost his appeal.

Onwuka Nzeshi and Muhammad Bashir, New Telegraph (Nigeria): “Kogi/Bayelsa: INEC [Independent National Electoral Commission] frets over violence in guber polls”

Tanzania Local – November 24, 2019 and General – October 2020 (due)
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 55.5 million

Tanzania’s socialist Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and its predecessors have been in power since 1961. In the 2015 elections, deemed imperfect but credible by observers, John Magufuli won, and has since launched a crackdown on the opposition, media, civil society, and the private sector. The main opposition center-right Chadema, whose leader Freeman Mbowe recently spent nearly five months in prison on charges of sedition, currently holds 62 out of 384 seats in the unicameral National Assembly. Edward Lowassa, a former CCM prime minister who ran for president in 2015 as the candidate of Chadema and a coalition of other opposition parties, won 40 percent of the vote. Lowassa has since returned to CCM along with other opposition figures who have been bribed or bullied into crossing the aisle and joining the ruling party.

The Economist notes, “Today Tanzania is on the descent from patchy democracy towards slapdash dictatorship.”

Rachel Chibwete, The Citizen (Tanzania): “The government has insisted it will not call off the civic elections scheduled for November 24 even as some political parties announced boycotting the exercise because they had no faith in the electoral process.”

Khalifa Said, The Citizen (Tanzania): “Why the Opposition’s Decision to Pull Out of Nov 24 Local Government Elections Matters”

Reuters: “A Tanzanian court on Thursday [November 8] postponed the hearing for the seventh time of a prominent Tanzanian journalist arrested in July in a case his lawyers and rights group say is politically motivated.”

Guinea-Bissau Presidential – November 24, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Semi-Presidential Republic
Population: 1.8 million

In March 2019, Guinea-Bissau finally held long-delayed legislative elections. The ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) won 47 out of 102 seats, but made deals with three smaller parties to form a coalition with 54 seats, voting in Aristide Gomes as prime minister. 

Prone to coups (most recently in 2012), no elected leader has served a full term since independence from Portugal. The country remains in a political crisis, with President José Mário Vaz (known as Jomav) in a feud with his own party (PAIGC). Although analysts believed that the March 2019 legislative elections improved the situation, the country regressed once again at the end of October 2019, when Vaz fired Gomes, and Gomes refused to leave office – the third government dissolution in two years. There is a risk of a coup, and the elections could be delayed – there is a debate over whether holding the elections as scheduled or delaying them would be a better move for stability.

Nonetheless, Vaz plans to run for re-election. Dubbed a “narco-state” because the drug trade has penetrated the government, Guinea-Bissau risks once again becoming a hub for drug traffickers. 

Reuters: “Guinea-Bissau’s newly appointed Prime Minister Faustino Fudut Imbali handed in his resignation on Friday after an ultimatum was given by West African regional bloc ECOWAS, the president said. President Jose Mario Vaz named Imbali prime minister last week but his sacked predecessor Aristides Gomes refused to step down, triggering a political crisis in an already tensed context ahead of a presidential election.”

Margaret Besheer, VOA: “UN Security Council Issues Call for Stability, Elections in Guinea Bissau”

Madagascar Local – November 27, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Semi-Presidential Republic
Population: 25.7 million

Madagascar’s politics are turbulent and corruption remains a major problem. In 2009, the country had a coup. Andry Rajoelina, then the 34-year-old populist mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, declared he was in charge and ousted then-president Marc Ravalomanana. While Ravalomanana’s tenure in office was marked by economic growth, the economy slumped under Rajoelina. Elections were restored in 2013. Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina agreed not to run (although both mulled going back on this promise), and Rajoelina’s candidate, former finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina, won.

Madagascar’s most recent presidential election was in late 2018, and an initial crowd of 36 candidates included four former presidents and three former prime ministers. In the runoff, Ravalomanana faced off against Rajoelina, with Rajoelina winning (Rajaonarimampianina, finished third in the first round and thus did not make the runoff). Ravalomanana had promised to accept the result, but he contested it, and protests followed. Rajoelina’s coalition won a majority in the May 2019 parliamentary elections, but the opposition alleged fraud.

For the mayor of Antananarivo, Naina Andriantsitohaina, who recently stepped down as foreign minister, is Rajoelina’s candidate and will face off against opposition candidate Randriamasinoro Tahiry Ny Rina, secretary general of the capital’s urban community. Former president Marc Ravalomanana declined to enter the race, surprising many.

Michael Schwirtz and Gaelle Borgia, New York Times: “How Russia Meddles Abroad for Profit: Cash, Trolls and a Cult Leader –  Madagascar has little obvious strategic value for the Kremlin or the global balance of power. But Russians were there during an election, offering bribes, spreading disinformation and recruiting an apocalyptic cult leader.”

The Cipher Brief: “Russia has determined that its ongoing social media disinformation and influence campaigns provide a worthwhile return on investment, especially considering the relatively modest resources required. In the three years since the 2016 U.S. elections, in which Moscow successfully meddled, Russia has adopted this tactic as one of its primary means of intervening outside of its own borders.”

Cameroon Municipal, Legislative, and Regional – February 9, 2020 (delayed from October 2019)
Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 25.6 million

Cameroon is in the midst of several crises. Anglophone separatists seek to form a new country called Ambazonia. The government has accused them of terrorism. The crisis is currently deadlocked, with neither side willing to make concessions, leaving half a million people displaced.

Cameroon also faces a political crisis. President Paul Biya, at age 85 the oldest ruler in Africa, won re-election in October 2018, after having already spent 36 years in power. The election was marred by accusations of ballot-stuffing and intimidation of the opposition. The opposition claims Maurice Kamto actually won the election, and opposition supports have staged a number of protests, which the government answered with a harsh crackdown and hundreds of arrests, including the arrest of Kamto himself. Biya’s Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) holds 142 out of 180 seats in the lower house. The Social Democratic Front is the main opposition in the legislature and hold 18 seats, while Kamto’s Cameroon Resistance Movement (MRC) holds one seat. The political crisis has an ethnic dimension.

AFP: “Cameroon’s presidency announced Sunday that parliamentary elections will be held on February 9, in the latest sign that veteran ruler Paul Biya is seeking to end a long-running political crisis. Opposition parties reacted cautiously to the presidential decree, with one spokesman urging a reform of the electoral code before the vote.”

The Economist: ‘How to stop Cameroon collapsing into a full-fledged civil war”

Journal du Cameroun: “Cameroon: Kamto’s party vows to overthrow CPDM at upcoming elections”

Guinea Legislative – February 16, 2019 and Presidential – October 2020 (due)
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 11.9 million

Elections in Guinea routinely see significant delays and have historically been surrounded by ethnic tensions and violence. President Alpha Condé, a former opposition leader who came to power in 2010 following a transition from military to civilian rule, is prevented by the constitution from running for a third term in the presidential polls due in 2020. However, he wants to change the constitution to allow him to do so (which Russia is encouraging because Russian companies have mining interests in Guinea).

The terms of the current legislators expired in January 2019. Condé extended their mandates, and a new election date has not been set. The electoral commission had proposed holding them on December 28, 2019, but the opposition said the date was not realistic. The electoral commission subsequently announced that the elections would take place on February 16, 2020.

AFP: “The president of the electoral commission in Guinea announced on Saturday that the legislative elections, which have been delayed for months, will take place on 16 February 2020. The same chairman of the electoral commission had proposed in September the date of 28 December. The opposition and its representatives on the commission had denounced an unrealistic project and, according to them, it is a ploy to help President Alpha Condé to run for a third term in 2020.”

Stratfor: “Guinea’s President Tempts Fate to Extend His Reign”

Reuters: “Guinea President Alpha Conde announced on Monday [November 11] that he was replacing his security minister following deadly protests against suspected efforts by Conde to extend his mandate.”

Burundi Presidential and Legislative – May 20, 2020
Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 11.8 million

Burundi’s 12-year civil war ended in 2005, but since then, President Pierre Nkurunziza has turned the country into a dictatorship that former U.N. rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein described as one of “the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times.” In 2015, Nkurunziza ran for a third term, a move critics said was unconstitutional. Nkurunziza’s decision sparked a political crisis, and the election was marred by violence and a coup attempt. Nkurunziza won. Nonetheless, some opposition lawmakers did take their seats in parliament.

The upcoming elections are taking place in a climate of fear, with citizens, and especially opposition and civil society activists, being terrorized by state security apparatus and the Imbonerakure, a youth militia connected to Nkurunziza’s National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy party (a party that in fact does the opposite of defending democracy). Nkurunziza has said he would step down in 2020, but some are concerned that he will run for a fourth term. There are also fears that Nkurunziza – a former Hutu rebel commander – is ethnicizing the country’s politics, which could reignite conflict.

Desire Nimubona, Bloomberg: “Burundi’s Main Opposition Party Says About 200 Members Detained”

RFI (in French): “Russia has reaffirmed its support for the Burundi authorities a few months before the general elections to be held there. Criticized by many countries in the international community for human rights abuses and repression of the opposition, Burundi can count on Russia’s support.”

Ethiopia Parliamentary – Due May 2020
Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: 108.4 million

In 1974, communist rebels deposed Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie and instituted the Derg (“Committee”), a Marxist military junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, which brought forth famines and a collapse of Ethiopia’s economy. It governed brutally, even genocidally. Following a civil war, the Derg was ousted in 1991 by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of ethnically-based rebel militias. The EPRDF took power and morphed into a coalition of four ethnically-based political parties: Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Amhara Democratic Party (ADP), Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), and Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM). In power, EPRDF instituted a controversial ethnically-based federalist system that has led to a current climate of tension and unrest.

EPRDF has held elections regularly, but aside from the 2005 polls, none were competitive or credible. In the last elections, in 2015, the EPRDF won 100 percent of the parliamentary seats. However, following three years of protests, the EPRDF chose reformer Abiy Ahmed as prime minister in 2018. Abiy began a historic process of democratization, including releasing political prisoners, opening up Ethiopia’s previously closed political space, and holding free and fair elections in 2020. However, Ethiopia’s reformers face many obstacles, including entrenched opposition to democracy within EPRDF. However, ongoing ethnic conflict could threaten Abiy’s reforms. Nonetheless, many Ethiopians are hopeful.

Addisu Lashitew, Foreign Policy: ‘Ethiopia Will Explode if It Doesn’t Move Beyond Ethnic-Based Politics: Oromo nationalism helped bring Abiy Ahmed to power, but it could also be his undoing. To hold the country together, the Nobel-winning prime minister needs to convince various ethnic groups that he and his new party represent all Ethiopians.”

Yohannes Gedamu, The Conversation: “Why Ethiopians are losing faith in Abiy’s promises for peace”

The Economist: “An imperial palace, a prison—and now a symbolic museum: For Ethiopia’s prime minister, the country’s past is a tool of statecraft”

Burkina Faso General – October 2020
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 19.7 million

Burkina Faso’s 2015 presidential and legislative elections – described as the most competitive in the history of the country – ushered Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of the People’s Movement for Progress (MPP) into the presidency with 53 percent of the vote. MPP, which is a member of Socialist International, won 55 of the 127 seats in the National Assembly.

The election removed Blaise Compaoré, who had come to the presidency in 1987 via a coup. Compaoré and his Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) won a series of multiparty elections between 1991 and 2015. Compaoré sought to change the electoral rules so he could run again in 2015, but a united opposition and civil society-led protests forced him out of office, with the military and then a transitional civilian government running the country until the elections.

The reform process continues, Burkina Faso’s democrats face many challenges, including corruption and the constant threat of terrorism. Nevertheless, Burkinabé civil society and media maintain a strong commitment to democracy.

Jason Burke, The Guardian: “Burkina Faso security crisis grows as convoy ambush kills dozens”

South Sudan General – 2021
Freedom House Rating: Not Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 10.2 million

South Sudan has been struggling since independence in 2011, and has been in an ethnically-based civil war since 2013, when President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar, fell out. A peace deal in 2015 did not end the conflict. In 2018, Kiir and Machar signed another peace agreement, but the implementation has been marred by delays.

The country has not held elections since independence. Kiir had been president of the semi-autonomous region while it was still part of Sudan, and he remained in office following independence. The legislature’s mandate expired in 2015 (it had been elected in 2010, before independence), and has been extended several times. The latest extension goes through May 2022. Kiir and Machar are discussing the formation of a unity government until elections can be held.

Jon Temin, Foreign Policy: “South Sudan’s Proposed Unity Government Is Still Divided: Another delay won’t help achieve lasting peace. What the world’s youngest country needs is an exit strategy for its old-guard leaders.”

Silja Fröhlich, DW: “South Sudan: Waiting for a unity government – South Sudan has once again postponed the forming of a unity government. In 100 days the country is to begin a new attempt after ‘critical tasks’ are resolved. Many citizens are starting to worry about the delay.”

Past Africa Elections
Kenya Kibra By-Election – November 7, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 48.4 million

Kenya’s next general elections are not due until 2022. The August 2017 elections were disputed, and the presidential poll was re-run in October 2017. President Uhuru Kenyatta after opposition leader Raila Odinga encouraged his supporters to boycott the re-run. Kenyan politics is highly polarized with a strong ethnic component.

Kibra constituency is located in Nairobi County and includes Kibera, often called “Africa’s  largest slum.” The seat became open when incumbent Ken Okoth died of cancer in July 2019. Okoth was a member of Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Abiud Ochieng, Daily Nation (Kenya): “Nairobi was charged on Thursday as key political parties fought for the Kibra parliamentary seat in a by-election that followed MP Ken Okoth’s death in July.”

Laban Wanambisi, Capital FM (Kenya): “Jubilee candidate MacDonald Mariga has conceded defeat in the Kibra by-election and even called his competitor Imran Okoth of ODM to congratulate him on his early victory.”

Macharia Gaitho, Daily Nation (Kenya): “Kibra by-election was a sign of looming chaos in the next polls”

Mauritius Legislative – November 7, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 1.4 million

Mauritius is a free democracy that has seen multiple peaceful transitions of power following competitive elections, but politics are dominated by a handful of powerful families. In the 2014 elections, the social democratic Labour Party of Navin Ramgoolam lost, bringing Sir Anerood Jugnauth and his Alliance Lepep (also social democratic) back into the position of Prime Minister, which he had held on and off since 1982. In 2017, Jugnauth passed the office on to his son, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, a somewhat controversial move. Ramgoolam himself is the son of former prime minister and independence leader Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.

Al Jazeera: “Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has won a comfortable majority in the country’s election, according to final results released by the electoral commission. Jugnauth’s coalition, the centre-right Morisian Alliance, won four more seats in the final allocation to hold 42 of 70 parliamentary seats following Thursday’s vote [November 8], the commission said late on Saturday. The result means that his alliance secured the outright majority needed to form government alone.”

Peter Fabricius, Daily Maverick (South Africa): “Mauritius polls marred by hacking allegations: Mauritius may be a tourist haven of white palm-lined beaches and green mountains. But the campaign for Thursday’s general election has been anything but idyllic. It has been marred by unprecedented accusations of disinformation and social media fake news being produced from all sides.”

Botswana Parliamentary – October 23, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free 
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 2.2 million

Botswana, the world’s second-largest producer of diamonds, is a stable democracy with regular free, fair, credible elections. In 2018, President Ian Khama stepped down exactly 10 years after his inauguration, in keeping with the constitutional limit of two terms in office (his predecessor had done the same thing).

Mokgweetsi Masisi, the former vice president, is filling the role of the presidency until after the elections, when the National Assembly will choose a new president. Khama’s Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) – founded by his father, Seretse Khama – has dominated politics since independence in 1966, but soon after leaving office, Khama left the BDP to support a new party, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BFP), which has ties to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana’s main opposition coalition. The split has the opportunity to open up debate on actual policy, but it could devolve into a personal power struggle. There is concern that some of Botswana’s institutions are eroding.

The National Assembly elects a new president following the parliamentary elections.

Paul Friesen, Washington Post’s Monkey Cage: “Botswana’s ruling party won again. This makes 12 consecutive victories: Urban voters surprised analysts by spurning the opposition party.”

Barry Morton, The Conversation: “How Masisi outsmarted Khama to take the reins in Botswana: Mokgweetsi Masisi’s decisive victory in the recent Botswana elections over a coalition backed by his former boss, Ian Khama, is the culmination of an astonishing 10 year political career.”

Mozambique Presidential, Legislative, and Provincial – October 15, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Presidential Republic
Population: 27.2 million

Mozambique’s politics have been dominated by FRELIMO, which has been in power since 1975, when Mozambique became independent, and the main opposition RENAMO. The parties evolved from armed groups that fought a civil war between 1976 and 1992 (and have engaged in clashes since then until an August 2019 peace accord). The Soviet Union backed FRELIMO, while Rhodesia and then apartheid South Africa backed RENAMO.

Mozambique faces an Islamist insurgency in the north and devastation from two tropical cyclones in spring 2019. The country discovered natural gas in 2009, and while major companies are interested in prospecting, it will be a long time before Mozambique sees gas wealth. Russia has ramped up its involvement in Mozambique’s energy and security sectors.

RENAMO disputed the results of the October 2018 local elections, where it received its best-ever result, winning eight of 53 municipalities, but lost several others it had expected to win. RENAMO alleges the losses were due to fraud and irregularities. In the upcoming elections, in addition to voting for president, citizens will elect provincial governors directly for the first time – previously, they had been appointed by the president.

These elections were characterized by violence in the lead-up, including the murder of an election observer. A breakaway faction of RENAMO threatened violence if the elections proceeded. FRELIMO won, but RENAMO alleged fraud and insisted on a re-run (which is unlikely to happen).

AFP: “The European Union on Friday cast doubt on the credibility of Mozambique’s ruling party’s victory in last month’s election, saying its observers detected a litany of ‘irregularities and malpractices’ and called on authorities to clarify them.”

AFP: “Three people were killed in central Mozambique on Wednesday, police and witnesses said, the latest in a series of attacks following an election marred by violence and fraud allegations.”

Candace Rondeaux, World Politics Review: “In the lead-up to Mozambique’s recent elections, insurgents mounted dozens of attacks, while violence continues to roil the country despite a peace accord between Nyusi’s Frelimo party and Renamo, the former rebel group turned main opposition party. Nyusi, who was reelected apparently with a little help from the Wagner Group’s cyber counterpart, the Internet Research Agency, is only one of the growing list of Kremlin clients in Africa with leader-for-life ambitions, according to a report released last week by the Stanford Internet Observatory.”

The Year Ahead: Africa Elections

The Year Ahead: Africa Elections
Guinea legislative (overdue – mandates of current legislators expired January 13 – date not set for new elections); Chad legislative (originally due in 2015 but have been delayed several times – unclear when they will. actually happen); Cameroon parliamentary (due October but delayed – new date not set); Mozambique presidential, legislative, provincial (October 15); Botswana parliamentary (October 23); Somalia, Somaliland congressional and local (November 1, 2019 – postponed, new date not set); Malawi parliamentary by-elections (November 5); Mauritius parliamentary (November 7); Kenya parliamentary by-election in Kibra (November 7); Nigeria Kogi and Bayelsa state, plus Niger State local government (November 16); Guinea-Bissau presidential (November 24); Namibia presidential and legislative (November 27); Madagascar local (November 27); Guinea-Bissau presidential runoff (December 8); Cameroon parliamentary and local (early 2020 – postponed from October 2019); Comoros parliamentary (January); Togo presidential (April); Ethiopia parliamentary (May); Burundi presidential and legislative (May 20);  Mali Parliamentary (due June but postponed indefinitely)

Guinean president Alpha Condé with Vladimir Putin. Russia has been ramping up its activities all over Africa – its attempts to help Condé remain in office are only one example. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Kremlin (CC BY 4.0)

 

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