News / Africa

    Observers Forecast Mixed Results for 2010 African Elections

    Nico Colombant

    Togo's elections scheduled for Thursday, 4 March, 2010, are the first in more than a dozen votes expected to take place in sub-Saharan Africa this year.  Our correspondent spoke with several African election experts about their expectations for the continent's packed election schedule.

    Analyst Chris Hennemeyer has spent many years monitoring, discussing and comparing elections in Africa.  Now working with the U.S.-based Bridging the Divide development research group, Hennemeyer says the elections this year will be varied.

    "The elections could be categorized into good, bad and ugly," said Chris Hennemeyer. "I think you will see some really messy ones in places like Cote d'Ivoire [Ivory Coast], if they decide at long last to hold their elections.  Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda will all be pretty contentious."

    Hennemeyer says legislative and presidential elections in Tanzania set for October will be in the good category and that voting should be calm in authoritarian Burkina Faso in late-November.  But, he says, many other elections are more difficult to predict.

    But Almani Cyllah, Africa regional director for the U.S.-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, says unpredictability means progress.

    "Good or bad - at least we are seeing that our people are getting the opportunity to make a decision as to who they want to lead them because in the past, we already knew the leaders; we already knew the winners," said Almani Cyllah. "This time, we see elections, even though we may have a sense of who is going to win, we see the elections as being competitive."

    The first major elections are scheduled in Togo, where voting initially was set for February 28.  Elections are now slated for Thursday (3/4/10).

    The campaigning has been spirited there.  But Chris Hennemeyer points out that the main opposition leader is not in the race.

    "Really, the only truly national candidate, if you can call him that - Gilchrist Olympio - is not standing once again," he said. "He is sort of the perennial opposition leader in Togo.  He was excluded from the 2005 election because he did not meet the residency requirements having been in exile.  This time, he apparently has not passed a physical exam or has not shown up to take his physical exam.  So really, there is not a giant opposition figure to step in and take the elections away from Faure Gnassingbe."

    Togo's incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe, the son of long-time leader Gnassingbe Eyadema, initially became president in a military coup after his father died in 2005.

    A recurring problem in African elections has been establishing proper voting lists.  Chris Hennemeyer of Bridging the Divide says the situation in Ivory Coast is a prime example.

    "They have a massive population of people whose roots lie in other countries in the region, particularly in Burkina Faso and Mali, and they do not know what to do to include those people politically," said Hennemeyer. "And so registration tends to exclude people who do not have the means to demonstrate that they are so-called 'true Ivorians.'  On the other hand, [Ivory Coast President] Laurent Gbagbo, I think, has no desire to give up power - probably ever - and he has used every weapon in his arsenal to hang on to power, and he has been very cagey about it."

    Mr. Gbagbo first came to power in elections in 2000 having campaigned against a military ruler.  But vote counting was interrupted and the two main opposition leaders were barred from running.  New elections first scheduled for 2005 have repeatedly been pushed back.  The situation deteriorated recently when the head of the election commission was replaced after accusations that he was adding non-Ivorians to the voting list.

    Even though elections in Africa might lead to divisions within societies, New York University political scientist Leonard Wantchekon of Benin says free and fair elections are the best way to bring about unity in the long run.

    "Even if ethnic differences will appear as a result of elections, it is also the case that elections are the best way to resolve those differences," said Leonard Wantchekon. "We tend to forget that democracy is not just some set of values, such as freedom and others, but also a very practical mechanism for conflict resolution."

    Elections expected this year that might be postponed or troubled are in Guinea, the Central African Republic and Madagascar - all countries in post-coup and strife-torn situations.  Last week, rebels and the opposition in the Central African Republic, for example, said conditions were not ready for a vote now scheduled for April 25.  

    Analyst Chris Hennemeyer says that in most cases, he favors elections going ahead as scheduled.

    "If one waits until conditions are absolutely propitious for elections, one would be waiting for decades, I am afraid, in many African countries," he said.

    In Burundi, the situation is different.  Dozens of parties are preparing for elections set for May through July.

    Almani Cyllah with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems says he is encouraged by the enthusiasm.

    "Burundi is a good case in point where we think the competition is going to be fierce," said Cyllah. "It is seldom now to see a 99 percent win for any particular candidate.  So it shows our people are getting the message.  The candidates are able to participate and they are able to get their messages across."

    Despite the challenges, Africa election experts say they are encouraged by the proliferation of opposition media, civil society organizations and election monitoring groups across the continent.  They add that these developments show that successful elections are not the only barometer of democratic progress in Africa.  

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora