Michael Oduor – Elections generally have become a key fixture on the African news calendar and the year 2020 was no different.
West and East Africa experienced a number of key presidential votes that saw incumbents being retained whiles in southern Africa, specifically in Malawi; a rerun was won by the opposition coalition candidate.
As part of our 2020 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.
The first of this two-part series will focus on East Africa where elections took place in Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi and Seychelles.
Burundi replaces Nkurunziza
In May, Burundians went to the polls to elect a new president. Then incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza had signalled his exit when the ruling party nominated Evariste Ndayishimiye as its candidate.
The vote took place despite the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Government also blocked the internet on the day of the vote citing security reasons.
Ndayishimiye, as candidate of the ruling party, CNDD – FDD had his main contender in the person of Agathon Rwasa – a veteran opposition candidate who had previously lost against Nkurunziza.
Ndayishimiye won over 68% of votes with the main opposition CNL party’s Agathon Rwasa garnering 24%, according to the elections body, CENI.
The results were contested unsuccessfully and as a result of Nkurunziza’s death, swearing-in of the president-elect was brought forward.
Seychelles votes out President Danny Faure
Seychellois went to the polls in October to vote a new president. Veteran opposition candidate Wavel Ramkalawan was declared winner, upsetting incumbent Danny Faure. Ramkalawan polled nearly 54.9% according to the country’s electoral commission.
Faure, president since 2016, was widely expected to win as the opposition fielded two candidates.
A priest, Ramkalawan had sought the presidency six times before emerging victorious. His win ends the dominance of the United Seychelles Party, which has governed since 1977.
Ramkalawan of the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa party campaigned on the pledge to raise the Indian Ocean country’s minimum wage.
Tanzania president secures resounding re-election
When opposition parties in Tanzania hinted of uniting ahead of keenly watched October polls, watchers observed that the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi, CCM, could be in for a shock.
More so due to government’s seeming autocratic and highhanded stance towards opponents, media and rights activists. Dodoma’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was also largely criticized as overly laid back.
Then exiled lawmaker Tundu Lissu returned to lead the main opposition party, CHADEMA, into the polls. He was the main contender to incumbent John Magufuli. The lead up to the polls saw incidents of opposition intimidation by especially the police.
On the date of vote, social media was cut as had largely been speculated. When the results were announced, Magufuli polled 12.5 million votes, or 84%, while Lissu received 1.9 million, or 13%.
Turnout was roughly 50%, with 14.8 million people voting out of the 29 million registered. The ruling party also won a landslide of parliamentary seats – over 250 out of 261 constituencies.
The opposition have dismissed the result citing fraud. Magufuli has since been sworn into office and Lissu has returned into exile in Belgium.
Malawi rerun dethrones Mutharika
Malawians voted in general elections in 2019, the vote was annulled by the top court and a rerun ordered. Incumbent Peter Mutharika had a tall order given that the main opposition candidates had united under the Tonse Alliance for the rerun.
At the end of the keenly watched votes, Lazarus Chakwera, leader of the coalition bagged 2,604,043 votes, representing 58.5 percent of the total votes cast.
Outgoing president Peter Mutharika of the DPP/UDF alliance came second with 1,751,877 votes. The third candidate Mbakuwaku Movement for Development candidate Peter Kuwani managed 33,456 votes. Out of the 6,859,570 registered voters, 4,445,699 cast their votes.
Chakwera has since taken office.
Ethiopia postpones polls, Tigray defies
In Ethiopia, all was set for keenly awaited polls till the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The government postponed the polls much to the chagrin of opposition parties.
Even as the government imposed a national state of emergency to deal with the pandemic, the northern Tigray regional state defied the postponement and held polls which were dismissed as a charade by the federal government.
In the second and final part of this piece, we look at Guinea’s busy election year, the Ivorian vote U-turn and crisis, the pre-COVID vote in Togo, Burkina Faso’s re-election for Kabore. Ghana and Niger will hold polls on December 7 and 27 respectively.