Elections in Africa usher in positive changes

In 2015, several key elections took place across Africa that provided hope that politics on the continent had matured, and future changes would come via the ballot box.

The most momentous of these was the peaceful transition of power from the People’s Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress in Nigeria, when former president Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to Muhammadu Buhari. This transition came in only the fourth election since the end of military rule in 1999.

In East Africa, we saw a change of administration in Tanzania when John Magufuli, the surprise candidate of the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, won a hotly contested race against former prime minister Edward Lowassa, who had crossed the floor to the opposition. Like Buhari in Nigeria, Magufuli’s campaign was focused strongly on a commitment to reduce corruption, and so far, he appears to be acting on his election promise.

Zambia held a presidential by-election in January 2015 after the death in office of president Michael Sata. The opposition performed strongly, but its candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, lost to the governing party’s Edgar Lungu by 1.7%. Given this tight race, we could well see a change in government when Zambians go to the polls on August 11.

President Macky Sall convinced Senegalese voters to approve changes to their constitution during a referendum in March 2016. Changes included reducing his term of office from seven years to five, as well as strengthening the rights of citizens and opposition party members. We have also seen citizens reject constitutional changes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, as mentioned above, in Burundi.

There is a general sense that democracy is improving across the continent, aided by improved communication and a younger generation that hankers after better economic management. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index, rates 167 countries on 60 indicators grouped in five categories.

In the past five years the improvement in democracy means that less than 50% of Africans now live in authoritarian regimes, down from 73% in 2010. Africa’s average score is also improving, although more than half of the world’s 51 authoritarian regimes — at 27 — are still found on the continent.

Source: BD Live

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