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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid