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Three problematic African elections

After a number of years where it seemed that multi-party democracy was taking root in Africa, more recently there have been a number of disappointments.

Three countries held presidential elections in October that seemed less than free and fair.

Guinea’s President Alpha Condé, head of the Rassemblement du Peuple Guinéen, has won re-election and will serve a second five-year term in the Oct. 11 presidential election.

First elected in 2010, he gained 57.8 per cent of the vote, compared to opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo of the Union des Forces Démocratiques de Guinée, who won 31.4 per cent.

Condé’s supporters credit him with improving the electricity supply in the capital, Conakry, and with keeping the country relatively stable despite an Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 2,500 people.

However, the election has been dogged with claims of fraud and mismanagement by the opposition. Diallo and six other candidates refused to recognize the results and called for protests over the election, which they claimed was marred by fraud and mismanagement.

The opposition criticized the very high turnout in known pro-Condé strongholds, complaining of an unfair geographical spread of voter cards.

At least 13 people were killed in a week of violence in Guinea before and after its contested presidential election.

The Oct. 25 presidential election in the Ivory Coast saw Alassane Ouattara, president since 2010, re-elected under the banner of the Rassemblement des Républicains.

A prominent economist and former deputy head of the International Monetary Fund, he faced six opposition candidates, including Pascal Affi N’Guessan, who headed the former ruling Front Populaire Ivoirien.

After a decade of violence and political turmoil, the country appears to be in the midst of an economic comeback, with growth of eight per cent for each of the past three years.

In 2010, Ouattara won a disputed election over Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to give up power. Gbagbo is facing trial at the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity for setting off five months of postelection violence that left at least 3,000 dead.

Yet Gbagbo maintains a huge following of loyalists in Ivory Coast, many of whom feel he was the true winner of the 2010 elections and was unjustly ousted by international forces who wanted to hand power to Ouattara.

Three opposition candidates pulled out before the vote and alleged irregularities, such as concerns about a voter list they said had many people registered twice.

In the end, Ouattara won with 83.7 per cent. N’Guessan came in second, at 9.3 per cent.

The same day, elections in Tanzania saw the most heavily contested and unpredictable presidential election in the nation’s history.

Tanganyika, as it was then known, became independent in 1961, with Julius Nyerere as prime minister. His Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) or Party of the Revolution was the only legal political formation in the country until 1992.

Even afterwards, it kept winning. No other party in Africa has reigned that long, without a single interruption.

The CCM’s presidential candidate, John Magufuli, a former minister of public works, was considered relatively honest and a hard worker.

But Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in the world, has seen millions of dollars in public money vanish in recent corruption scandals.

Magufuli’s main challenger, Edward Lowassa, was a former CCM prime minister. He was contesting the poll under the banner of the Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (UKAWA) Coalition for the People’s Constitution, formed by four opposition parties, including his own Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) Party for Democracy and Progress.

Outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete of the CCM, who was stepping down after serving two terms, had warned against violence.

The opposition had said it wouldn’t concede defeat if there was evidence of vote rigging, and was concerned about stuffed ballot boxes and arrests of its supporters.

Magufuli won the election with 58.4 per cent of the vote. But Lowassa, who came second with 39.9 per cent, declined to sign the consent forms.

The refusal followed earlier claims of fraud and demands for a recount of the tightly- contested election. His UKAWA coalition claimed Lowassa won with 62 per cent of the vote.

In all too many African states, elections exacerbate rather than defuse political turmoil.


Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.


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