Jump to navigation

confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 14th May 2020

Credibility-distanced voting

Blue Lines

More than 20 African countries were due to hold elections in 2020. But electioneering is difficult and organising polls fraught with problems against a backdrop of lockdown measures to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Ending the lockdown is the only way to return to free elections. The absence of such tough restrictions explains why Burundi and Benin are planning to hold polls in the coming weeks and why Guinea's Alpha Condé pressed ahead with a referendum on 22 March giving him the right to stand for two more terms.

For others, postponing polls could lead to a legitimacy crisis. In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is facing an angry backlash over his use of a parliamentary vote giving him a questionable extension of his mandate to stay in power beyond September, after he postponed elections due in August.

Malawi faces Hobson's choice: hold the presidential election rerun on 2 July, as instructed by the Constitutional Court, without any campaign rallies, or defer them and allow President Mutharika to stay in power beyond his term.

For authoritarian leaders, Covid-19 offers the perfect excuse to delay polls. Uganda's Yoweri Museveni says it would be crazy to hold elections while the pandemic is raging.

The conditions for party politics to restart are unlikely to be in place for at least a few months. For Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, where elections are due in October and December respectively, that means a waiting game.