Africa This Week: May 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

Your weekly roundup of news and analysis of elections in Africa, usually posted on Mondays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

A street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Ethiopia heads to the polls in June despite several crises. Photo credit:
Wikimedia/Sam Effron (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Somaliland Parliamentary and Local Elections: May 31, 2021

Somaliland has scheduled its long-overdue parliamentary and local elections for May 31, 2021. Somaliland has de facto but not internationally-recognized independence from Somalia, and has a much more developed democracy, with direct elections. More

Saeed Shukri, The Elephant (May 3, 2021): Unrecognized Vote: Somaliland’s Democratic Journey

Harun Maruf, Voice of America (April 28, 2021): Somalia President Drops 2-year Term Extension, Accepts Dialogue with Political Rivals

Ethiopia General Elections: June 5, 2021

Ethiopia has scheduled general elections for June 5, 2021, after several postponements. These elections are taking place in the context of increasing ethnic violence that has reached crisis levels. More

François Picard, Charles Went, and Juliette Laurain, France24 (May 3, 2021 – video): Which way for Ethiopia? Abiy cracks down on regional revolts ahead of elections

DW (May 3, 2021): EU cancels election observation mission to Ethiopia

Neamin Ashenafi, The Reporter Ethiopia (May 1, 2021): What do party manifestos tell us?

Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic (April 29, 2021): The Fleeting Promise of a Peaceful Ethiopia

Zambia General Elections: August 12, 2021

Zambia has scheduled general elections for August 12, 2021. Zambia used to be a model democracy in the region, with regular, competitive elections and a vibrant civil society. However, under Edgar Lungu, elected in 2015 to complete the term of Michael Sata (who died in office), Zambia began to regress toward authoritarianism. The 2016 elections were  marred by political violence and allegations of vote-rigging but ultimately judged credible. However, there are fears that Lungu could try to rig the 2021 elections. More

Ronald Lwere Kato, Africanews (May 3, 2021): Zambian president to seek re-election in August vote

Christophe Le Bec, The Africa Report (May 3, 2021): DRC/Zambia: Is copper Africa’s new oil?

Alexandra Wexler and Nicholas Bariyo, Wall Street Journal (Aprll 27, 2021): After Default, Zambia’s Outsized Bet on Copper Could Play Into China’s Hands

Fumba Chama, African Arguments (April 27, 2021): Irony and panic as Zambia’s authoritarianism turns to intellectuals

South Africa Local Elections: October 27, 2021

South Africa will hold local elections on October 27, 2021. Voters will elect councils for all municipalities in each of the country’s nine provinces. More

Mmusi Maimane, News24 (April 29, 2021): Direct elections will bring about true freedom for South Africans

Al Jazeera (April 28, 2021): S Africa’s Ramaphosa admits ANC ‘mistakes’ before graft panel

Somalia Presidential Election: Postponed

Somalia was supposed to hold an indirect presidential election on February 8, 2021, following indirect parliamentary elections in December 2020. However, the elections have been delayed, and the term of President Mohamed “Farmaajo” has expired, leaving Somalia in a political and constitutional crisis. In April 2021, Farmaajo sought to extend his term for two years, but parliament voted to reject the extension.

While the United States and the EU threatened sanctions, some analysts believe that the delay could pave the way for direct elections. However, critics dismiss this idea as a ruse to justify Farmaajo’s extension of his term. More

Reuters (May 2, 2021): Somalia’s parliament votes to cancel presidential term extension

David Malingha, Bloomberg (May 1, 2021): Political Crisis in Somalia Raises Security Risk For Region

Al Jazeera (May 1, 2021): Somali lawmakers vote for country to hold indirect elections

The Economist (May 1, 2021): Somalia’s power-hungry president has taken his country to the brink

AFP (April 28, 2021): Somali president calls for elections after worst political violence in years

Mali Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 27, 2022 (following coup)

Mali has set presidential and legislative elections for February 27, 2022, following the August 2020 coup. In the coup, soldiers removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, dissolved parliament (which had just been elected in April, in elections marred by fraud and intimidation) and established a transitional government. Before that, there will be a constitutional referendum on October 31, 2021 and local and regional elections on December 26.

Aïssatou Diallo, The Africa Report (April 28, 2021): Mali: Who’s who in the race to the 2022 presidential poll?

Nigeria Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 23, 2023

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, holds elections in February 2023, but potential candidates have already begun jockeying for position. 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.

Damilola Agbalajobi, The Conversation (May 3, 2021): Nigeria has few women in politics: here’s why, and what to do about it

Christine Chege, Africa Practice (April 30, 2021): The road to 2023: What to look out for ahead of Nigeria’s elections

Tope Sunday, Blueprint Nigeria (April 29, 2021): Nigeria’s elections recorded 1,932 deaths in 16 years — NGO

Lukman Abolade, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (April 28, 2021): Nigeria’s general election to commence on February 18, 2023 -INEC

Past Africa Elections

Chad Presidential Election: April 11, 2020 and Parliamentary and Local Elections: October 24, 2021

Chad held a presidential election on April 11, 2021. President Idriss Déby, seized power in a rebellion in 1990, won a sixth term. However, on April 20, he was killed by rebels.

Although the country holds elections, there has never been a change in power by a free or fair vote. Long-delayed long-delayed parliamentary elections had been set for October 24, 2021 and local elections for April 2022. Originally due in 2015, the legislative elections have been delayed multiple times. However, Deby’s death could lead to further delays – the military has said it plans to rule the country for 18 months. More

Daniel Eizenga, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (May 3, 2021): Chad’s Ongoing Instability, the Legacy of Idriss Déby

Reuters (May 3, 2021): France says Chad transitional govt must be temporary

Krista Larson, AP (May 3, 2021): Chad military council announces key ministerial posts

Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz, The Conversation (May 2, 2021): Restricting digital media is a gamble for African leaders

Kyrre Berland and Chris Brew, African Arguments (April 28, 2021): Chad: France firmly backs continuity, but will the people?

Benin Presidential Election: April 11, 2021

Benin helda presidential election on April 11, 2021. Incumbent Patrice Talon won a second term after largely keeping the opposition off the ballot. Previously a model democracy in the region,  Benin has seen democratic decline since Talon’s election in 2016. More

Christina Cottiero, Washington Post (May 3, 2021): Benin’s militant problem may worsen after last month’s election

John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations (April 30, 2021): Benin’s Democracy Continues its Downward Spiral

Mark Duerksen, The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (April 27, 2021): The Dismantling of Benin’s Democracy

Cabo Verde Parliamentary Elections: April 18, 2021 (followed by a presidential election on October 17, 2021, and following local elections last year)

Cabo Verde, a stable democracy with regular elections and peaceful transfers of power, held parliamentary elections on April 18, 2021. The incumbent center-right MpD won, defeating the socialist PAICV (which had run Cabo Verde as a one-party state until 1990, but MpD won a historic victory in 2016).

Cabo Verde’s strategic location in the Atlantic has made it the site of increasing geopolitical competition between the U.S., NATO, and the EU on one hand and China on the other. While PAICV advocates strong links with Beijing, and has a party-to-party relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, current PM Ulisses Correia e Silva from MpD advocates stronger links with NATO and the West. More

Kizzi Asala, Africanews with AFP (May 1, 2021): Côte d’Ivoire: Pro-Gbagbo exiles return and prisoners released

AFP (April 28, 2021): Full election results give Cape Verde ruling party majority

Central African Republic Partial Legislative Elections and Runoffs: March 14, 2021

The Central African Republic (CAR) held presidential and partial legislative elections on December 27, 2020 in the midst of a worsening security situation. Rebels disrupted voting in some areas, so consequently, those constituencies held the first round of their legislative elections on March 14, 2021. In addition, some of the constituencies that did vote on December 27 held runoff elections for their legislators.

These elections took place in the context of a humanitarian crisis and a crisis of governanceSectarian clashes have been taking place since 2013. Moreover, Russia has ramped up its political and military involvement in exchange for mining rights. More 

Adrienne Surprenant, The New Humanitarian (April 29, 2021): Central African troops and Russian mercenaries accused of abuses in anti-rebel offensive

Côte d’Ivoire Parliamentary Elections: March 6, 2021

Cote d’Ivoire held legislative elections on March 6, 2021, following the turbulent October 2020 presidential election, in which President Alasanne Ouattara sought and won a controversial third term. The opposition boycotted the presidential election. Protests followed, as well as arrests of opposition members. However, following discussions and the release of some opposition figures, the opposition participated in the legislative elections. More

Benjamin Roger and Vincent Duhem, The Africa Report (April 29, 2021): Côte d’Ivoire: What’s in store for Laurent Gbagbo upon his return?

Uganda General Elections: January 14, 2021

Uganda held presidential and legislative elections on January 14, 2021. President Yoweri Museveni has held power since 1986, but this time faced possibly his biggest challenge yet in the form of 37-year-old pop star Bobi Wine. Following the elections, the government launched a brutal crackdown on the opposition. More

Derrick Wandera, Daily Monitor Uganda (May 3, 2021): Bobi rallies Opposition in new pro-reform fight

Halima Athumani, Voice of America (May 3, 2021): Ugandan Journalists Face Physical Danger While Doing Their Jobs

Tanzania General Elections: October 25, 2020

Tanzania held presidential and legislative elections on October 25, 2020 in the context of a crackdown on the opposition and growing authoritarianism. President John Magufuli, whose Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has been in power since 1961, won a second term, but the opposition said the elections were neither free nor fair. Opposition figures have been arrested, assaulted, and murdered. 

However, in March 2021, Magufuli died of COVID-19. More

Georja Calvin-Smith and Laura Di Blasio, France24 (May 3, 2021 – video): Tanzania’s new president ready to amend media laws

Erick Mwakibete, The Citizen Tanzania (May 2, 2021): Is CCM a party in perpetual transition?

Reuters (May 1, 2021): Tanzania’s new president plans income tax cut, other economic changes

Democratic Republic of the Congo General Elections: December 30, 2019

The DRC’s December 2018 presidential and legislative elections, which took place after multiple delays, were mired in controversy and dispute. The election commission declared opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi the winner of the presidential poll, but the Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 election observers and is a highly trusted institution in the country, said that their data indicated a victory for another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu. When Kabila’s chosen successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, was polling too poorly for Kabila to credibly rig the election for him, Kabila cut a deal with Tshisekedi. The legislative elections – also highly disputed – produced a majority for Kabila’s coalition. Major opposition figures Moïse Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba were barred from the polls and spent the election cycle outside the country, but both have returned. The opposition holds that Kabila is still in control.

Human Rights Watch (April 29, 2021): DR Congo: Prioritize Justice for Serious Crimes

Stephen R. Weissman, Foreign Policy (April 28, 2021): Why Did Washington Let a Stolen Election Stand in the Congo?

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

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.

Moki Edwin Kindzeka, Voice of America (April 30, 2021): Cameroon Groups Call for President’s Son to Succeed Father

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