…more than 20 African states to hold elections in 2017
Some important elections will place across Africa this year-with atleast 20 of Africa’s 54 states slated to hold elections this year- a platform that will give millions of people in those countries a platform to elect governments which they think will meet their aspirations.
Angola, Sierra Leone, Libya, Rwanda, Kenya and Liberia are just some of the countries that could have new Governments this year.
Although the elections are expected widely to be quite straight forward, nothing can be taken for granted in Africa where sitting Presidents have developed a habit of amending the constitution to pave the way for them to cling onto power.
So despite some movement towards electoral democracy, challenges still remain. And in 2017, there will be more elections to measure the continent’s progress in its pursuit towards a more democratic future.
The attention of the international community will descend on Africa once more to see how it handles its electoral processes. Customary to election campaigns, ruling parties will use their success stories to lure the electorate, while on the other hand, the opposition parties will pinpoint the shortcomings and failures of the ruling parties to sway potential voters to their stable.
African leaders are widely expected not to follow in the footsteps of ousted Gambian president Yahya Jammeh who is refusing to vacate office after losing the presidential polls last year to Adama Barrow by a slim margin.
The African Union says it will cease to recognise Jammeh as The Gambia’s legitimate president after last-ditch attempts to persuade the longtime leader to step down failed.
He initially conceded defeat but a week later contested the poll’s results, stating irregularities.
He now refuses to give up power.
A delegation of ECOWAS leaders met Jammeh in Gambia last week.
The delegation included Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is the chairperson of ECOWAS, Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma and Ghana’s former President John Dramani Mahama. They were also accompanied by representatives of the United Nations and the African Union.
Last week’s attempt to convince Jammeh to accept the poll results was the second attempt of ECOWAS leaders to visit The Gambia in efforts to resolve the political impasse that emanated from the December 1 presidential poll result.
Weah to contest in Liberia
George Weah last year announced his second attempt to become president of Liberia as the 1995 World Player of The Year confirmed he was formally standing as a candidate in the 2017 election.
Weah lost to Sirleaf in the 2005 election and failed in a bid to be vice-president in 2011. He is currently a senator.
Weah said he has the vision to transform the country when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s final term ends this year. He also pledged to increase the national budget, work towards religious harmony, and support vocational education.
After 10 years in office, it is the end of the road for Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia, and Africa’s first female president. Sirleaf leaves office after winning the Nobel Peace Prize and dealing with the Ebola crisis. By 25 October 2017, Liberia will have a new president-elect, who will take the mantle of an economy battered by low global commodity prices.
At least 22 million voters are expected to cast their ballots on August 8, 2017 to elect new leaders in Kenya.
Tensions around this year’s presidential poll are heating up in Kenya. A special sitting of parliament last year to debate changes to the electoral law ended with a fist fight on the House floor.
Kenyan politicians are wrangling over how the electoral commission should carry out the process.
In September 2016, members of parliament from both sides of the political divide passed electoral reforms, following weeks of protests demanding the electoral commissioners step down. The commission was accused of favoring the ruling Jubilee coalition administration.
Kenyan lawmakers last year debates proposed amendments to the reforms. The opposition said the amendments were proposed by, and favor, the ruling Jubilee coalition
Dos Santos’ exit
Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos surprised many observers by announcing that he will step down as president before the 2017 elections. The ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola party has elected João Lourenco, a former defense minister, as vice president ahead of the next parliamentary elections. In Angola, the leader of the winning party automatically becomes president.
Angolans have long speculated about the president’s next move since he said last March that he would stand down in 2018.
MPLA leader Dos Santos, a communist-trained oil engineer, was re-appointed to a new five-year term in 2012 after his party won a landslide win. After his announcement in March, it was widely assumed that he would run for re-election next year and then stand down in 2018.
Analyst Luis Jimbo, director of the Angolan Institute for Electoral Systems and Democracy, said Dos Santos’s decision came as a surprise.
Jimbo said the president had been expected to run as the leader of the MPLA, adding that “this was possibly a last-hour decision” by Dos Santos who felt he did not have the strength to run a campaign.
Critics accuse Dos Santos – Africa’s second longest ruling leader after Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo – of mismanaging Angola’s oil wealth and making an elite, mainly his family and political allies, vastly rich in a country ranked amongst the world’s most corrupt.
His inscrutable public demeanour belies his tight control of Angola, a former Portuguese colony where he has overseen an oil-backed economic boom and the reconstruction of infrastructure devastated by a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. But growth has stalled sharply as oil prices fell.
Kagame running again
Rwandans will go to polls on August 4, 2017, to elect the Head of State in the country’s third multiparty presidential elections, a government statement has confirmed.
The date for the presidential election was announced following a Cabinet meeting last week.
Rwandans abroad will cast their votes on August 3, and those resident in Rwanda will follow suit on August 4, a communique in the local Kinyarwanda language said.
A constitutional amendment passed this year means that President Paul Kagame — in charge since taking power at the head of a rebel army in 1994 — is able to stand for re-election for another seven-year term.
Data from the National Electoral Commission indicate that about 6.6 million Rwandans are expected to cast their vote in the election.
Rwanda’s first multiparty democratic presidential poll took place in 2003 while the second was held in 2010.
Both elections were won by President Paul Kagame.
Additional reporting by Reuters and Africa News