AFRICA – Elections generally have become a key fixture on the African news calendar and the year 2019 was no different. It was replete with a dozen elections, mostly presidential and other cases general polls. They spanned from North Africa through the West and in much of Southern Africa which experienced a busy year in that regard.
As part of our 2019 Review, we look back at some of the major elections that took place. The review metrics shall be the significance of the vote, the main candidates, major issues, the final outcome, and the poll aftermath.
January: DRC elections produce Kabila’s successor
Significance of the polls: The December 30, 2018 polls were significant because they would draw the curtain on Joseph Kabila’s 18 years as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Main candidates: Kabila handpicked a successor, naming Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary as the ruling party candidate. While up to 21 candidates were registered to contest the presidential polls, the leading contenders were Shadary, and opposition candidates Felix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu of the Lamuka coalition.
Final results/aftermath: Official results by DRC’s electoral body, CENI showed that Tshisekedi won the election with over seven million votes representing over 38% of valid votes cast, while Fayulu came in second with about 35%.
Fayulu to-date contests these results saying he had won the election by 61% but the transfer of power from Kabila to Tshisekedi in January historically went down as the country’s first peaceful transition.
February: Senegal’s Macky Sall wins presidential polls
Significance of the polls: The February 24 presidential polls saw incumbent president Macky Sall seek re-election for a second and final term. While Sall was riding a high economic wave going into the polls, critics accused him of preventing credible challengers from contesting. Two main aspirants, Karim Wade and Khalifah Sall were disqualified over corruption convictions.
Main candidates: Sall was challenged by opposition candidates including Idrissa Seck, Ousmane Sonko, Madické Niang and El Hadji Sall.
Final results/aftermath: Senegal’s electoral commission chief clerk Ernestine Ndèye Sanka announced that Sall garnered 2,555,426 representing 58.26% while Seck got 899,556 representing 20.51%. Sonko polled 687,523 or 15.67%, Niang, 65,021 or 1.48% and El Hadji Sall managed 178,613 representing 4.07%.
Four opposition candidates rejected the results but said they would not legally contest them. More than 66 percent of 6.7 million registered voters took part in the election.
February: Incumbent Buhari wins final term in Nigeria
Significance of the polls: Nigeria’s President Muhamadu Buhari, seeking a second and final term, was under pressure to convince the electorate his government was still up to the task of reviving the economy, fighting terrorism and insecurity in addition to stamping out corruption.
Main candidates: Buhari who was the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party was challenged by a record but his main opponent was Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Final results/aftermath: The president garnered 15.2 million votes or 56% against Atiku’s 11.3 million or 41%, on a turnout of just 35.6 percent, according to the electoral commission. The latter contested the results but the court dismissed his petition saying it had no merit.
May: Malawi’s Mutharika wins closely contested polls
Significance of the polls: The polls were a severe test for incumbent president Peter Mutharika whose government was accused of massive corruption and failing to revive an ailing economy. His deputy, Saulos Chilima quit the ruling party and formed his own party to contest the presidential elections.
Main candidates: There were seven presidential candidates but the frontrunners were Mutharika, opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera and deputy president Chilima.
Final results/aftermath: Malawi’s electoral commission declared Mutharika winner of the election with 38.7% of the votes cast. Chakwera, of the opposition Malawi Congress Party, scored 35.41% of the votes, while Chilima won 20.24%.
The other candidates; Atupele Muluzi (UDF): 235,164 (4.67%), Prof. John Chisi (UP): 19,187 (0.38%), Peter Kuwani (MMD): 20,369 (0.40%), Reverend Kaliya (IND): 15,726 (0.31%).
The opposition contested the results in court while a non-profit grouping, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition organised protests calling for the resignation of the electoral commission Chief Jane Ansah.
May: South Africa’s Ramaphosa wins substantive term of office
Significance of the polls: The election was seen as a critical referendum on the ruling African National Congress (ANC), following President Jacob Zuma’s tenure that was marred by massive corruption scandals and weak economic growth. President Cyril Ramaphosa was hoping to get his first substantive mandate from the electorate having only taken over from Zuma in December 2017.
Main candidates: A record 48 political parties contested the election but the ruling ANC led by Ramaphosa, the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) led by Mmusi Maimane and the radical Economic Freedom Fighters led by Julius Malema were seen as the frontrunners.
Final results/aftermath: The ANC won 57.5% of the parliamentary vote and retained power in eight of nine provinces, making this its worst performance in a parliamentary vote since the end of white minority rule in 1994. The other parties polled as follows (top 5).
DA: 3 621 188 votes representing 20.77%
EFF: 1 881 521 votes representing 10.79%
IFP: 588 839 representing 3.38%
VF PLUS: 414 864 representing 2.38%
June: Mauritania presidential elections
Significance of the polls: The incumbent president Mohamed Ould Abdul Aziz was leaving office and he had served notice that he was not going to stay beyond the constitutional term limit. Mauritania braced for a new president.
Main candidates: The outgoing president’s preferred successor was Defense Minister Mohammed Ould Ghazouani. There were five aspirants in all including Biram Dah Abeid, a prominent black Mauritanian slavery campaigner and Mohamed Ould Boubacar, who is backed by Mauritania’s biggest Islamist party. About 850,000 votes out of 1.5 million have been counted.
Final results: Ruling party’s Ghazouani was declared the winner with 52% of votes cast and bagging a first-round victory. Rivals, Biram Dah Abeid and Mohamed Ould Boubacar got 18% each whiles the other candidates got single percentages.
The aftermath of the polls: Ghazouani had declared himself the winner of the election hours after the close of polls causing opposition to accuse him and Ould Abdel Aziz of a “near coup.” The opposition have since called for protests against the declaration of the elections body. Ghazouani has been sworn in as president.
Botswana general elections
Significance of the polls: The ruling party that has governed Botswana since 1966 was facing a big challenge. The immediate past president Seretse Ian Khama had switched to the opposition with months to the vote. Corruption and economic downturn were other issues at the heart of the vote.
Main candidates: Incumbent Eric Mokgweetsi Masisi was leading the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, BDP, into the elections. His main opponent was Duma Boko, the leader of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) coalition, which is the main challenger from the opposition.
Final results: The BDP won 38 of the 57 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition coalition UDC won 15. Botswana has 925,000 registered voters in a population of 2.2 million.
The aftermath of the polls: President Masisi has since been sworn in for his first term in office. The opposition recently in a press conference from South Africa hinted that they were heading to court to challenge the results.
Mozambique general elections
Significance of the polls: This was to be the first election after the signing of a historic peace deal between the ruling FRELIMO and main opposition RENAMO. It also came months after a devastating cyclone Idai ravaged parts of the country.
Main candidates: President Filipe Nyusi was seeking a fresh term and had RENAMO’s Ossufo Momade as his main competitor. This is despite Momade also facing internal opposition from a faction of the RENAMO.
Final results: President Nyusi was re-elected with 73% of the vote and his Frelimo party got 74% of seats in parliament. Momade took 22% of the vote, according to Mozambique’s electoral commission, which reported an overall voter turnout of 51%.
In the 250-seat National Assembly, Frelimo won 184 seats, Renamo 60 seats and the MDM party got six seats. Renamo failed to win a single province in a vote where provincial governors were directly elected for the first time.
The aftermath of the polls: Renamo rejected the results, alleging the elections were marked by fraud and intimidation. The European Union mission also said the process was not conducive adding that the polls were held in a ‘climate of fear.’
October: Tunisia presidential elections
Significance of the polls: Elections were slated in September to elect a new president for the country after Beji Caid Essebsi said he will not contest for another term. He eventually died in office in July. Subsequently, a vote date was put to October.
Main candidates: There was a crowded field of 26 candidates with over 7 million votes at stake. Among the 24 men and two women running for election were the prime minister Youssef Chahed, former president Moncef Marzouki, former prime minister Mehdi Jomaa and Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi.
Final results: In the end a university professor seen as very close to the young voters, Kais Saied won with 76.9% of votes, according to state television. He bagged more than 50 percent ahead of Nabil Karoui, a media mogul who was prosecuted for tax evasion. He had 23.11% of votes.
The independent candidate thanked “the young people who opened a new page of history”, in front of his supporters in a hotel in central Tunis shortly after the announcement of his victory.
The aftermath of the polls: The president was sworn into office in front of the legislature.