October 18, 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 beach in Calhau, Cabo Verde. The opposition won Cabo Verde’s presidential election on October 17. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Henryk Kotowski (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Upcoming Africa Elections
Somalia, Puntland Direct Local Elections: October 25, 2021 and Indirect Presidential Election: February 8, 2022 (tentative – 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 this has been pushed to February 8, 2022. Additional delays are possible.
Meanwhile, the self-declared autonomous state of Puntland plans to hold its first-ever direct local elections on October 25. More
Dalsan Radio Mogadishu (October 18, 2021): Somalia: Lower House Elections to Commence Next Week – PM Roble
Mohamed Sheikh Nor, The Africa Report (October 18, 2021): Kenya – Somalia: What does ICJ’s verdict mean for Mogadishu?
Peter Muiruri, The Guardian (October 14, 2021): Kenya rejects UN court judgment giving Somalia control of resource-rich waters: ICJ ruling aggravates fractious relations between two countries and threatens to destabilise restive region
Abdi Latif Dahir, New York Times (October 12, 2021): Why a Sea Dispute Has Somalia and Kenya on Edge
Harun Maruf, Voice of America (October 11, 2021): AU Endorses Joint Mission with UN for Somalia
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
Linda Givetash, Voice of America (October 18, 2021): South Africa’s Local Elections Test Loyalty to Party of Mandela
Kevin Ritchie, IOL South Africa (October 16, 2021): Elections could be the end of big party dominance, says analyst
S’thembile Cele, Bloomberg (October 15, 2021): Hostage Drama Leaves South African Government Red-Faced
Gerald Imray, AP (October 15, 2021): South Africa arrests 56 for taking Cabinet ministers hostage
The Telegraph (October 15, 2021): South African ministers ‘held hostage’ during meeting with veterans: 56 people were arrested after a meeting between anti-apartheid veterans and the country’s Defence Minister went awry
AFP (October 14, 2021): Zuma blasts judiciary, backs ANC in first speech after parole
Daniel Silke, Daily Maverick (October 13, 2021): The most unpredictable elections since the dawn of South Africa’s democracy
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.
In a shock move, Barrow announced an alliance with Jammeh ahead of December’s election. More
Carley Petesch, AP (October 17, 2021): Gambian Toufah Jallow tells of surviving rape by dictator
Amat Jeng, Al Jazeera (October 15, 2021): The Gambia’s democratic transition is facing a litmus test
AFP (October 14, 2021): Gambia presidential hopeful prepared to prosecute ex-dictator Jammeh
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
Mehdi Ba, Jeune Afrique (October 13, 2021 – in French): Senegal: Why the Ousmane Sonko matter is not going anywhere
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.
Africanews with AFP (October 18, 2021): ECOWAS delegation visits Mali, seeks assurance on elections
Anne-Fleur Lespiaut, France24 (October 14, 2021 – video): French forces begin northern Mali drawdown: ‘The idea is not to create a vacuum’
Baba Ahmed, AP (October 14, 2021): Mali’s Timbuktu fears jihadis as France reduces troops
Brian Carter and Emily Estelle, Critical Threats (October 14, 2021): Africa File: Mali–Wagner Group deal threatens counterterrorism gains in the Sahel
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.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs, New York Times (October 14, 2021): Biden Promotes Vaccine Donation in Meeting With Kenya’s President
Son Gatitu, The Africa Report (October 14, 2021): Kenya 2022 elections: Let the game of numbers begin
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
Andres Schipani and David Pilling, Financial Times (October 19, 2021): African politics: Lourenço pledges to end Angola’s economic ‘storm’
Cláudio Silva, African Arguments (October 18, 2021): How the radical became normal in Angola
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.
Human Rights Watch (October 18, 2021): Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan remains vital
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
Daniel Eizenga, World Politics Review (October 12, 2021): Chad’s ‘Political Transition’ Is a Smokescreen for Military Rule
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.
Reuters (October 16, 2021): Congo protests turn violent as lawmakers select electoral commission chief
Sudan General Elections: By 2024 (due)
Sudan plans to hold general elections by 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.
Simon Marks and Mohammed Alamin, Bloomberg (October 18, 2021): The Man Choking Sudan Economy’s Lifeline Says Government Must Fall
Dave Lawler, Axios (October 18, 2021): U.S. envoy to visit Sudan as “most dangerous” crisis intensifies
Michael Atit, Voice of America (October 18, 2021): Massive Pro-Military Sit-In Shakes Sudan Democracy Efforts
Reuters (October 17, 2021): Sudan protesters call for military coup as political crisis deepens
Mohammed Alamin and Simon Marks, Bloomberg (October 11, 2021): Government Split Poses New Threat to Sudan Democratic Transition
Guinea Elections: TBD, following coup
On September 5, 2021, Guinea’s president, Alpha Condé, fell in a military coup. Guinea’s political future remains uncertain, but regional and international bodies, as well as Guinean civil society and political groups, have urged elections.
Condé was re-elected in October 2020 amid violence. He sought and won 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 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
Trevor Filseth, National Interest (October 16, 2021): Guinean Coup Leader Purges Army in Consolidation of Power
Luke Hurt and Peter Cai, East Asia Forum (October 16, 2021): Simandou is China’s poisoned chalice
Jane Flanagan and Sam Bradpiece, Times of London (October 14, 2021): Lauriane Doumbouya: Russian trolls target Guinea’s first lady to stir up resentment in Africa
Hathias Hounkpe, African Arguments (October 14, 2021): ECOWAS in Guinea: Tough on coups, tame on the causes of coups
Jim Wormington, Human Rights Watch (October 11, 2021): What is the Future of Guinea’s Mining Sector After the Coup?
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.
Jane Flanagan, Times of London (October 18, 2021): Africa’s last king takes revenge on rebel pupils
AFP (October 16, 2021): Eswatini Shuts Schools Amid New Wave of Protests
Lunga Masuku, Reuters (October 14, 2021): Pro-democracy protests flare up in Eswatini
Voice of America (October 13, 2021): Police Shoot, Kill Pro-Democracy Protester in Eswatini
Michelle Gavin, Council on Foreign Relations (October 12, 2021): Swazi Students Resist Monarchy to Continue the Fight for Democracy: The world should not look away from Swazis’ continuing fight for democracy.
Past Africa Elections
Cabo Verde Presidential Election: October 17, 2021
Cabo Verde, a stable democracy with regular elections and peaceful transfers of power, held a presidential election on October 17, 2021, following parliamentary elections that took place on April 18, 2021. The incumbent center-right MpD won the parliamentary elections, defeating the socialist PAICV (which had run Cabo Verde as a one-party state until 1990, but MpD won a historic victory in 2016). However, José Maria Pereira from PAICV won the presidential election – more of a ceremonial role in Cabo Verde’s parliamentary system.
Cabo Verde’s strategic location in the Atlantic has made it the site of increasing geopolitical competition between the U.S., NATO, and the EU on one hand and China on the other. While PAICV advocates strong links with Beijing, and has a party-to-party relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, current PM Ulisses Correia e Silva from MpD advocates stronger links with NATO and the West. More
LUSA (October 18, 2021 – in Portuguese): Cape Verde Elections: UN emphasizes “democratic maturity”
AFP (October 18, 2021): New Cape Verde president vows to work with rival prime minister
Julio Rodrigues, Reuters (October 18, 2021): Opposition candidate Neves wins Cape Verde election
Maria Da Luz Neves, AFP (October 14, 2021): Cape Verde votes for president Sunday to set post-Covid course
Cameroon Municipal, Legislative, and Regional Elections: February 9, 2020 (delayed from October 2019)
Cameroon holds elections, but President Paul Biya, at age 85 the oldest ruler in Africa, has been in power since 1982, most recently winning re-election in 2018. Elections in the country, including the most recent, have been 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.
Cameroon is in the midst of several other 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.
Michelle Gavin, Council on Foreign Relations (October 18, 2021): Cameroon Presidential Succession Looms Large in Solving Country’s Political Crises
Guinea-Bissau Presidential Election: November 24, 2019
In March 2019, Guinea-Bissau finally held long-delayed legislative elections. The ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) won 47 out of 102 seats, but made deals with three smaller parties to form a coalition with 54 seats, voting in Aristide Gomes as prime minister. Subsequently, Umaro Sissoco Embaló won the November 2019 presidential election, defeating incumbent José Mário Vaz and 10 other candidates.
Prone to coups (most recently in 2012), no elected leader has served a full term since independence from Portugal. The country remains in a political crisis, with President José Mário Vaz (known as Jomav) in a feud with his own party (PAIGC). Although analysts believed that the March 2019 legislative elections improved the situation, the country regressed once again at the end of October 2019, when Vaz fired Gomes, and Gomes refused to leave office – the third government dissolution in two years. There is a risk of a coup, and the elections could be delayed – there is a debate over whether holding the elections as scheduled or delaying them would be a better move for stability.
Africanews with AFP (October 15, 2021): Guinea-Bissau’s coup attempt : French president promises support for country
Africanews (October 15, 2021): Guinea-Bissau army says foiled plot to overthrow government
The Elephant (October 18, 2021 – podcast): Elections in East Africa: Democratising Force or a Violence Flashpoint?
Africa Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022
Somalia, Direct Local Elections in Puntland: October 25, 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 23, 2021
Somalia Indirect Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 8, 2022 (Tentative, following numerous delays – additional delays possible)
Mali Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 27, 2022 (following coup – delays possible)
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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