African Elections in 2015: A Year of Promise and Peril

Members of the SADC, Pan African election observers and journalists listen as ZEC chairman Chiweshe speaks in Harare2015 is a critical year in the governance and political landscape of Africa, with national and parliamentary elections taking place across the continent. There are currently 14 legislative and presidential elections scheduled for 2015, including those in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic (CAR), Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho, Nigeria, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia. While nations such as Tanzania and Zambia seek to extend their advancements in peaceful, democratic transitions in 2015; other African nations face the prospect of holding elections in the context of conflict or post-conflict settings with significant ethnic and/or regional tensions, such as those in Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Central African Republic. These elections could present serious challenges to internal and regional stability across the continent, and will require vital technical, logistical and security-related support from the African Union and the international community. In addition to these challenges, close attention should be paid to the issue of electoral term limits continent-wide. While there are several African nations where strong adherence to constitutional term limits has taken root – such as Ghana, Namibia and Mozambique; there is an unsettling trend towards constitutional amendments to extend term limits in Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some African leaders argue that without a competent and organized opposition; they are justified in extending their terms in the best interest of their nations. The rejoinder to this argument, from many in African civil society, and the international community is that this logic creates a perennial excuse for African leaders to suppress dissent and political opposition in order to retain power.  This same trend was the root cause of the civil unrest late last year in Burkina Faso, which ultimately led to the removal of President Compaore from office. cd7f676d-f36d-48fb-9b50-129ba6eba6c8As Africans across the continent engage in the democratic process, African governments and regional bodies must work to provide maximum transparency and security; as well as mechanisms for electoral grievances and support for the acceptance of results.  They should not however, be expected to do this alone. US foreign assistance agencies, the broader international community, and the relevant agencies of the United Nations system must be poised to provide necessary support in this year of numerous African elections.

The following table provides a glimpse of the presidential elections that are expected to take place in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, listed in chronological order to the extent possible given available information. In three cases (Mauritius, Ethiopia, and Lesotho), the table lists the date of anticipated legislative elections; as these countries have political systems in which the legislature selects the president, or where there is no president.

Upcoming Presidential Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa

* An asterisk indicates the date of next legislative election in countries in which the legislature selects the president, or the prime minister in cases where there is no president.
CountryScheduled Date of ElectionConcurrent Legislative/ Presidential Elections?
ZambiaJanuary 20, 2015No
NigeriaFebruary 14, 2015;Yes
LesothoFebruary 28, 2015*N/A
SudanApril 2, 2015Yes
Togo2015, likely in first half of yearNo
EthiopiaMay 24, 2015*N/A (see “Incumbent”)
BurundiJune 2015, possible run-off in JulyNearly concurrent. Senate vote for July 2015.
Central African Republic (CAR)June 2015, possible run-off in JulyLikely but not confirmed.
Somaliland (autonomous region)June 2015Yes
South SudanMay 2015Yes
Guineamid- to late-2015No
Tanzania2015, likely OctoberYes
Côte d’Ivoire2015, likely October or NovemberNo
Burkina FasoNovember 2015Unclear
*Source Africa Update]]>

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