In 2017, more African countries will pursue the democratic path by conducting presidential, legislative and municipal elections.
A public survey of elections conducted by the Pan-African research network Afro-barometer last year showed Africans distrust in national electoral commissions and the quality of their elections.
Just over 40% of Africans in 36 countries believed that the last elections in their country were free and fair; 25% said they trusted their electoral commissions “a lot”; and many described elections where bribery was rampant, media bias persisted, and voters were often threatened with violence at the polls.
Yet elections across the continent are always markers of important democratic milestones and are followed closely by observers and citizens alike.
In 2016, Ghana was massively congratulated after the country elected Nana Akufo-Addo as its new president. Several incumbent presidents, including Zambia’s Edgar Lungu, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon all won re-election too—despite protests from opposition members, violence, and internet shutdowns.
And after 22 years in power, The Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, who once said he will rule for “one billion years” conceded defeat live on television, only to reject the outcome of the elections a few days later. Incumbent president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is considered a frontrunner and is among dozens of candidates who are vying for the 2017 presidency.
As the election season draws closer and closer… 5 major elections to look out for are;
Kenya (Election date: 8th August 2017)
1900 public officials including the president, senators, county governors, members of the national and county assemblies, and women county representatives are expected to be elected in the August 8th, 2017 elections in Kenya. Since Kenyatta came to power in 2013, the country has been plagued with deadly terrorist attacks; teachers, nurses and doctor strikes; failing banks; and several corruption scandals that have drained tens of millions of dollars from government coffers.
8th August 2017 is yet another high-stakes election, which is tilted in favour of incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. The two, however, will go into election facing an energised opposition who have used the administration’s failing as a rallying point.
Kenyatta will likely face Raila Odinga, a longtime opposition figure who has been angling to become president for almost 20 years. With a British court recently convicting two British businessmen of bribing election commissioners to get contracts for printing ballots, the opposition keeps accusing the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of being inept and biased.
Kenya walks a tight rope and depending on how the IEBC conducts the election, might see it maintain its fragile democracy or slide into yet another gloomy post-election period. Like previous elections in the past two decades, the fear of violence, ethnic polarisation, and escalating political tensions looms large.
2. Angola (Election date: August 2017)
The 2017 elections will test the maturity of Angola’s democracy and if successful, confer a measure of legitimacy on its government. The ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola party has elected João Lourenco, a former defence minister, as vice president ahead of the next parliamentary elections.
Though in Angola the leader of the winning party automatically becomes President, it is still dominantly a one-party-state, ruled by dos Santos and his family, who have amassed wealth and power over the last four decades. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos stepping down as president before the 2017 elections surprised many both in and outside Angola. Yet, the fourth elections in the country since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975, came at a time when the country has been hit by the slump in global crude prices—diminishing its foreign exchange revenues. the August 2017 elections is yet another time for Angola to decide whats very best for her.
3. Liberia (Election date: 10th October 2017)
According to the National Elections Commission, more than 1.9 million registered voters will elect presidential and legislative candidates from 22 political parties in the 2017 Liberia polls. George Weah, an ex-footballer considered by Fifa as the highest ranking African footballer of the 20th century is a key contender in the elections, though his first presidential bid failed after he lost to Sirleaf.
Weah is contending with Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of former Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor. Jewel, considered the second most powerful woman in Liberian politics, is a twice-elected senator from Bong County, which has the third-highest number of registered voters in Liberia.
Vice president Joseph Boakai will also run for president on the government’s record. The former AC Milan footballer and current senator, George Weah has promised to increase the national budget, work on religious harmony and support vocational education.
4. The Democratic Republic Of Congo (Election Date: TBD 2017)
The struggle to hold the vote in 2017 will also be enormous, given that the electoral commission once said that it needed at least 17 months to complete the registration processes and hold the elections. Beyond the election, a new government and president will face the task of addressing economic, humanitarian and political instabilities that persist all across the country.
As part of the deal, a transitional government will be appointed by March, and the elections will take place before the end of the year. If this does take place, it will be the first peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960. A peaceful election will also avert a return to war in the populous, mineral-rich country, where about five million lives were lost in the civil war that lasted between 1994 and 2003. Moise Katumbi, a popular politician and opposition member, is expected to run to replace Kabila.
It is alleged that on New Year’s Eve, the government and opposition members in the DR Congo signed a deal that could see president Joseph Kabila step down after the next election. The agreement came after deadly protests, arrests and internet shutdown that followed the end of Kabila’s constitutionally-mandated second term on Dec. 19.
5. Rwanda (Election date: 4th August 2017)
The upcoming election will point more to the future of Rwanda than to its troubled past. In 2015, a constitutional amendment allowed Kagame to run for this new term and two more five-year terms after that, meaning that he could stay in power till 2034.
This controversial move was criticized by many in the international community and questioned whether Kagame was even interested in fostering a new generation of leaders to take on the mantle of leadership. While announcing his candidacy early last year, Kagame said; “I don’t think that what we need is an eternal leader,” In this 2017 polls, he will have to work hard to prove to his critics that he doesn’t count as being one.
President Paul Kagame is a media-savvy politician who uses his sheeny website and over 1.5 million Twitter followers to propagate his message of progress and development. Kagame is also credited with transforming the landlocked nation’s economic development, boosting youth employment and trade, reducing poverty and advocating for technology as a tool for prosperity.
Fondly referred to as the “global elite’s favourite strongman” and the “darling tyrant”, President Paul Kagame will be seeking a third, seven-year term since he won the country’s second election in 2010 with 93% of the vote.
By: Gifty Asamoah / Business.com.gh