EXCLUSIVE: 2015 AFRICA POLLS: History made, blood shed
It witnessed the first peaceful transfer of power between civilian presidents in Nigeria, Burkina Faso electing its first civilian leader in about three daces and incumbents retained power in Guinea, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Togo retaining power.
In Tanzania, Africa’s longest ruling party survived a scare. Burundi remains in crisis after Pierre Nkurunziza secured his controversial third term as president in violation of the Arusha Accords.
CAJ News Africa provides a review on the year that was, election-wise, in alphabetical order.
Nkuruziza made a bid to alter his country’s constitution for personal gain.
After failing, he pressured Burundi’s high court to falsely declare his third term candidacy constitutional, a clear violation of the Arusha peace agreement, which has guided Burundi since the end of its bloody civil war.
Amid a coup and a string of delays in holding the polls, in July, the electoral commission announced Nkurunziza had won the election with 69 percent of the vote.
Agathon Rwasa was placed second and credited with 19 percent despite the National Forces of Liberation candidate calling for a boycott.
Nkurunziza’s National Council for the Defense of Democracy described the re-election as a “stunning victory” and a “divine miracle.”
In his inauguration in August, he described his re-election as “a victory of all Burundians.”
Nkurunziza’s power grab has split the country and brought significant violence and bloodshed.
Dialogue initiated by the East African Community (EAC), international condemnation and sanctions imposed by the United States have not stopped the violence.
Some critics and opposition members have been killed.
The most significant story this year is without doubt the elections in the impoverished Burkina Faso held in November.
Roch Marc Christian Kabore, emerged the first democratically-elected leader in nearly 30 years.
Kabore was elected to 53,49 percent of the votes, against 29,65 percent for Zéphirin Diabré, main opponent and candidate of the Union for Progress and Change (UPC).
The latter conceded defeat minutes before the official announcement by the regulator and immediately went to the rival People’s Movement for Progress (PPM) headquarters to congratulate the president-elect.
PPM secured 34 percent of the National Assembly to the UPC’s 20 percent.
Elections were scheduled for October 11 but postponed because of the military coup carried out by General Diendéré Gilbert earlier in the year.
Longtime leader, Blaise Campaore, was ousted from power by a popular youth upheaval in October last year. After 27 years in power, he sought to change the constitution so that he could run for presidency yet again.
With the globally-endorsed poll, the country has laid a foundation to rebuild a country beset by years of violence, human rights violations and poverty.
The international community has pledged its support to political and economic reforms.
Parliamentary elections were held in Ethiopia, the most populous landlocked country in the world (100 million), in May.
The result was a victory for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which won 500 of the 547 seats.
Allies of the EPRDF won the remaining seats. The opposition called the election an “undemocratic disgrace.”
Another West African country, Guinea, held presidential elections also in October.
Incumbent Alpha Condé of the Rally of the Guinean People received 58 percent of the vote in the Ebola-ravaged country.
Closest rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo of Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UDFG) polled 31 percent.
Violence during the election campaign, including clashes between supporters of Condé and Diallo in Koundara, led to the deaths of at least three people.
Street protests and complaints of electoral fraud met the results announcements.
Conde’s second term begins on Monday (December 21).
In October, Alassane Outtara won a second term convincingly after amassing about 84 percent of the national vote ahead of his closest rival Pascal Affi N’Guessan, an ally of former president Laurent Gbago, of the Alliance of Democratic Forces.
N’Guessan secured a meagre 9 percent.
Outarra represented the Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace.
The polls were generally peaceful and have been internationally endorsed, in stark contrast to the forgettable 2010 poll outcome the incumbent Gbago rejected.
The ensuing five-month civil war, the second in the former French colony, killed some 3 000 people.
Inasmuch as the economic revival of Outtara’s first term has been a welcome development, the leader has faced criticism for not doing enough for reconciliation and justice.
The second term offers him that opportunity.
Southern Africa had its own share of controversial elections.
In February, the Basotho voted in parliamentary and presidential elections. These were snap elections, called two years ahead of time, and were designed to drag the country out of the political and constitutional crisis which had left its government crippled for the past year.
The polls were a tightly-contested affair. The opposition Democratic Congress (DC) managed to form a coalition government as no party achieved an outright majority.
Led by Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili, it garnered 38,37 percent of the vote to Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention, which was inches close with 37,75 percent.
Local and international monitors declared the poll as ‘peaceful, transparent, credible, free and fair.’
In the polls held in March, former military ruler and dictator, Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, bounced back to power after defeating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Widespread violence did not break out, as was feared. When the commission declared Buhari the winner of the presidential election, rather than fight the result, Jonathan gracefully congratulated his opponent and bowed out.
Buhari secured the win with almost 54 percent while Jonathan polled about 45 percent. APC dominates the National Assembly with 62 percent. PDP has 34 percent.
Steven Feldstein, United States Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, described it as perhaps the most significant achievement in democracy in the continent this year.
That was before polls were held in fellow West African country, Burkina Faso!
This archipelago in the Indian Ocean, lying 1 500 east of mainland East Africa, held Presidential elections between December 3 and 5.
As none of the six candidates received more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, a second round was ongoing at the time of going to press (December 16-18).
Incumbent, James Michel, of the People’s Party, secured more than 47 percent of the vote, ahead of Wavel Ramkalawan, the Seychelles National Party hopeful who amassed about 34 percent.
Since the establishment of the Third Republic, which saw the return of multi-party system in 1993, the ruling party has won every single presidential election in the first round and this is the first time there is a run-off presidential election.
Formerly the continent’s biggest country in terms of land size, the North Africa-cum-East African nation in April held its first election following the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
Incumbent President Omar al-Bashir, in power since 1989, won the presidential election by a 94 percent landslide, amid a boycott from the majority of the opposition.
The ruling National Congress party also won a majority in the 426 seat National Assembly- representing 83 percent of the vote, out of sight from the closest rival, Democratic Unionist Party, which secured 4,8 percent.
The international community was divided of the conduct of the poll.
Understandable. Al-Bashir is a divisive figure the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.
Mugufuli, until his ascendancy to the Presidency the Minister of Works, won a tightly-contested poll against former Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa, garnering 58 percent of the total vote to Lowassa’s 40 percent.
Lowassa, a former Prime Minister and erstwhile member of the ruling party disputed the election result citing vote rigging but did not a sustained challenge to have the poll nullified.
Local and international observers endorsed the poll that was held in a largely peaceful atmosphere.
He had mounted a strong challenge leading the coalition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema).
It was the slimmest margin the ruling party against a challenger to the presidency. Likewise its dominance in the National Assembly was decimated to 51 percent against 31 percent to its closest rival, Chadema.
The ruling party also lost seats in key areas including Arusha, Dar-es-Salaam and Kilimanjaro.
Chaos characterised the poll in Zanzibar where results where results were annulled. The semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar elects its own President and members to its sub-national legislature.
Electoral authorities reported youths invaded polling stations with view of causing chaos, some party agents were thrown out of polling stations, votes were tampered with, and electoral commissioners exchanged blows because of differences among themselves, among other disturbances.
It was the first time in the history of Zanzibar that an election has been scrapped.
A rerun appears more likely, despite continued negotiations to strike a political deal on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous island.
Incumbent Faure Gnassingbé was re-elected President in April in a poll that had main challenger leader Jean-Pierre Fabre of the National Alliance for Change crying foul the poll was rigged in favour of the Union for the Republic front man.
He described the result as a “crime against national sovereignty” after his rival won with 59 percent.
The outcome extended the Gnassingbe family’s nearly five decades in power in the West African country.
Fabre, who secured 35 percent of the vote, was among four candidates that entered the race to end the incumbent’s reign, to no avail.
The opposition decided not to challenge the results at Togo’s Constitutional Court because it was allegedly biased in favour of the president.
Observers declared the election free and transparent and the United Nations approved of the conduct of the vote.
The first elections of the year in the continent following the death of incumbent President Michael Sata, three months earlier aged 77.
The margin of victory was narrow, Edgar Lungu, of the ruling Patriotic front securing 48,33 of the ballot ahead of the United Party for National Development’s Hakainde Hichilema, trailing with 46,67 percent of the vote.
Hichilema denounced the election as a sham.
Sata’s successor will serve the remainder of his five-year term until the next general election in September 2016.
Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in the Central African Republic between December 27 (Parliamentary election and first round of the Presidential election) and January 31 (Presidential runoff election).
Mounting violence between Christians and Muslims led to the postponement of polls scheduled for October.
Désiré Nzanga Kolingba, Sylvain Patassé, Jean-Serge Bokassa-all sons of former heads of state, are vying for power alongside former President François Bozizé, who was overthrown in 2013.
The situation is already tense before polls are held in some countries in 2016.
The heads of state of Rwanda, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are watching proceedings in Burundi as they have an eye towards extending their own respective presidencies, despite term limit prohibitions.
South Africa, the continent’s second largest economy will be hosting its local government elections in May with three main parties expected to wrestle for municipal control. The three main parties comprise the governing African National Congress ANC), main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
– CAJ News
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