Africa This Week: August 9, 2021

August 9, 2021

A weekly review 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 voter in Zambia in 2015. Zambia heads to the polls this month for crucial elections. Photo credit: Flickr/Government of South Africa (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Zambia General Elections: August 12, 2021

Zambia has scheduled general elections for August 12, 2021. They follow a hotly-contested campaign between President Edgar Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema, the main opposition leader, who narrowly lost to Lungu in 2016.

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 concerns about prospects for free and fair elections this year, and the election has once again been marred by violence. More

Neo Simutanyi, African Arguments (August 9, 2021): Zambia’s 2021 elections: unfree, unfair, unpredictable

The Economist (August 7, 2021): Zambia’s election is crucial, but it’s not a fair fight: Hakainde Hichilema deserves to be elected, but the world should prepare for a rigged vote

Obert Zimwanza with Sofia Christiensen, AFP (August 4, 2021): Tension in Zambia ahead of tightly-fought vote

Sao Tome and Principe Presidential Runoff: August 29, 2021 (delayed from August 8)

São Tomé and Príncipe (frequently called STP) is due to hold a presidential runoff, following the first round on July 18, 2021. The runoff was supposed to take place on August 8, but faced a delay because the candidate who placed third in the first round – and thus did not make the runoff – contested the results. However, a court ordered the runoff to go forward, and it will likely take place on August 29.

The current president, Evaristo Carvalho, from the centrist ADI party, is not running for a second term – the first time this has happened in STP’s history. Nineteen candidates ran to succeed him, including six from the MLSTP-PSD party, which was the ruling party during the communist era and currently heads the government.

In the runoff, former infrastructure minister Carlos Vila Nova from ADI will face off against former prime minister Guilherme Posser da Costa from MLSTP-PSD. Since the end of Marxist one-party rule in 1991, São Tomé and Príncipe has held regular elections with peaceful transfers of power, and is generally considered a free democracy.

In STP’s semi-presidential system, the prime minister holds executive power and serves as head of government, while the president serves as head of state, arbitrating within the government and representing the country.

Stefanie Palma, RFI (August 6, 2021 – in Portuguese): São Tomé and Príncipe resolves electoral imbroglio and heads to second round

Somalia Indirect Presidential Election: October 10, 2021 (preceded by indirect legislative elections in the preceding months) POSTPONED – no new date set

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. The parties reached a deal to hold the elections on October 10, 2021, but as is usually the case with Somalia, the date could change. More

Aggrey Mutambo, The East African (August 7, 2021): Federal state bosses set for kingmaker role in Somalia’s presidential election

Horn Observer (August 4, 2021): Somali PM and regional state leaders discuss upcoming elections

Abdulkadir Khalif, Daily Nation Kenya (August 3, 2021): Somalia’s South West State Elects New Senators

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. These are taking place in the context of unrest following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma for corruption. More

Dick Kotze, The Conversation (August 10, 2021): To postpone, or not to postpone? South Africa’s local elections hang in the balance

Stratfor (August 9, 2021): South Africa’s President Tries to Consolidate Power With a Cabinet Reshuffle

Reuters (August 4, 2021): South Africa’s election body to seek delay in local elections

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

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.

On May 25, Mali had another coup, but leaders have stated that the elections will remain on the calendar for 2022. However, the situation remains fluid.

Emmanuel Akinwotu, The Guardian (August 9, 2021): Mali conflict: at least 51 people killed in attack by suspected jihadists

Kenya 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 (August 9, 2021): Kenya Caps Political Financing Ahead of Next Year’s Election

Christine Mungai, The Africa Report (August 3, 2021): Kenya: How the Appeal Court could shape the 2022 election 

Chad Elections: By December 2022 (tentative, post-coup)

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

Madjiasra Nako, RFI (August 7, 2021 – in French): Chad: March for a change of course in the transition, at the call of the Wakit Tama [opposition and civil society] coalition

Adeoye O. Akinola, Premium Times Nigeria (August 6, 2021): Africa’s security dilemmas and the looming crisis in Chad

South Sudan Elections: December 2022 (planned)

South Sudan plans to hold elections in December 2022, the first since independence in 2011. 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. Additional election delays are possible.

Abdi Latif Dahir, New York Times (August 9, 2021): Deadly Clashes Threaten South Sudan’s Shaky Peace Deal: Infighting within the vice president’s party is undermining an already unstable ruling alliance that was formed after a five-year civil war killed 400,000 people.

Eswatini Parliamentary Elections: August 2023 (due)

Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is an absolute monarchy. The country does hold parliamentary elections, but the parliament does not actually have much power, and the elections are tightly controlled, without much choice for voters. In late June, a series of pro-democracy protests began, and they continue to date.

Vito Laterza, Al Jazeera (August 7, 2021): Can eSwatini’s monarchy recover from the ongoing crisis?

Sudan General Elections: 2024 (due)

Sudan plans to hold general elections in 2024, the culmination of a five-year transition to democracy that began with the July 2019 removal of dictator Omar al-Bashir following several months of protests. Al-Bashir was removed in a military coup, and a junta ruled briefly, but entered into an agreement with the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), a wide-ranging coalition of opposition groups, to transition the country to democracy. However, numerous challenges remain.

Benedict Moran and Jorgen Samso, NPR (August 7, 2021 – video with transcript): In Sudan, a new revolution to keep the spirit of an old revolution alive

Past Africa Elections

Ethiopia General Elections: June 21, 2021

Ethiopia held general elections on June 21, 2021, after several postponements. These elections took place in the context of increasing ethnic violence that has reached crisis levels. More

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institution (August 9, 2021): Dangerous trends in Ethiopia: Time for Washington’s tough love

Max Bearak and John Hudson, Washington Post (August 5, 2021): Samantha Power has long championed humanitarian intervention. Ethiopia’s crisis is putting her to the test.

Reuters (August 5, 2021): USAID chief concerned by ‘dehumanising rhetoric’ in Ethiopia amid war in Tigray region

Benin Presidential Election: April 11, 2021

Benin held a 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

Jean de Ruyt, Emerging Europe (August 9, 2021): The EU must stand for justice and democracy in Benin

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, and then-vice president Samia Suluhu Hassan became the country’s first female president. Some have hoped that she would enact reforms geared toward restoring democracy. However, arrests of opposition figures continue. More

Charles Kombe, Voice of America (August 5, 2021): Tanzania Opposition Supporters Arrested as Leader’s Case Postponed 

Nolan Quinn, Council on Foreign Relations (August 4, 2021): Arrests of Tanzanian Opposition Underline Need for Constitutional Reform

Reuters (August 4, 2021): U.S. voices concern at Tanzania’s arrest of opposition politician

Burundi General Elections: May 20, 2020

Burundi held presidential, legislative, and communal elections on May 20, 2020. They were denounced as neither free nor fair and characterized by intimidation (and sometimes murder) of the opposition, political violence, and a lack of media freedom. However, there have recently been signs that could indicate that the country is beginning to open up a bit more political space.

Lorraine Nkengurutse, African Arguments (August 6, 2021): Burundi: How different is President Ndayishimiye?

Africa Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Zambia Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections: August 12, 2021

Sao Tome and Principe Presidential Runoff: August 29, 2021 (Proposed – delayed from August 8)

Somalia Indirect Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 10, 2021 (Delayed – no new date set)

Cabo Verde Presidential Election: October 17, 2021

South Africa Local Elections: October 27, 2021

Nigeria, Anambra State Gubernatorial Election: November 6, 2021

Gambia Presidential Election: December 4, 2021

Angola Local Elections: Overdue, might possibly happen in 2021

Senegal Local Elections: January 31, 2021

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

Gambia Parliamentary Elections: April 2022 (due)

Burkina Faso Local Elections: May 2022 (due)

Lesotho Parliamentary Elections: June 2022 (due)

Republic of Congo Legislative Elections: July 2022 (due)

Senegal Legislative Elections: July 2022 (due)

Kenya Presidential and Legislative Elections: August 9, 2022

Angola Legislative Elections: August 2022 (due)

Sao Tome and Principe Parliamentary Elections: October 2022 (due)

Equatorial Guinea Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

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