Tanzania’s next elections may be nearly three years away but they are already affecting national politics. Within the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi, tension will increase as the race to succeed President Jakaya Kikwete gathers momentum. The succession question will also shape the CCM’s relations with both the public and the opposition. The research project Afrobarometer recently found President Kikwete’s approval ratings falling from over 90% in 2008 to 70% in 2012 as general dissatisfaction grew with the government’s management of the economy.
The grand plan for Mali’s army to wrest the northern provinces of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu from jihadist militias is due to swing into operation in the second half of the year. It has been held up by local and regional political disagreements, not least the opposition of Algeria, the biggest power in the region, whose land border with Mali runs for over 1,000 kilometres.
New Prime Minister Django Sissoko has started well, winning support for his government with his consensual style. A member of the nominated Transitional Assembly before his promotion, he was involved in efforts to launch a concertation nationale, a consultative conference bringing together a range of interest groups, civil society and political factions to draw up a political roadmap for Mali.
A host of policy, factional and personal battles lie ahead for Jacob Zuma in 2013, despite his resounding re-election as President of the African National Congress at the Mangaung Conference last month. Party managers are already corralling the troops for next year’s national elections, which will be a critical test of the ANC’s standing after the crisis in the mining industry, unprecedented protests about poor services and still worsening unemployment.
Downgraded by the rating agencies and facing spiralling trade and budget deficits, South Africa needs its policy makers to make some tough decisions this year. Many will involve a messy confrontation with organised labour as deep cracks appear in President Jacob Zuma’s strategy of ‘Talk left, act right.’ The current account deficit may hit the tipping point of more than 6% in 2013 if foreign investment slows again and the trade deficit will widen further, since mineral exports have fallen due to the miners’ strikes. Yet by dint of geology, South Africa will continue to dominate the supply of many minerals.
After a great deal of brinkmanship, President Robert Mugabe conceded in mid-December that elections could not be held before June 2013. During the first part of the year, therefore, the Movement for Democratic Change and the Southern African Development Community will downplay their objections to the polls. Instead, they will concentrate on finalising the constitution, followed by the referendum on it. Simultaneously, the other objectives of the electoral road map should be addressed: drawing constituency boundaries, updating the electoral register, registration and more. Yet given the lethargy of the last two years, there is still plenty of room for slippage.
Kenya’s 50th Independence celebrations at the end of the year will be shaped by the general elections in March, the first since the violently disputed 2007 polls. This will be a two-horse race, pitting Prime Minister Raila Oginga Odinga’s new Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) against a fast-rising Jubilee Alliance, led by International Criminal Court indictees Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and William Kipchirchir arap Ruto. Yet an estimated five million electors are believed to be undecided, most in politically marginal regions, and the appearance of several minority electoral coalitions will set up one of the most intriguing polls since Independence in 1963.
This could well be the year in which Kinshasa’s hard-won but only half-complete institutions start to break up. Since 2006, the state has proclaimed that the President, along with national and provincial governors and parliaments, would emerge from internationally acceptable elections. It is not happening. The President and the National Assembly were indeed elected in November 2011, albeit under challenge, but there the flawed process halted. Neither the provincial nor senatorial polls due in 2012 took place and there is scant prospect of them this year.