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

    Pentagon: Afghan Hospital Bombing Not a War Crime

    US Central Command's Joseph Votel says probe found tragedy was result of 'extraordinarily intense situation' that included multiple equipment failures

    US Minorities Link Guns with Other Social Ills

    New study finds reduction in gun violence could help lower America’s incarceration rate – the world’s highest - and improve relationships between police, citizens in minority communities

    US Millennials Beat Baby Boomers as Largest Living Generation

    America's young people are about to take over and here's what we can expect from them

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkey Islamists

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora