The African political landscape is likely to be dominated by election rhetoric during 2015, with several national, parliamentary and presidential elections due to take place across the continent. At the date of writing, there are no less than 15 elections scheduled for 2015, including; Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Mauritius, Nigeria, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.
Some, including those in Zambia and Tanzania are expected to be relatively peaceful and democratic, despite increasingly assertive opposition parties in both countries. However, in states plagued by violent insurgencies, elections could be catalysts for attacks by groups eager to capture media attention or pursue localised grievances. Elsewhere on the continent, elections could lead to the escalation of simmering ethnic or post-conflict tensions. In particular the elections in Nigeria, the Central African Republic, and both Sudan and South Sudan could encounter serious overarching challenges which could have repercussions for internal and regional stability.
One of the major challenges facing African ‘good governance’ is presidents’ adherence to electoral term limitations. In some countries, including Mozambique, Namibia and Ghana, the precedent for adhering to constitutional term limit is cemented in political institutionalism. However, in several others there is an alarming trend towards leaders seeking to extend constitutional term limits; one notable example is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where talk of changing the constitution to allow Joseph Kabila a third term has sparked civil society and opposition party outrage, resulting in minor protests in major cities. Central Africa in particular is seeing growth in the trend to extend presidential terms, with both Burundi and Rwanda seeking to amend their constitutions.
It has long been a dominant narrative that the two term limit placed on presidents in Africa, often in accordance with western norms, does not give leaders enough time to cement change or fully realise policy directives. Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano in August 2014 said the two-term model is not ideal for Africa as most leaders leave office before implementing their ideas. In addition, various leaders on the continent have cited the poorly organised and incompetent opposition as a justification for extending their presidential terms, rationalising that an extended term would be in the best interest of the country. The counter argument entails that extending presidential terms in the name of vague national ‘best interests’ in reality sees leaders suppressing any form of opposition or political dissent. A case in point is Burkino Faso, which saw a significant increase in civil unrest and opposition dissent in 2014 that ultimately led to the ousting of long-term President Blaise Compaore.
Sometime after the Arab Spring the spirit of revolution is still in the air, and as such governments have to be cautious in their political rhetoric to avert the escalation of widespread latent discontent into violent unrest or even coup attempts. The election calendar will inevitably yield variable levels of political volatility and countries heading for the polls warrant close scrutiny in pre- and post-election periods. Political and security instability will have rolling repercussions for policy continuity, economic growth and investor confidence
African Election Timeline – 2015
Burkina Faso – Presidential
Zambia – Presidential
Nigeria – Legislative and Presidential
Togo – Presidential
Burundi – Legislative
Sudan – Legislative and Presidential
Mali – Municipal
Ethiopia – General
Ivory Coast – Presidential
Tanzania – General
Awaiting date to be announced
Burkina Faso – Presidential
Guinea – Presidential
Mauritius – Presidential