This year, citizens of some African countries will head to the polls as they vote in presidential and/or legislative elections. Most of these countries have struggled with transition to democracy at least since the mid-1980s, and some of them much more recently. The 2015 elections will, for some, be turning points for embracing democracy more closely, and for others will significantly deepen and institutionalize democracy. Thus, emerging as democratic strongholds on the continent.
With South Sudan pushing its elections to 2017, due to violence and presidential polls already held in Zambia (in January), Lesotho (in February) and Nigeria (in March), countries across the African continent including Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia Sudan, Tanzania and Togo are set for the polls…
French-speaking Burkinabés will troop out on Sunday, October 11, 2015, for the general elections.
Due to an amendment to the West African nation’s constitution in 2000, the president is limited to two terms of five years. However, the restrictions were not applied retroactively, allowing President Blaise Compaoré, who had been in office since 1987, to run for a further two terms. He was re-elected in 2005 and 2010.
On October 30, 2014, the National Assembly was scheduled to vote on a constitutional amendment that would scrap term limits. However, the vote sparked protests, with the National Assembly building, Ouagadougou City Hall and the Congress for Democracy and Progress headquarters set on fire. Following the protests, the vote was suspended. Protests were also reported in other cities, including the second largest city, Bobo Dioulasso.
Compaoré subsequently announced he would withdraw the constitutional amendment. On October 31, Compaoré resigned and suggested the election should be held within 90 days.
Lt. Col. Yacouba Isaac Zida took over power in the aftermath of the 2014 Burkinabé uprising, sidelining a more senior officer, Honoré Nabéré Traoré. A few weeks later, a civilian, Michel Kafando, was chosen to replace Zida as transitional head of state; Kafando then appointed Zida as Prime Minister on November 19, 2014. The transitional charter barred any ministers in the transitional government from running for the presidency.
Burundi, officially the Republic of Burundi, is a predominantly Kirundi-speaking country in the African Great Lakes region of Southeast Africa, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and Congo DRC to the west. Burundi’s capital is Bujumbura.
The country which speaks French and English will have its presidential elections on June 26, 2015.
However, the country operates the two-round system. If no candidate wins a majority of the votes in the first round, a second round will be held on July 27 – a day after. Candidates are constitutionally barred from serving more than two terms in office.
In December 2014, eight opposition parties announced they would field a joint candidate for the presidential election, as well as running together in the parliamentary elections.
The incumbent, President Pierre Nkurunziza is yet to announce whether he will run. The ruling party and the opposition are in dispute over whether Nkurunziza is able to run for a third term in office. Allies of Nkurunziza claim that he is eligible for a third term, as his first term began after being elected by Parliament rather than a popular vote, and so it is not included in the term limit.
The predominantly Muslim country, officially the Republic of the Sudan, is an Arab republic in the Nile Valley of North Africa. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, Chad to the west. It is the third largest country in Africa. The Nile River divides the country into eastern and western halves.
From 1956 until 1989, the government in the Republic of Sudan was characterized by instability, violence and coups d’état. After the 1989 bloodless coup, Colonel Omar al-Bashir, supported by a military council, rose to power, suspended political parties, extended the Islamic legal code to the entire country, and suppressed and/or banned organizations that opposed his regime. In 1993, al-Bashir declared himself president and dissolved the military council. The elections in 2015, expected to be a major turning point for the Arabic and English speaking country, have tentatively been scheduled for April 2, 2015.
Another West African country set to history-defining polls is Côte d’Ivoire (or the Ivory Coast) with its presidential elections set for October 2015.
The leading figures in these elections are the incumbent, Allasane Ouattara and his party, Rassemblement des républicains (RDR), and the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) previously led by the now-indicted Gbagbo. The FPI is now led by Pascal Aff N’Guessan who is likely to participate in the 2015 elections. The FPI boycotted the 2011 parliamentary elections, citing bias by the electoral commission for incumbent Ouattara, intimidation of FPI supporters by the national army, and the government banning of the pro-FPI newspaper, Notre Voie. In fall 2014, the FPI withdrew from, but later returned to, the electoral commission. Such a boycott by the FPI would have undermined both the credibility of the elections and the country’s efforts to usher in a period of peace and national reconstruction.
The Arabic nation’s parliamentary elections to the House of Representatives were originally scheduled to take place in March and April 2015. However, the elections were delayed after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on March 1, 2015 that the law on electoral constituencies was unconstitutional because it did not guarantee fair representation.
Currently the Parliament of Egypt is dissolved and elections to the House of Representatives are expected to take place around May or June 2015. Egypt operates a unicameral legislature with the Parliament located in Cairo, the capital city.
Officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the landlocked country is in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan and South Sudan to the west.
The Federal Parliamentary Assembly has two chambers – the Council of People’s Representatives with 550 members elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies and the Council of the Federation with 117 members, one each from the 22 minority nationalities, and one from each professional sector of its remaining nationalities, designated by the regional councils, which may elect them themselves or through popular elections.
The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) is empowered to organize elections in the hilly country, and their general elections come up in May.
Officially, the United Republic of Tanzania following the merging of Tanganyika with Zanzibar in April 1964. Zanzibar, however, remains a semi-autonomous region with its own government. Throughout most of its existence as an independent and sovereign nation, Tanzania has functioned exclusively as a one-party state.
However, since 1992, there have been four credible competitive electionsin 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010 all won by the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) (Party of the Revolution). Though the CCM has been the winner, its margin of victory has not been overwhelming, and most Tanzanians and international observers have considered these elections free, fair and credible.
Tanzania’s fifth general elections will take place in October 15, 2015. Notably, President Kikwete is constitutionally barred from contesting for a third term.
Officially, the Togolese Republic is a French-speaking country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. Togo covers an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometres (22,000 sq mi) with a population of approximately 6.7 million. Its capital, Lomé is to the south of the country.
Incumbent president, Faure Gnassingbé is expected to seek a third term in office in defiance of opposition calls for him to step aside in the presidential elections to be held on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
The key figures aside the incumbent (of the Union for the Republic, UNIR) are Jean-Pierre Fabre (of the Union for the Forces of Change, UFC), Kofi Yamgane and Alberto Olympio.
In all, seven opposition politicians have announced their candidacy.