8 Presidential Elections To Watch As Africans Fight For Democracy

8 Presidential Elections To Watch As Africans Fight For Democracy

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With citizens going to the polls in at least 12 African countries in 2015, this year and the next two years are critical year for African democracy. Leaders are reaching their term limits and some don’t want to give up power.

Already, peaceful transitions of power have happened in Nigeria and Lesotho, while Sudan and Ethiopia maintained the status quo.

Ballots in Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso are expected to be contested.

Over the last 20 years, Some African countries got it right. Africa saw major advances in democracy with Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania proving African leaders can transition peacefully from one administration to another.

However it’s still common in Africa for some presidents to try and extend terms of power by amending the constitution. There are also some countries that have no presidential term limits.

Elections become tainted by proposed constitutional amendments that undermine democracy and result in political and economic turmoil that create a risky scenarios for investors.

Ongoing events in Burkina Faso – as well as human rights violations, arbitrary arrests, and alleged murder of activists in Burundi have tragic consequences and make a mockery of democracy in Africa.

Here are 8 upcoming or recent presidential elections to watch as Africans demand democracy.

Sources: GlobalRiskInsightsAfricaResearchInstitute, NationalDemocraticInstitute, BrookingsUSNewsAFPAP.

Africans Fight For Democracy
People demonstrate near the presidential palace after soldiers arrested Burkina Faso’s transitional president Sept. 16. Photo: Theo Renaut/AP

Burkina Faso

Presidential election: Oct. 11

With Burkina Foaso’s volatile leadership undergoing coups, the job falls on Interim President Michel Kafando to organize an election to install a democratic government. An election was originally scheduled for Oct. 11. ECOWAS leaders suggested a Nov. 22 election date and recommended that allies of ousted President former President Blaise Compaore be prevented from participating as candidates. Compaore was ousted in a popular uprising in October.

Source: USNews.

Africans Fight For Democracy
Women wait to enter a voting station in Guinea, 2010. Photo: UNDP/globalvoicesonline


Presidential election: Oct. 11

Violence broke out in the past week with supporters of rival political factions clashing in Northern Guinea as tension mounts in the race to elect a new president.
The ruling party and opposition sealed a deal in August on the organisation of the election, raising hopes for a peaceful one, but the opposition parties say President Alpha Conde has reneged on the deal.
European Union observers will oversee elections throughout the country.

Source: AFP

Africans Fight For Democracy
Catherine SambaPanza, interim president and first female leader of Central African Republic, Jan. 20, 2014. Photo: AP

Central African Republic

Presidential election: Oct. 18

At least 36 people died over the weekend and 80 were injured in sectarian violence in the Central African Republic capital of Bengui.

Fighting began early Saturday when Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood after the dead body of a Muslim man was left near a mosque, according to Ousmane Abakar, a Muslim community leader.

Security Minister Dominique Said Paguindji said on state radio Sunday that the violence was meant to upset the transitional government put in place in January 2014, as it prepares for Oct. 18 presidential and legislative elections.

S0urce: AP

Africans Fight For Democracy
Edward Lowassa, Tanzania’s opposition presidential candidate, speaks at a campaign rally Sept. 25. Photo: Khalfan Said/AP


Presidential election: Oct. 25

Although it is one of the poorest countries in the world with few exportable minerals, Tanzania has managed to avoid the ‘typical’ political violence of most Africa countries. Tanzania has not only been peaceful; it continues to maintain its status as one of African’s strongest democracies. With more than 100 tribes, tribalism is almost non-existent during elections.

The upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections – expected to be the closest contested since independence – are due to be held on Oct. 25. Although the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has won all four elections since the end of the one-party system in 1995, opposition has made remarkable improvements.

No doubt CCM has a strong advantage, but it has lost seats to opposition in the two previous national elections and may lose more in next month’s elections. However, it is rather too soon to conclude which party will win in October. Despite current economic setbacks, political stability will help maintain investor confidence in Tanzania’s economy.

Source:  GlobalRiskInsights

Africans Fight For Democracy
Former Ivory Coast Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny leads the National Coalition for Change, a coalition of 13 opposition group leaders in Ivory Coast. Photo: politicoscope

Ivory Coast

Presidential election: Oct. 25

Ivorians face many challenges including issues such as citizenship; government impunity; entrepreneurship; full participation of all groups in wealth creation; and peaceful coexistence. All these issues have contributed to past violent conflicts. Whoever wins the elections should form a government that reflects the country’s ethnic and religious diversity so that it can effectively lead a credible reconstruction effort.

Incumbent Allasane Ouattara is considered a likely winner of the 2015 presidential contest, thanks to his endorsement by Bédié, one of the country’s political heavyweights.

Source: Brookings

Africans Fight For Democracy
Scene from 2011 elections in DRC. Photo: Jerome Delay, AP

Democratic Republic of Congo

Presidential election: Nov. 27, 2016

In Democratic Republic of Congo, no less than 40 people were killed in January protests, which were sparked by plans to revise electoral laws. Opposition parties had called for mass protests against the new electoral bill being debated in parliament, a draft law that would allow President Joseph Kabila to extend his stay in power beyond 2016.

Fortunately, the parliament actually amended the controversial census bill following the four-day nationwide protests, and now election officials have announced that the next presidential election will be held in November 2016.

President Kabila is yet to state whether or not he will leave office when his term ends in 2016, though his spokesperson has stated that Kabila does not intend to flout the constitution. After many years of war, democratic progress will only be consolidated by free and fair elections in November 2016. Failure to respect civil liberty and honour the constitution of Africa’s fourth most-populous country threatens investment and economic growth.

Source: GlobalRiskInsights

Africans Fight For Democracy
Congo opposition supporters in 2011 show what they claim are badly printed photocopies of election ballots found in Kinshasa. Photo: Jerome Delay/AP


Presidential election: 2016

Although Congo-Brazzaville is one of the major oil-producing states on the continent, much of its population continues to live in extreme poverty following decades of instability. In 2009, an investigation by France alleged President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and his family of acquiring assets in France using public funds, including 112 bank accounts and an automobile worth $224,492.

Under the 2002 constitution of Congo-Brazzaville, the president can be re-elected only once and must be under the age of 70 years. Sassou-Nguesso’s second term in office ends in 2016, when he will turn 72.

On March 27, Sassou-Nguesso announced his government’s plan to hold a referendum to change sections of the constitution so he can stand for a third consecutive term in office. In July, he announced a national forum to discuss series of constitutional reforms, including scrapping the two-term limit and removing the maximum age limit for presidential candidates.

To make matters worse, Sassou Nguesso replaced two of his cabinet ministers in August after they participated in an opposition-led consultation against the government’s attempts to review the constitution. He is also soon expected to announce a commission that will propose a new draft constitution ahead of the proposed referendum.

In a country that currently enjoys fragile peace, such moves may cause agitation, political crisis, and investor flight in Congo-Brazzaville.

Source: GlobalRiskInsights

Africans Fight For Democracy
Rwandan President Paul Kagame campaigns during the 2010 elections. Party members want a constitutional amendment to remove term limits. Photo: AFP


Presidential election: 2017

Rwanda is a small landlocked country recovering from genocide, ethnic strife and civil war in the mid-1990s. Although poverty remains widespread, Rwanda appears stable and efforts to rebuild the economy under the leadership of President Paul Kagame have yielded remarkable development and reduced poverty and inequality.

Similar to the constitution of Congo-Brazzaville, the 2003 Rwandan constitution limits presidential terms to two seven-year terms. Kagame ends his second term in 2017, and is therefore banned by the constitution from standing for re-election.

Although Kagame has not yet declared an intention to remain in power beyond 2017, possible attempts at abolishing term limits would serve to overshadow benefits from previous economic gains.

Source: GlobalRiskInsights