Africa This Week: May 10, 2021

May 10, 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.

Biete Abba Libanos, one of the famous rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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

The Economist (May 8, 2021): Somaliland, an unrecognised state, is winning friends abroad

Nasir M. Ali, The Elephant (May 5, 2021 – video): Somaliland 2021 elections: an insider’s perspective

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

Michelle Gavin, Council on Foreign Relations (May 7, 2021): In Ethiopia, Peace Requires Domestic Reconciliation

EU Observer (May 5, 2021): EU scraps Ethiopia election-monitoring plan

Euractiv/AFP (May 5, 2021): Troubles pile up ahead of Ethiopia’s first polls under Abiy

Abdi Ismail Samatar, Daily Maverick (May 5, 2021): Ethiopia at a democracy crossroads ahead of elections in June

Seeye Abraha Hagos, Foreign Policy (May 4, 2021): Why Eritrea Won’t Leave Ethiopia

Mauritius Municipal Elections: Due by June 2021 (delay possible)

Mauritius is due to hold municipal elections in June 2021. The country is generally considered a free democracy that has seen multiple peaceful transitions of power following competitive elections, but politics are dominated by a handful of powerful families. However, recent protests have raised the political temperature. More (May 7, 2021 – in French): Council of Ministers: towards postponing municipal elections

Kenya Constitutional Referendum: June 2021, followed by General Elections: August 9, 2022

Kenya is due to hold general elections on August 9, 2022. The last elections, in August 2017, were disputed, and the presidential poll was re-run in October 2017. President Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election after opposition leader Raila Odinga encouraged his supporters to boycott the re-run. Kenyan politics is highly polarized with a strong ethnic component.

David Herbling, Bloomberg (May 7, 2021): Kenya Lawmakers Back Plan to Reshape State, End Vote Clashes

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

Africanews (May 5, 2021): “We need free and fair elections” – Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema

Nicole Beardsworth, The Conversation (May 4, 2021): Why Zambia’s upcoming poll risks tipping the balance against democracy

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

Jason Felix, News24 (May 7, 2021): Voting during a pandemic: IEC forges ahead with plans for local govt elections

Marianne Merten, Daily Maverick (May 6, 2021): Ramaphosa dodges opposition barbs on ANC factional battles, suspensions, elections and vaccines

Patrick Pierson, Washington Post (May 6, 2021): South Africa’s ruling party is going after corrupt leaders. That’s only half the problem.

Chandré Gould, ISS Today (May 4, 2021): Lessons in preventing violent protest in South Africa

Gambia Presidential Election: December 4, 2021

Gambia is due to hold its first presidential election since it began its remarkable transition to democracy in 2016, when citizens removed dictator Yahya Jammeh – who had come to power in a coup and ruled for 22 years – peacefully, via the ballot box. In a surprising election result, opposition candidate Adama Barrow won the presidency with the backing of a coalition of seven opposition parties. However, the process of establishing democracy and recovering from Jammeh’s brutal dictatorship has not been easy.

Although Barrow had initially pledged to serve only one term, he plans to run for re-election, which has sparked controversy and protests. More

Adama Tine, The Point Gambia (May 6, 2021): Gambia: ‘Jammeh Leaves a Legacy of Atrocities for Gambians’

Momodou Jawo, The Point Gambia (May 4, 2021): Post dictatorship election, Gambia Press Union expresses journalists’ safety concern

Senegal Local Elections: March 28, 2021 (delayed – no new date set)

Senegal was supposed to have local elections in June 2019. However, the country’s election commission first postponed to late 2020, and then postponed them yet again, to March 28, 2021. However, the elections have been delayed again, and no new date has been set. Meanwhile, legislative elections are due in July 2022. 

Most recently, the arrest of an opposition leader sparked protests. More

Charlotte Idrac, RFI (May 5, 2021 – in French): Senegal: Opposition rejects the conclusions of the electoral register audit

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.

Bokar Sangaré, Jeune Afrique (May 6, 2021 – in French): Elections in Mali: a territorial reform under pressure

Angola Legislative Elections: August 2022 (due) and Local Elections: Overdue, no date set

Angola, which has never held free elections, and has been ruled by the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), a former armed group, since independence in 1976, is due to hold legislative elections in August 2022. In addition, the country is overdue to hold its first-ever local elections. These elections have already been delayed multiple times (most recently in September 2020), and no date has been set. Meanwhile, COVID-19 provides an excuse for additional delays. In short, it is unclear when – or whether – the local elections will actually happen.  More

Daniel Ribant, Jeune Afrique (May 7, 2021 – in French): DRC, China, Europe, United States: Diplomacy according to João Lourenço

Lynsey Chutel, Foreign Policy (May 5, 2021): The Downfall of an Angolan Dynasty

South Sudan Elections: Due in 2022

South Sudan has not held elections since independence. Salva 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.

Al Jazeera (May 9, 2021): South Sudan president dissolves parliament as part of peace deal

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

Kizzi Asala, Africanews/AFP (May 7, 2021): Somalia: Opposition fighters withdraw from Mogadishu

Reuters (May 7, 2021): Somalia revives ties with Kenya after nearly six-month break

Stratfor (May 5, 2021): Reversing a Controversial Law Won’t End Somalia’s Political Crisis

David Malingha, Bloomberg (May 5, 2021): Budget Pressures Spur Somalia to Resolve Political Crisis

Aggrey Mutambo, The East African (May 4, 2021): Farmaajo, nationalist hero and ‘defender of the republic’, fights for survival

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.

Emmanuel Remi Aiyede, The Conversation (May 9, 2021): Nigeria’s electoral system is still broken. Here’s a list of what’s urgent

John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations (May 6, 2021): Nigeria: Anxiety Over Deteriorating Security Morphing Into Panic

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

Reuters (May 9, 2021): Chad military claims victory over rebels in the north

Moki Edwin Kindzeka, Voice of America (May 8, 2021): Chad’s Military Council Seeks Central African States Support

RFI (May 6, 2021 – in French): Chad: opposition calls for national meetings to find a consensus solution

TV5Monde (May 5, 2021 – in French): In Chad, in President Déby’s clan, negotiations not to “lose everything”

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

Tyson Roberts, Washington Post (May 7, 2021): Benin continues to slide toward autocracy

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

RFI (May 10, 2021 – in French): Côte d’Ivoire: the of victims of the post-electoral crisis give voice

AFP/Le Monde (May 7, 2021 – in French): Return of Laurent Gbagbo to Ivory Coast: the date will be known when everything is “ready”

Jessica Moody, The Conversation (May 6, 2021): Peacebuilding in Côte d’Ivoire: why it’s hard to reintegrate combatants and achieve justice

Guinea Presidential Election: October 18, 2020

Amid violence, Guinea held a presidential election on October 18, 2020. Incumbent Alpha Condé ran for a controversial third term, and for the third time, faced off against opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo. Both candidates claimed they won, but election officials declared Condé the winner. However, Diallo is challenged the results, alleging fraud and prompting street protests leading to at least 10 deaths. The government arrested a number of opposition members following the election. More

AFP (May 9, 2021): Guinea to put 60 people on trial for unrest

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