Top 10 Most Important Presidential Elections in Africa This Year

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Millions of Africans will go to the polls this year with the hope of using the ballot to deepen the quality of democratic governance. From the continent’s north to the south, at least 20 nations will hold elections.

Here are the ten presidential elections we’ll be following:


1NIGERIA

General elections in Nigeria were originally scheduled for 16 February 2019 but was rescheduled to 23 February 2019 just hours before the polls were set to open. The election is to elect the President, Vice President and the National Assembly. They will be the sixth quadrennial elections since the end of military rule in 1999.

President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, is seeking re-election and is up against his former ally turned rival Atiku Abubakar, 72, who served as Nigeria’s vice president between 1999 and 2007. Buhari is again running on his anti-corruption message while Atiku is promising to fix Nigeria’s under-performing economy and tackle high unemployment. But with an increasingly discerning electorate, largely consisting of young voters who are more vocal about the shortcomings of the political establishment, “third force” candidates like #BringBackOurGirls activist Oby Ezekwesili will be hoping to cause an upset.

The President of Nigeria is elected using a simple majority of votes cast, as well as over 25% of the votes in 27 of the 36 states.

The 360 members of the House of Representatives are elected to 4-year terms, concurrent with the president, using first-past-the-post voting in single-member constituencies.

The 109 members of the Senate are elected to 4-year terms, concurrent with the president, from 108 single-seat constituencies into which the States are divided (three each) and one single-seat constituency consisting the Federal Capital Territory, all by first-past-the-post voting.


2SENEGAL

Presidential elections will be held in Senegal on 24 February 2019Ahead of the election, in January 2019, two opposition leaders Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade were barred from participating because of convictions for misuse of public funds. The country’s Constitutional Court has preliminarily authorised five candidates, including incumbent president Macky Sall.

The President of Senegal is elected using the two-round system; a candidate must receive over 50% of the vote to be elected in the first round. If no candidate crosses the threshold, a second round will be held with the top two candidates.

President Macky Sall will be seeking a second term in office with a focus on economic growth. The 57-year-old former geologist kickstarted his presidency in 2012 by launching the ambitious Plan for Emerging Senegal, which aims to transform key sectors from agriculture to healthcare, public administration and education by 2035.

In a 2016 referendum, Senegal voted to reduce presidential terms to five years from seven years, a proposal promised and backed by president Macky Sall. His re-election prospect was boosted by the ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition’s sweeping parliamentary victoryin Aug. 2017.


3ALGERIA

Presidential elections are scheduled to be held in Algeria on 18 April 2019.

The President of Algeria is elected using the two-round system; if no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the first round, a second round will be held.

Two decades since coming to power, president Abdelaziz Bouteflika will run for a fifth consecutive term in office. The 81-year-old veteran politician is frail and confined to a wheelchair and last addressed the nation six years ago. In 2015, speculation even surfaced about an internal coup suspected to have been carried by a clique led by Bouteflika’s brother who was said to be running the country on his behalf.

Analysts say the ruling National Liberation Front party’s endorsement of the octogenarian signifies its decision to use Bouteflika’s popularity and record of returning peace and stability to Algeria to maintain the status quo.


4SOUTH AFRICA

General elections will be held in South Africa on the 8th of May 2019 to elect a new National Assembly and new provincial legislatures in each province. This election will determine who will become the next President of South Africa.

Incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa, the 12th head of State in South Africa, will lead the ruling African National Congress in the election, attempting to retain majority status and a full term in office as president; his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, resigned from office on 14 February 2018.

This election is an opportunity for president Cyril Ramaphosa to legitimize his power through the popular vote. The party’s decision to focus on land redistribution could be seen as a populist move to woo disenfranchised young voters who may have gone to the more radical Economic Freedom Fighters. While the vote is unlikely to affect the process already underway, it is a deeply emotive issue that may influence voters’ willingness to give the ANC another chance.

South Africa has a parliamentary system of government; the National Assembly consists of 400 members elected by proportional representation with a closed list approach. Two hundred members are elected from national party lists; the other 200 are elected from provincial party lists in each of the nine provinces. The President of South Africa is elected by the National Assembly after the election.

The provincial legislatures, which vary in size from 30 to 80 members, are also elected by proportional representation with closed lists. The premiers of each province will be elected by the respective provincial legislatures.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) consists of 90 members, ten elected by each provincial legislature. The NCOP members will be elected by the provincial legislatures in proportion to the party makeup of the legislatures.


5MALAWI

General elections will be held in Malawi on 21 May 2019 to elect the President, National Assembly and local government councillors.

The President of Malawi is elected using the first-past-the-post system; the candidate that receives the most votes is the winner of the election. The 193 members of the National Assembly are also elected by first-past-the-post voting in single-member constituencies.

President Peter Mutharika leads the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. The vote will take place amid mounting corruption cases, with Mutharika himself denying accusations of bagging a kickback from a $4 million government contract.

Mutharika will be challenged in the ballot by his own former vice president Saulos Chilima, whom he fired last November and ex-president Joyce Banda, who is seeking the nomination of her People’s Party and has called on the 78-year-old leader to resign.


6MAURITANIA

Presidential election will be held in Mauritania in April or May 2019. Since coming to power in a putsch in 2008, president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has overseen controversial changes in the northwestern African state, including abolishing the senate and instituting a new national anthem and flag.

The 62-year-old leader has said he won’t defy the constitution and run for a third term, but he’s yet to identify a successor and statements from his own supporters have heightened opposition suspicion that he might run again.

But even if he doesn’t contest again, analysts predict he will be replaced by a loyalist from the ruling Union for the Republic party, barring any major political and economic changes.

According to the Constitution of Mauritius, the President shall be elected by the National Assembly on a motion made by the Prime Minister and supported by the votes of a majority of all the members Assembly. The term of office is 5 years and the President shall be eligible for re-election.


7BOTSWANA

General elections are scheduled to be held in Botswana in October 2019. The Botswana Democratic Party has been in power since 1966 and has established a politically legitimate succession plan that maintains the incumbent’s power. The presidential term ends more than a year ahead of the national election, meaning a new president is elected by parliament before the popular vote takes place, and effectively giving the BDP’s presidential candidate, current president Mokgweetsi Masisi, an almost guaranteed lead.

The 63 members of the National Assembly consisted of 57 MPs elected in single-member constituencies by first-past-the-post, four members appointed by the governing party, and two ex-officio members (the President and the Attorney General).

Voters are required to be Botswana citizens at least 18 years old who had been resident in the country for at least 12 months prior to voter registration. People declared insane, holding dual citizenship, under a death sentence, convicted of an electoral offence or imprisoned for at least six months are not allowed to vote. Candidates need to be Botswana citizens at least 21 years old, without an undischarged bankruptcy, and be able to speak and read English sufficiently well to take part in parliamentary proceedings.

Several proposed amendments to the Electoral Law, including the introduction of electronic voting and an increase in nomination fees were dropped in September 2018.


8MOZAMBIQUE

General elections are scheduled to be held in Mozambique on October 15 2019. A poll indicates the scale of victory will likely tilt towards president Filipe Nyusi’s ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo).

Mozambican elections are run by a National Election Commission (CNE), and the election law has changed often. In December 2012, a new law in regards to the composition of the election commission consists of eight political party representatives: five appointed by the incumbent FRELIMO, two appointed by the principal opposition RENAMO and one by the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM). There are further three members nominated by civil society representatives, a judge appointed by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistrature and an attorney appointed by the Higher Council of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The general election comes amid peace talks with the opposition National Resistance party (Renamo) which was involved in a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992. Renamo is set to elect its head this month following the death of its founder Afonso Dhlakama last May.

The election also comes as the southern African nation prepares to start exporting valuable liquefied natural gas from recently-discovered huge offshore fields.


9NAMIBIA

General elections will be held in Namibia in November 2019. The elections will be the second on the African continent to use electronic voting.

In 2014, the ruling SWAPO (South West African People’s Organization) announced a gender equality system where women would fill half of their seats in parliament. The party also embraced what it called a “zebra system”, whereby if a minister was a woman, the deputy minister would be a man, and vice versa. Because there were more male SWAPO MPs than female MPs, SWAPO put forward plans to expand parliament to remove the risk of male MPs losing their seats as a result of this gender policy.

Land will be a hot-button issue in Namibia. Last year, Namibia announced its intentions to begin a land reform process like its neighbor, South Africa. The issue has become a symbol of the slow rate of economic transformation where white Namibians, who make up less than 10% of the population, own 70% of commercial farmland. Still, Namibia’s weaker-than-expected economic growth is unlikely to unseat SWAPO.


10TUNISIA

Presidential elections are scheduled to take place in Tunisia in December 2019. At 92, president Beji Caid Essebsi has the distinction of being the world’s oldest elected president and is expected to run again after first coming to office in 2014 as the winner of the north African country’s first free and fair election. Long touted as the Arab Spring’s lone democratic success, the north African nation aims to re-establish political and economic stability by holding crucial presidential and parliamentary elections.

In recent years, scarcity of jobs, rising costs of living, and the deterioration of the security situation have prompted protests across the nation. The despondency over the political process was highlighted in the May 2018 municipal polls, with just 33.7% of the voters casting their ballot.

The President of Tunisia is elected using the two-round system. A second round will be held between the top two candidates if no candidate receives than 50% of the vote in the first round. A president cannot serve more than two terms, with each term lasting 5 years.

Rare for the Arab world, women held more than 20% of seats in the country’s pre-revolution bicameral parliament. In the 2011 constituent assembly, women held between 24% and 31% of all seats.


 

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