Several African presidents will be fighting to remain in power in elections in 2019.
In South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, who inherited the political crown from the scandal-ridden Jacob Zuma, will lead the governing African National Congress (ANC) in its bid to extend its 25-year rule in May.
The leading opposition parties will be the Democratic Alliance (DA) led by Mmusi Maimane; and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by Julius Malema.
The ANC, the party of Nelson Mandela, has been the governing party since the 1994 transition from apartheid to “non-racial” democracy.
It has been the party of the black majority, which comprises about 80 percent of the population.
The DA is center-right, and in South Africa’s racial calculus, has been the party of whites, coloreds, and, increasingly, Asians. It is aggressively seeking black electoral support, and its leader Maimane is black.
The EFF has radical economic and social policies; among other things, it calls for the expropriation of white-owned property without compensation.
At the last parliamentary elections in 2014, of the 400 seats in parliament, the ANC won 249; the DA won 89; the EFF won 25. Six other parties also altogether hold the remaining seats, a reflection of South Africa’s system of proportional representation.
Although few expect the ANC to lose, it may not be an easy fight as its reputation has been damaged by corruption, high levels of unemployment, and the slow pace of land reform, which is bound to raise emotions ahead of elections.
The ANC has promised to amend the constitution so that it will be easier to expropriate white-owned farms without compensation, but its opponents to the right of the political spectrum have vowed to resist the plan.
In Malawi, President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party will be battling a strong opposition which hopes that voters fed up with electricity blackouts, drug shortages and corruption will propel them to power.
A leaked report from the country's elite Anti-Corruption Bureau accused Mutharika of receiving a $195,000 bribe from a contractor tasked with supplying $4 million worth of rations to Malawi's police. He has faced no formal charges.
Former president Joyce Banda of the People’s Party will be running against Mutharika in the election due in May. She lost to him in 2014 by a wide margin, in fact coming third behind Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party.
Banda has joined anti-government pressure groups in calling for the president to resign – though she was herself implicated in a vast corruption scandal in 2013 which contributed to her defeat in polls a year later.
Nearby Mozambique will hold presidential, legislative and provincial elections in October, President Filipe Nyusi of the ruling Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo) recently announced.
The date was unveiled amid negotiations on consolidating peace between his government and the former rebels of the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo). A truce is currently in effect.
Renamo and the ruling Frelimo fought a 16-year civil war that ended with a peace deal in 1992, but Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who lost five presidential elections, and took up arms again in 2013, died last year. Ossufo Momade has been appointed interim leader.
Renamo has long sought greater decentralisation of power, including elections for provincial governors and the creation of district assemblies, and better integration of its supporters into the country’s police and military.
The country is in an economic crisis, related to secret debts contracted to fight Renamo. The International Monetary Fund and the Western international community suspended cooperation.
The government has now outlined plans to try and control spending, especially the public payroll that absorbs 55 per cent of tax revenue.
Still, analysts suggest that Nyusi, who is eligible to run for one more term, is expected to win this year’s elections.
There is some evidence that Renamo is making gains in the central and northern regions of the country, but not enough to suggest it poses a credible electoral threat, especially as its leadership is now up for grabs.
Frelimo has been victorious in the five multiparty elections since 1994, although the opposition has always alleged fraud, especially in 1999, when it almost won.
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.