September 6, 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 street in Conakry, Guinea. Guinea’s military has removed President Alpha Condé, controversially re-elected last October, from office. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Soman (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Ethiopia Partial Elections: September 30, 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. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, previously a reformer (he even won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019) but most recently an authoritarian, won in a landslide. Polling couldn’t happen in several areas due to the ongoing conflict, so make-up votes are due to take place this fall. Nonetheless, Abiy has enough seats to form a new governent regardless of the results of the September elections.
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN (September 8, 2021): From Nobel laureate to global pariah: How the world got Abiy Ahmed and Ethiopia so wrong
Reuters (September 7, 2021): U.N. footage from northern Ethiopia shows humanitarian crisis
Coletta Wanjohi, SABC News (September 1, 2021): Ethiopia to form new government in October
Somalia Indirect Presidential Election: October 10, 2021 (preceded by indirect legislative elections)
Somalia does not hold direct elections, but rather holds indirect elections in a clan-based system. Currently, an indirect presidential election is planned for October 10, delayed from February 8, 2021. 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
Bloomberg News (September 6, 2021): Spy’s Death Exposes New Faultline in Somalia Before Elections
Reuters (September 6, 2021): Somali PM suspends intelligence chief amid political rift
Garowe Online (September 5, 2021): Somalia’s Lower House polls pushed to October
South Africa Local Elections: October 27, 2021
South Africa will hold local elections on October 27, 2021, although some have called for delays due to COVID-19. 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
S’thembile Cele, Bloomberg (September 6, 2021): South Africa Extends Cut-Off to Register Election Candidates
BBC (September 6, 2021): South Africa’s ex-president Zuma granted medical parole
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.
PM News Nigeria (September 4, 2021): Kaduna deploys electronic voting machines for council polls, first in Nigeria
Nimi Princewill and Sarah Dean, CNN (September 2, 2021): Schools in Nigerian state shut after mass kidnapping of students by gunmen
Chinedu Asadu, AP (September 2, 2021): EXPLAINER: Who are the gunmen abducting Nigerian students?
Ruth Olurounbi, The Africa Report (September 2, 2021): Rivalries within Nigeria’s ruling APC party raise spectre of electoral meltdown
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
Africanews (September 7, 2021): The Gambia: Critics warn of possible unrest if Jammeh’s party joins gov’t
Kemo Cham, Daily Nation Kenya (September 7, 2021): Gambia: Anger as Adama Barrow strikes deal with Yahya Jammeh’s party
AFP (September 6, 2021): Gambia ruling party merges with ex-dictator’s ahead of poll
Politics makes strange — very strange — bedfellows. Because #Gambia President Barrow fell out with Darboe's United Democratic Party, he has turned to former dictator Jammeh's party for support ahead of elections.https://t.co/MikhBbZGU3
— Judd Devermont (@JDevermont) September 6, 2021
Modou Joof, Bloomberg (September 5, 2021): Gambian President and Ex-Dictator Form Coalition Ahead of Polls
Jane Nyingi, DW (September 4, 2021): Why is Gambia’s President Adama Barrow scared of his military?
Rwanda Local Elections: 2021 (due – date not set)
Rwanda is due to hold local elections in 2021. Since the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has been stable but authoritarian. Opposition figures are frequently imprisoned and sometimes killed or disappeared.
Reuters (September 1, 2021): Rwandan president removes justice minister amid ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero trial
Alexander Dukalskis, The Conversation (August 31, 2021): How authoritarian rulers manage their international image
Senegal Local Elections: January 31, 2022
Senegal has set local elections – originally due in June 2019 but delayed several times – for January 31, 2022. Meanwhile, legislative elections are due in July 2022. More
Africanews (September 3, 2021): Senegal: Opposition coalition led by Ousmane Sonko launched ahead of local polls
Marième Soumaré, Jeune Afrique (September 2, 2021 – in French): Is the opposition coalition dead on arrival?
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.
Reuters (September 7, 2021): Mali’s Progress Toward Elections Insufficient, Says W. African Bloc
Amaury Hauchard, AFP (September 7, 2021): Impunity rules as juntas take over in Mali, Chad, Guinea
Africanews (September 5, 2021): Goodluck Jonathan back in Bamako as fears grow for Mali transition
AFP (September 3, 2021): Mali Police March on Prison, Free Commander Held in Protest Deaths Inquiry
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.
Jeff Otieno, The Africa Report (September 6, 2021): Kenya: Has Raila Odinga used up all his chances to become president?
AFP (September 3, 2021): Kenya to Appeal to Supreme Court Over Constitutional Reforms
Morris Kiruga, The Africa Report (August 31, 2021): Kenya: Raila Odinga’s options to beat Ruto narrow after BBI defeat
Kasera Nick Oyoo, The Citizen Tanzania (August 31, 2021): When a president and his deputy are on opposite sides of the fence
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
LUSA (August 31, 2021): Angola: Police stop demonstration for ‘fair, transparent’ electoral law
São Tomé and Príncipe Presidential Runoff: September 5, 2021 (delayed from August 8)
São Tomé and Príncipe (frequently called STP) held a presidential runoff on September 5, following a brief delay.
The previous president, Evaristo Carvalho, from the centrist ADI party, did not seek 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 defeated 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.
LUSA (September 8, 2021): Sao Tome: African Union observers hail ‘peaceful, calm’ presidential elections
Arnaldo Vieira, The East African (September 7, 2021): Opposition’s Carlos Vila Nova becomes Sao Tome’s new President
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.
Robert Macdonald, African Arguments (September 7, 2021): How election observers facilitated Zambia’s smooth change of power
Farai Mutsaka, AP (September 3, 2021): Zambia’s parliament elects first female speaker amid changes
Neo Simutanyi, African Arguemnts (September 2, 2021): Zambia: The three key challenges facing the hopeful new president
Nic Cheeseman, The Africa Report (September 2, 2021): Zambia: Why five is the magic number when it comes to opposition election victories
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.”
Jean-Pierre Cabestan, The Diplomat (September 2, 2021): The Somaliland Connection: Taiwan’s Return to Africa?
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
Max Bearak, Washington Post (September 6, 2021): A fiery Ugandan activist soothes her wounds and contemplates her future
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. More
Charles Kombe, Voice of America (September 5, 2021): Tanzania Opposition Condemns Arrest of Chadema Party Members
Reuters (September 5, 2021): Tanzania suspends second newspaper in less than a month
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.
In September 2021, the military removed Condé and seized power. More
Editorial Board, Financial Times (September 7, 2021): Guinea’s coup stems from crisis of legitimacy: World must do a better job at policing the deals that underpin extractive industries in some of the poorest nations
David Lewis, Edward McAllister and Saliou Samb, Reuters (September 6, 2021): ‘Unattainable power’: the frustrations that drove Guinea’s coup leader
AFP (September 6, 2021): Guinea: Latest in a line of African coups
Abdourahmane Diallo, Ruth Maclean and Mady Camara, New York Times (September 5, 2021): Special Forces Colonel Says He Has ‘Seized’ Guinea’s President
Boubacar Diallo and Krista Larson, AP (September 5, 2021): Soldiers detain Guinea’s president, dissolve government
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.
Africanews (September 2, 2021): Burundi: Rights group condemns president’s attacks on journalist
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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