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Analyst Says African Countries Face Many Election Challenges

About six African countries are slated to hold elections before the end of this year, three in September alone. The six are Angola, Rwanda, and Swaziland in September, Zambia and Cote d'Ivoire in November, and Ghana in December. All six countries, except Swaziland and Cote d'Ivoire, subscribe to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a process that evaluates an acceding country's political and economic governance and development programs.

The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) has just done an analysis of the Country Review Reports for these countries. Steven Gruzd is head of the Governance and APRM Program of the South African Institute of International Affairs. He told VOA that African countries face common problems with elections.

"If you look back at what happened in Kenya at the beginning of the year and also in Zimbabwe, we saw a lot of problems in terms of registration of voters, counting, and the final results ultimately it seems in both of those cases it seems the incumbent regime that have lost the election but refused to leave office," he said.

An African Peer Review Mechanism report on Benin noted "high cost of elections; bribery; the absence of a reliable voters role due to poor national records; and diminished credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission".

Gruzd said people have been concerned lately about the behavior of electoral commissions in a number of African countries.

"In most countries there is a supreme that is set up to run and administer the election and in some places, for example in Nigeria and in last year's election, there were a lot of questions were about whether that was impartial, whether that body was taking sides, whether it was manipulating that process, and in places like Benin as well…in general people are not all convinced that these institutions are being fair and impartial. Many times they are appointed or their heads are appointed by the sitting president or the ruling party," he said.

On this weekend's parliamentary elections in Angola, Gruzd said the ruling MPLA is expected to win those elections.

"This would the first poll that that country has held since 1992. As you know there was the war of independence and then a long civil war. The 1992 polls were interrupted by violence and actually the second round of voting was canceled. And then Angola went right back into civil which ended in 2001 with the death of the leader of UNITA Jonas Savimbi. Consensus is that the ruling party, the MPLA will fairly easily," Gruzd said.

He also said Rwanda's ruling party is expected to win this month's election while Swaziland's elections have been condemned by civil society because King Mswati III has banned political parties.

Gruzd said Cote d'Ivoire's often-delayed elections, if held this year, might not be credible.

"Ivory Coast has begun its registration process and is being heavily criticized by civil society groups and also politicians. That's meant to happen at the end of November, but some are really doubting whether that indeed will go ahead or whether it would postponed until next year," he said.

On the other hand, Gruzd said the ruling New Patriotic Party of Ghana is expected to retain power after the upcoming December general elections.

"Ghana is different. President Kufuor had two terms, which were mandated by the constitution. By all accounts, Kufuor has been a good leader. The economy has improved, the stature of Ghana in the world has improved, and his party is probably set to win," Gruzd said.