Africa 2015. Elections: More contentious than usual

Crucial elections will take place in Zambia, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. In Tanzania: the ruling party with internal divisions and in Burundi irregularities in the census of the voters.

On the electoral front, the year begins with a first important challenge; the presidential election in Zambia, scheduled for the 20 January. The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Stephen Kampyongo urged on the last 8 December the Police to step up measures to ensure peace before, during and after the election and urged all political parties to adhere to the provisions of the Electoral Code of Conduct. Such call is justified, since after President Michael Sata’s death on the 28 October, the police had to open fire over the heads of the participants of the ruling Patriotic Front’s national conference on the last 1 December. The party is indeed divided between supporters of the Defence Minister, Edgar Lungu and those of Miles Sampa, supported by the acting President Guy Scott who brought their dispute to the High Court.


On the 14 February, the world’s attention will be focussed on Africa’s most populated nation and first economy, Nigeria, where presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial elections will take place in a context which will be more contentious than usual, predicts the International Crisis Group think tank. There are indeed tensions within and between the two main parties, President Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). There are competing claims to the presidency between northern and Niger Delta politicians and along religious lines, as some of Jonathan’s rivals feel that it is now the turn of a Muslim to lead the country. The terror spread by the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency and increasing communal violence in northern states along with insufficient preparations by the electoral commission, may contribute to make the forthcoming electoral contest, a volatile and vicious one, warns ICG.
In Lesotho, general elections are scheduled for the net 28 February, following the dissolution of the parliament by King Letsie III in early December in the wake of the 30 August coup against Prime Minister Tom Thabane. The King’s reaction is intended to bring peace back to the country but there are concerns about the validity of the upcoming election since the army will participate in the transportation of ballots to remote areas. Rivalry between the military might complicate the equation.

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Two challengers have already announced that they would participate in the presidential race in Togo against the incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé which should take place at the end of March. One is software engineer Alberto Olympio, the grand nephew of the country’s first president Sylvanus Olympio who was assassinated during a coup staged by Faure’s father, Gnassingbé Eyadema while the second is Jean-Pierre Fabre, who is supported by the National Alliance for Change.

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During the second week of April, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan will seek to be re-elected. Some 42 parties had registered by early December to participate to the parliament elections which will take place at the same time including Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) but other opposition parties call for delaying the elections ending the formation of a national government during a transitional period to oversee credible elections.
In Mauritius, on the 5 May, will take place the parliament elections. Very little suspense is expected since observers anticipate the victory of a grand coalition between Prime Minister Navin Rangoolam’s Labour Party and the leader of opposition and former Prime Minister, Paul Bérenger, leader of the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) who both control the largest parties of the country.
In Ethiopia the next elections, due in May, will likely see another win for the ruling party, but Ethiopia’s western partners will be hoping for some opening up of a political space that has constricted since 2005.


In Burundi, local elections will take place on the 26 May, followed by the first round of the Presidential election on the 26 June, the Senate elections on the 17 July and rather unlikely by the second round of the Presidential election on the 27 July. Tensions may be sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s will to get a third mandate, despite the rejection in March 2014 by the National Assembly of a constitutional reform which would amend Article 96 to allow him to run. There is also a widespread irritation caused by the irregularities in the census of the voters, condemned by the chairman of the Roman catholic bishops conference, Mgr Gervais Banshimiyubusa on the last 7 December.
In Tanzania, presidential and parliament elections are scheduled for October. One year before, four main opposition parties (the Chadema Party, the Civic United Front, the NCCR and the National League for Democracy) have agreed to work together to end the 50 years dominance of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. The block also agreed to cooperate in a ‘No’ campaign for a referendum on a draft constitution scheduled for April 2015. The challenge is whether the opposition party can unite to offer a change of power. But the CCM’s challenge is to put an end to internal divisions. Ongoing power struggle over the presidential succession race is threatening to weaken the ruling party.

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In Burkina Faso, parliament and presidential elections are due in November to elect the successor of Blaise Compaoré, who was overthrown on the last 31 October, by opponents to a constitutional change that would have allowed him to run for another mandate. Neither interim President Michel Kafando, a former Minister of Compaoré or the Prime Minister, Lieutenant-colonel Isaac Zida, the head of the Presidential guard who were sworn in on the last 21 November, will run, since no member of the interim government is allowed to participate to the November 2015 elections. But many think that the military who hold four portfolios will try to press for arrangements that is convenient for them.
François Misser


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