Africa election outlook: Key issues in 6 upcoming elections

The next two weeks will include a slew of elections on the African continent. Guest blogger Alex Thurston takes a look at the issues at play in some of the polls.

By , Guest blogger

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    Nigerian security officers stand guard at the entrance of the Independent National Electoral Commission office, where results of last Saturday's Presidential elections were declared in Abuja, Nigeria on April 18. Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan clinched the oil-rich country's presidential election Monday, as rioting by opposition protesters in the Muslim north highlighted the religious and ethnic differences still dividing Africa's most populous nation.
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As VOA reminds us, “over 30 African countries [are] scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections this year,” and some sixteen countries have already held their votes. A few weeks ago, I looked at the electoral pictures in Djibouti, Nigeria, Benin, Mauritania, and Chad. One of those elections has completely concluded: on April 8, Djibouti re-elected President Ismael Guelleh to a third term (more here). This post looks at how elections in the other countries (and in North Sudan) are proceeding.

Here’s the updated electoral calendar:

  • April 25: Presidential elections in Chad
  • April 26: State elections and some (previously delayed) legislative elections in Nigeria
  • April 28: State elections in Nigeria’s Kaduna and Bauchi States
  • April 30: Parliamentary elections in Benin
  • May 2: State elections in North Sudan’s South Kordofan State
  • Unknown: Partial Senate elections in Mauritania

Here is an outline of the major issues at stake in each country:

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Chad

Chad’s upcoming presidential election follows parliamentary elections in February that the ruling party won. Threats of boycotts are dogging the presidential election, meaning incumbent President Idriss Deby will likely be able “to extend his two-decade rule in the central African nation.” I am expecting a continuation of the status quo in Chad.

Nigeria

Nigeria has already completed its presidential election (April 16, which incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan won) and most of its legislative races (April 9, which resulted in some losses for the ruling People’s Democratic Party). On April 26, Nigeria will hold state elections (for governor and state assembly seats) in almost all of its 36 states, and will hold some of the legislative elections that were delayed because of logistical problems earlier this month. Following the news of Jonathan’s victory this week, riots began in some Northern Nigerian states. Due to the violence, the electoral commission has delayed the elections in two states, Kaduna and Bauchi, to April 28.

The gubernatorial elections next week will further test the PDP’s control at the state level (currently the PDP has 26 governors). It is possible that PDP victories in Northern states could lead to more riots, and there is potential for violence in other areas too, such as the Niger Delta in the South.

Benin

Benin’s situation is the mirror image of Chad’s. In March, Benin held presidential elections which the incumbent, President Boni Yayi, won. This victory produced opposition threats to boycott the parliamentary elections that have been moved to April 30. These elections will therefore help set the tone for regime-opposition relations during Yayi’s new term.

North Sudan

Sudan, when it was still one country, held national elections in April 2010. South Kordofan State’s elections, however, were delayed due to problems with census results. On May 2, voters in South Kordofan (located in North Sudan) will at long last go to the polls to vote for governor and state assembly members. The governor’s race will be a test of how the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)’s North wing performs now that South Sudan, the SPLM’s home base, has seceded. The race pits the SPLM’s candidate against a member of the National Congress Party (NCP), which rules North Sudan.

The Sudan Tribune lays out the next steps in South Kordofan:

South Kordofan lies on the fault line between north and south Sudan, incorporating: the Nuba population, which largely sided with the south during the war, as well as the Hawazma and Messirya nomadic Arab tribes who were then believed to be used as proxy militias by the north to fight the south.

The state abuts the explosive region of Abyei, another bone of contention between the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/A) in South Sudan and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the north.

Under the CPA, South Kordofan is meant to hold popular consultations, in order to determine whether the agreement has met the aspirations of its citizens and resolve any outstanding issues related to its implementation.

The popular consultation, which is delayed pending the conduct of the state’s elections, does not accommodate a right to self-determination for South Kordofan which will remain a part of northern Sudan regardless of the consultation’s outcome, but may retain some autonomy.

The elections in South Kordofan will also tell us something about the political trajectory of the North-South border region as a whole.

Mauritania

Mauritania was due to hold elections this month for around one-third of its Senators, but opposition forces called for a postponement. The regime made a postponement, but the manner in which it did so displeased some of the opposition groups, who said the regime had taken the decision out of pure political calculation. A new date has not been set. The delay shows that the opposition has some sway, but the bickering may convince the government that attempts to placate the opposition are in vain.

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What is your take on these elections? Have I missed any others?

Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of Africa bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

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