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Five African Elections to Watch in 2015

Shirley De Villiers | Mail & Guardian |   in  ·
March 6, 2015

Voters will cast their ballots in 15 sub-Saharan African states in 2015. In addition to presidential polls held in Zambia in January and Lesotho in February, voters are to cast their ballots in Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Mauritius, Sudan, Tanzania and Togo.

South Sudan’s first election since it gained independence in 2011, originally scheduled for June, has been pushed back to 2017 as a result of violence.

Though these elections offer an opportunity for the consolidation of democratic governance on the continent, a number are taking place in countries embroiled in conflict or that have seen political instability in the year leading up to elections.

Burkina Faso and Burundi have experienced violence, while just three of the countries heading for elections – Nigeria, Sudan and CAR – were among the bloodiest countries in Africa in 2014. They accounted for almost 50% of the continent’s around 39 000 conflict deaths, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project. It is possible that elections, if they go ahead as planned, may fuel further violence.

This factsheet unpacks the issues around the polls for executive leadership in these five states.

Nigeria

Challenges have beset the election: Jonathan standing for office for a second term has exacerbated perennial north-south tensions and the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) has faced logistical challenges in dispensing voter cards to registered voters and to the roughly one million displaced by Boko Haram attacks.

Security concerns in the northeast of the country have affected polling. In early February, Inec pushed the election back to March 28 owing to the threat posed by Boko Haram, a move criticised by Buhari’s All Progressives CongressRegional forces have recently made some inroads on the group; they have reclaimed several towns and are planning a major ground and air assault.

Jonathan’s waning popularity as a result of corruption scandals, high unemployment and his lacklustre handling of the Boko Haram crisis would seem to bode well for Buhari, who has extended his support in the south. But with most of his support situated in the north, any cancellation of polling or lack of voter turnout because of Boko Haram threats may affect his chances and call the credibility of the election into question.

For more on the Nigerian election, see Africa Check’s factsheet.

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