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African Elections – Questions of Credibility

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 15, 2020 17:11

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Two African countries go to the polls. Voters seek reassurance that their votes will count, that the process will be credible. In the DRC the credibility of the 2019 elections is still in question, threatening the stability of that fragile country.

The January 2019 Presidential election results in the Democratic Republic of Congo were not clear -- a  last minute swing of allegiances, a vote count contested by the opposing candidate and the Catholic church. The Courts certified a clear win for Felix Tshisekedi. However an analysis of the datasets available showed the opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, win 59.4% of the vote. No wonder there was talk of an electoral coup

Homestead in the Eastern DRC. Photo Jonathan Lorrillard/MONUSCO. Wikipedia

This may be ancient history by now, but the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to the DRC, Leila Zerrougu, told the Security Council on 6 October that persistent politicking and infighting among the ruling coalition in anticipation of the 2023 elections might endanger the fragile peace in this country. "...  I have sought to impress upon all my interlocutors that there is a difference between normal political competition and behaviour that undermines the stability of the country,” she said. 

Ms Zerrougu in the field. Photo MONUSCO/Michael Ali

In Tanzania where Presidential and general elections are due on 28 October, these words may sound a little bitter. The 2015 elections were considered imperfect but credible by observers, and President John Magufuli's flamboyant gestures caught the public's attention. He attracted wide attention for anti-corruption actions and cutting Government expenses, but also cracked down on media freedom. He placed a ban on political rallies, urging people to concentrate instead on "building the country."

President John Magufuli of Tanzania. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

Opposition figures expressed distrust in the way electoral commissions both in Tanzania and the semi-autonomous Zanzibar were being run. A controversial accreditation process excluded many traditional and international observers. Legislation passed to register political parties and control their funding is, according to opposition parties, being applied selectively, and numerous candidates have been disqualified. 

Street scene in Zanzibar Stone Town. Photo Esculapio. Wikipedia. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5

Elections in Zanzibar often see violence, and after the 2015 election were annulled by authorities to forestall an opposition victory, analysts are concerned that this year will see more than the usual level of intolerance by security forces, and violent acts by opposition groups. 

In nearby Seychelles, where elections are due on 22 to 24 October, the atmosphere is much more relaxed. The three Presidential candidates attended an interfaith spiritual gathering on where all were invited to read scripture and light a candle to ask for divine blessings. At a three-way debate, candidates addressed tax issues, unemployment and foreign ownership of businesses. Restarting the tourism industry was a top priority.

Anse Source d'Argent on La Digue island. Photo Tobias Alt. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

All parties have claimed that victory is certain. The question is whether citizens will vote for change, or continue with the old guard. In the small-town climate with 100 000 inhabitants spread over many islands, politics can seem laid-back, but without popular commitment recovery from the COVID-19 crisis will not be easy. 

Donald Adelaide, artist. Photo Seychelles Tourism Board.
Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 15, 2020 17:11

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Source: WashPost

Elections experts call the idea “patently absurd” and say its author lacks credibility on elections issues.

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