May 17, 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 beach in Mauritius. Although Mauritius has long been a free democracy, there has recently been a worrying trend of authoritarian backsliding. The country is due to hold local elections in June, but delays are likely. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Romeodesign (CC BY 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.
Somaliland celebrates 30 years of de facto independence in May 2021. More
Congrats to my #Somaliland friends on the 30th anniversary of renewed independence. What you've done largely on your own since 18 May 1991 – including democratic presidential, legislative & municipal elections – deserves recognition, esp. compared to #Somalia's continued failure. pic.twitter.com/rHhQQiBqPV
— Dr. J. Peter Pham 🇺🇲 (@DrJPPham) May 18, 2021
EU Ambassador to Somalia @NBerlangaEU, has visited today electoral warehouse in Hargeisa where ballot papers are ready to be dispatched to polling stations. Somaliland’s regional parliamentary and local governments elections will take place on May 31. pic.twitter.com/06EzPfvOHL
— SNTV News (@sntvnews1) May 16, 2021
Taiwan Times (May 12, 2021): Taiwan Ally Somaliland To Release Detained Election Candidates
Ethiopia General Elections: June 5, 2021 (Postponed indefinitely)
Ethiopia has once again postponed its general elections that had been scheduled for June 5, 2021, the latest of several postponements. These elections are taking place in the context of increasing ethnic violence that has reached crisis levels. More
BBC News (May 17, 2021): Why Ethiopia election delay could spark new crisis
Reuters (May 17, 2021): Social media restrictions lifted in Ethiopia, NetBlocks says
National elections in Africa’s second-most populous country have been postponed for a second time until an as yet unknown date. https://t.co/2uSH2HuWA5
— euronews (@euronews) May 15, 2021
AP (May 15, 2021): Ethiopia again delays national election amid deadly tensions
Nike Ching, Voice of America (May 11, 2021): Ethiopia Must Set Right Environment for Election, US Says
Martina Schwikowski, DW (May 11, 2021): Ethiopian election expected to deepen rifts
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, and some have raised concerns about authoritarian backsliding. More
Roukaya Kasenally, African Arguments (May 12, 2021): Mauritius: A picture perfect democracy’s fall from grace
São Tomé and Príncipe Presidential Election: July 2021 (due)
São Tomé and Príncipe is due to hold a presidential election in July 2021. 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. More
LUSA (May 14, 2021): Sao Tome: Governing party presidential candidate pledges ‘stability, governability’
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
In neighbouring Zambia, the election campaigns kicked off today. We will be airing the events as they unfold in support for good governance, Joseph Kalimbwe and his team will be sharing ideas as Zimbabwe also starts to prepare for 2023. #Africa pic.twitter.com/BWEkZDnb1P
— Lighthouse News Zimbabwe (@LHNewsZimbabwe) May 17, 2021
James Kunda, Andalou Agency (May 12, 2021): Electoral campaign kicks off in Zambia: 19 candidates including incumbent Edgar Lungu are in fray for presidential polls scheduled on Aug. 12
Committee to Protect Journalists (May 12, 2021): Zambian columnist Sishuwa Sishuwa could face sedition charge for opinion piece on election
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
Wayne Sussman, Daily Maverick (May 16, 2021): Election battles in the big metros – City of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni
Reuters (May 14, 2021): Suspended top S.African ruling party official takes Ramaphosa to court
Mogomotsi Magome, AP (May 11, 2021): South Africa’s president suspends party secretary-general
S’thembile Cele, Bloomberg (May 11, 2021): South Africa’s Ruling Party Faces Funding Squeeze Ahead of Vote
Nigeria Anambra State Gubernatorial Election: November 6, 2021, followed by 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.
Anambra State, in the country’s southeast, holds a gubernatorial election in November.
Nwokoye Mpi, The Africa Report (May 17, 2021): Nigeria’s Anambra State election will show where 2023 winds blowing
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
Aggrey Mutambo and Patrick Ilunga, The East African (May 17, 2021): Kenya-Somalia quarrel threatens AU efforts to broker political deal
Selam Tadesse Demissie and Andrews Atta-Asamoah, ISS Today (May 14, 2021): Trust deficit keeps Somalia’s leaders at loggerheads
Aggrey Mutambo, The East African (May 12, 2021): Amisom to get mandate extension to December
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.
Stratfor (May 17, 2021): A Kenyan Court Blocks the Government’s Plan to Reshape Itself
Gautam Bhatia, The Elephant (May 17, 2021): The Kenyan High Court’s BBI Judgement: An Instant Classic
Ferdinand Omondi, BBC News (May 14, 2021): Kenya’s BBI blocked in scathing court verdict for President Kenyatta
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
Switching off private television stations Record TV Africa, Vida TV, and Zap Viva a year before elections with threats of more closures points to ploy to silence Angola President João Lourenço's critics: https://t.co/L7nW2T6BHB @IFESAfrica @EISAfrica @achpr_cadhp
— IFEX (@IFEX) May 17, 2021
Committee to Protect journalists (May 14, 2021): Angola suspends 3 TV channels for alleged improper registration
Estelle Maussion, The Africa Report (May 13, 2021): Lourenço’s Angola: The winners, the losers and the escape artists
Senegal Local Elections: January 23, 2022
Senegal has set local elections – originally due in June 2019 but delayed several times – for January 23, 2022. Meanwhile, legislative elections are due in July 2022.
Most recently, the arrest of an opposition leader sparked protests. More
Marième Soumaré, Jeune Afrique (May 13, 2021 – in French): Elections in Senegal: Could Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall be candidates?
APA (May 12, 2021 – in French): Senegal: disagreement on the date of local elections in the spotlight
In #Senegal, local elections that had been controversially postponed twice before and could be a referendum on Macky Sall following some of the worst anti-government protests will be held on 23 Jan 22. pic.twitter.com/3SmJhzgqlr
— Beverly Ochieng (@BeverlyOchieng) May 11, 2021
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.
AFP (May 14, 2021): Mali’s interim prime minister to form new government
Africanews (May 12, 2021): Observers from ECOWAS regional bloc in Mali to assess government’s progress
Past Africa Elections
Chad Presidential Election: April 11, 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
Zeinab Mohammed Salih, The Guardian (May 17, 2021): ‘On bad days, we don’t eat’: Hunger grows for thousands displaced by conflict in Chad
RFI (May 16, 2021): Chad: a possible candidacy of the transitional Prime Minister worries the MPS
Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy (May 13, 2021): Biden Defaults to ‘War on Terror Approach’ to Chad
Line Engbo Gissel and Troels Burchall Henningsen, The Conversation (May 12, 2021): Legacy of Chad’s gatekeeper politics lives on beyond Déby – and carries grave risks
Eline Rosenhart, Moshe Dayan Center (May 11, 2021): The Death of Chad’s Warrior President: What it Means for the Region and the World
Djibouti Presidential Election: April 9, 2021
Djibouti held a presidential election on April 9, 2021. Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, who has been president since 1999, won a fifth term amid opposition boycotts and protests. Under Guelleh, Djibouti (which is strategically located on the Bab-el-Mandeb chokepoint) has been pivoting toward China, although the U.S. and other democracies continue to have military bases there. More
John Hursh, African Arguments (May 11, 2021): What Guelleh missed in trying to turn Djibouti into the “Singapore of 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
Bobi Wine, The Guardian (May 14, 2021): Young Ugandans are being brutally oppressed. They must be allowed a voice
Faustine Ngila, Daily Monitor Uganda (May 14, 2021): Africa is paying heavily for Internet shutdowns
Sophie Neiman, World Politics Review (May 12, 2021): Uganda’s Museveni Unleashes a Reign of Terror
Al Jazeera (May 12, 2021): Uganda’s President Museveni takes oath to kick off his sixth term
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 governance. Sectarian clashes have been taking place since 2013. Moreover, Russia has ramped up its political and military involvement in exchange for mining rights. More
Grégoire Sauvage, France24 (May 13, 2021 – in French): Who is the French man arrested in Bangui with “a war arsenal”?
Christian Eboulé, TV5Monde (May 13, 2021 – in French): Central African Republic: the arrest of a French national, a symbol of Franco-Russian rivalry?
Jean Ferand Koena, AP (May 11, 2021): French man arrested in Central African Republic
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.
Regina Sondo, Mail and Guardian (May 17, 2021): Cameroon’s democratic repositioning: Is the republic now a de facto monarchy?
Africa Elections in 2021 and 2022
Somaliland Parliamentary and Local Elections: May 31, 2021
Gambia Constitutional Referendum: June 5, 2021
Mauritius Local Elections: June 2021 (due – delay likely)
Kenya Constitutional Referendum: June/July 2021 (delay or cancellation likely)
Sao Tome and Principe Presidential Election: July 18, 2021
Zambia Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections: August 12, 2021
South Africa Municipal Elections: October 27, 2021
Cabo Verde Presidential Election: October 17, 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 23, 2021
Mali Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 27, 2022 (following coup)
Burkina Faso Local Elections: May 2022 (due)
Republic of Congo Legislative Elections: July 2022 (due)
Lesotho Parliamentary Elections: June 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)
Sudan General Elections: Late 2022 (due)
Ethiopia General Elections: Postponed indefinitely
Somalia Elections: Postponed indefinitely
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