Africa This Week: August 30, 2021

August 30, 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.

Downtown São Tomé. São Tomé and Príncipe holds a presidential runoff on September 5. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Helena Van Eykeren (CC BY 2.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

São Tomé and Príncipe Presidential Runoff: September 5, 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, but has been delayed to September 5.

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.

Oscar Medeiros, Voice of America (August 26, 2021 – in Portuguese): The electoral campaign for the second round of the Presidential in São Tomé and Príncipe begins

Carina Branco, RFI (August 26, 2021 – in Portuguese): São Tomé and Príncipe: Sociologist warns of risk of post-electoral instability

Somalia Indirect Presidential Election: October 10, 2021 (preceded by indirect legislative elections)

Somalia plans to hold to hold an indirect presidential election on October 10, delayed from February 8, 2021, following indirect parliamentary elections in December 2020. 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 believed 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

Ismail D. Osman, Garowe Online (August 27, 2021): Somalia’s Electoral Crisis [A Chance for True Democracy in Somalia]

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

Lizeka Tandwa, Mail and Guardian (August 29, 2021): Political parties prepare for battle for the local government elections

S’thembile Cele, Bloomberg (August 27, 2021): Anti-Graft Drive Chokes South African Ruling ANC’s Poll Funding

Nigeria, Anambra State Gubernatorial Election: November 6, 2021, followed by several state elections in 2022, and general elections in 2023

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, holds general elections in February 2023, but some states are due to hold elections before that, including Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city and economic hub.

In addition, potential 2023 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.

Sada Malumfashi, The Africa Report (August 25, 2021): Nigeria: Is the northern voting bloc of Buhari falling apart?

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.

RFI (August 29, 2021): Ecowas welcomes release of Mali’s former interim leaders from house arrest

Al Jazeera (August 27, 2021): Mali releases ex-interim president and PM from house arrest: Their detention by military officers in May marked Mali’s second coup since the overthrow of President Keita.

Reuters (August 27, 2021): Mali’s former prime minister arrested over corruption claims

Olivier-Rémy Bel and Petr Tůma, Atlantic Council (August 27, 2021): A cable from Mali: How to bring Bamako back from the brink

Burkina Faso Local Elections: May 2022 (due)

Burkina Faso is due to hold local elections in May 2022. These follow presidential and parliamentary elections on November 22, 2020, in the context of a growing security crisis as well as political uncertainty as the country’s democrats seek to consolidate the young, fragile democracy. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore won re-election. More

Africanews (August 28, 2021): Burkina Faso vows major security changes after deadly attack

Nadoun Coulibaly, The Africa Report (August 24, 2021): Islamic State, GSIM, al-Qaeda: The jihadist gold rush in Burkina Faso

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.

The Economist (August 28, 2021): Kenya’s judges do their duty. A pity about its politicians

Christine Mungai, The Africa Report (August 27, 2021): Why Kenya’s judges will shape next year’s presidential elections

Helen Nyambura and Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg (August 27, 2021): Next Africa: William Ruto’s Star Is Rising in Kenya

Emmanuel Onyango, BBC (August 26, 2021): Kenya’s Deputy President Ruto campaigns for ‘Hustler Nation’

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.

RFI (August 30, 2021): Protests banned in Juba as South Sudan inaugurates new parliament

Reuters (August 30, 2021): Internet disrupted, streets quiet in South Sudan after call for protests

AFP (August 30, 2021): Activists go into hiding as South Sudan warns against protests

Zimbabwe General Elections: July 2023 (due)

Zimbabwe is due to hold elections in 2023. These will be the second since the 2017 coup that led to the fall of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s longtime dictator, who left a legacy of gross economic mismanagement and political repression. However, democracy continues to face many challenges in Zimbabwe.

Michelle Chifamba, The Africa Report (August 27, 2021): What’s really behind Zimbabwe’s POLAD scheme: Power or democracy?

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.

On June 20, 2021, a series of protests calling for democratic reform began. Protests continue.

Fundile Maphanga and Christopher Vandome, Chatham House (August 25, 2021): eSwatini monarchy must address demands for democratic reform

Democratic Republic of the Congo General Elections: December 2023 (due)

The DRC is due to hold general elections in 2023. The 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.

Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala, The Africa Report (August 25, 2021): DRC: ‘Elections in 2023 are not an option, but an obligation,’ says Moïse Katumbi

Past Africa Elections

Zambia General Elections: August 12, 2021

Zambia held August 12, 2021 following a hotly-contested campaign between President Edgar Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema, the main opposition leader, who narrowly lost to Lungu in 2016. Ultimately, Hichilema won the presidential election in a landslide, restoring hope in Zambia’s democracy.

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. Similarly, this year, despite concerns about violence and the larger pre-election environment – as well as a social media shutdown on election day – observers judged the polls credible. Lungu initially took a page from Donald Trump’s playbook and alleged fraud, but ultimately conceded defeat. Hichilema’s liberal United Party for National Development (UPND) also won a majority in the parliamentary election.

Tatenda Mazarura and Arnold Tsunga, Daily Maverick (August 30, 2021): Zambian elections: The good, bad and the ugly

Farai Mutsaka, AP (August 24, 2021): Zambians cheer inauguration of new leader Hakainde Hichilema

Stephanie Busari and David McKenzie, CNN (August 24, 2021): Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema sworn in as President in rare victory for an African opposition leader

Somaliland Parliamentary and Local Elections: May 31, 2021

Somaliland held its long-overdue parliamentary and local elections on May 31, 2021. The two main opposition parties, Waddani and UCID, together won more seats in parliament than the governing Kulmiye party. Waddani and UCID will team up to choose a parliament speaker and on local councils (where they also won). Somaliland is a presidential system, so there’s no PM. President Muse Bihi Abdi from Kulmiye remains head of state. But it is significant for democracy that the opposition won the “midterms.”

Somaliland has de facto but not internationally-recognized independence from Somalia, and has a much more developed democracy, with direct elections. More

Armen Rosen, Tablet (August 29, 2021): An Almost-Country in the Desert That Doesn’t Care About Your Understanding of Politics: Observing the recent elections in Somaliland

Namibia Local and Regional Elections: November 25, 2020

Namibia held local and regional elections on November 25, 2020. Namibia is a free, stable democracy, but since independence from South Africa in 1990, Namibian politics have been dominated by the socialist Swapo, an independence movement-turned-political party. 

Swapo took a hit in these elections, losing control of the city council in the capital, Windhoek, and other cities. More

Regional Analysis

Rajen Harshé, Observer Research Foundation (August 26, 2021): Contours of Russia’s creeping expansionism in Africa

Africa Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Sao Tome and Principe Presidential Runoff: September 5, 2021 (Proposed – twice delayed, from August 8 and August 29)

Ethiopia Partial Elections: September 30, 2021 (Following delays)

Somalia Indirect Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 10, 2021 (Tentative)

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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