Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Strengths and weaknesses in Ghana's democracy

Ghana's democracy is robust compared to some other ECOWAS countries, including Gambia. On the same day Ghana's president Mahama accepted defeat, the first sitting president to lose an election in Ghana, the president of Gambia decided he didn't want to accept his electoral defeat after all.

Ghana has had peaceful multiparty elections for 25 years, and Decembers's election marks the third democratic alternation of power between parties, but in other ways Ghana's democracy shows weaknesses, as described in a recent Monkey Cage post from Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis. The whole thing is worth reading but here are some highlights:
During the campaign, a widely shared video showed Mahama allegedly “buying votes” — handing out money to women at a market.

71 percent of respondents in that survey said they prefer democracy to any other form of government — ... But the results suggest that despite Ghana’s impressive experience of open and competitive elections, Ghanaians accept some problematic electoral practices

For example, 43 percent of Ghanaians ... answered that bribing voters was either “not wrong at all” or was “wrong but should not be punished.” Similarly, 76 percent of Ghanaians ... felt that politicians should not be punished for directing development projects toward areas that support them. 
... our survey reveals that many politicians and voters do not consider giving gifts to voters to be an illegitimate act. In fact, many voters expect or even demand such practices.

... research shows that such practices have problematic consequences. Gift-giving during the campaign makes people forget that MPs are not just sources of patronage but are also supposed to debate legislation and scrutinize government. It encourages voters to judge a politician’s performance by what Americans call “pork”: whether they have built a clinic or paid for school fees in someone’s home town. 
And that has unhealthy consequences for accountability, because it encourages voters to turn a blind eye to where the money to fund these activities has come from.

Math can be dangerous

... especially when you're counting ballots in a country where the president doesn't want to lose.

From Reuters:
The head of Gambia's electoral commission has fled to Senegal due to threats to his safety after declaring that President Yahya Jammeh lost last month's election, a defeat the ruler has refused to accept.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Dueling claims about Boko Haram stronghold - either Sambisa forest was captured or it wasn't

From Reuters last week:
A man purporting to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, denied the jihadist group has been pushed out of its stronghold in the Sambisa forest, but the army said the base had been captured.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday said Boko Haram's last enclave in the forest, a former game reserve in northeastern Nigeria, had been captured in the "final crushing" of the group.
Reuters has been unable to independently verify that the area was captured.
"We are safe. We have not been flushed out of anywhere," the man identifying himself as Shekau said in a video ... "If you indeed crushed us, how can you see me like this? How many times have you killed us in your bogus death?" ...
Nigeria's military has in recent years said it has killed or wounded Shekau on multiple occasions. 
Such statements have often swiftly been followed by video denials by someone who says he is Shekau, but poor footage makes it hard to confirm if the person is the same man as in previous videos. ...
Here's some evidence from Niger that might support the Nigerian government's claims:
Dozens of Boko Haram fighters have given themselves up to authorities in southern Niger, the interior minister said, days after the Islamist group suffered key losses over the border in Nigeria.
Although the Sambisa forest isn't very close to the Niger border, so maybe the events are unrelated (see map).

Gambia election follow-up: ECOWAS forces on alert

From Reuters:
Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh accused West African regional body ECOWAS of declaring war, after it said it was putting forces on alert in case he refused to step down at the end of his mandate this month. ...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 Elections round-up and 2017 elections prelude

2016 was a big year for elections in ECOWAS countries:

  • Benin, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, and Niger had presidential elections. Only in Cape Verde and Niger did an incumbent win (unless you believe Jammeh in Gambia that he should have won as well). 
  • Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, and Nigeria had parliamentary elections.
  • Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal both had constitutional referenda. 
  • Nigeria had gubernatorial and local elections, and Niger had local elections. 
2017 has fewer elections planned for ECOWAS countries:
  • Liberia has a presidential election in October and a constitutional referendum planned. 
  • Gambia has a parliamentary election in April (and a disputed presidential inauguration in January)
  • Senegal and Sierra Leone have general elections. 
  • Guinea and Niger have local elections. 

Guinea-Bissau's 5th Prime Minister since August 2015

The last time I wrote about Guinea-Bissau (in September 2015), they were on their third prime minister in one month (Pereira was dismissed by President Vaz, then Dja was rejected by the Parliament, then Correia was appointed). All of these characters were members of the same party, the PAIGC, which controls the presidency and the Parliament, but there is conflict between the two branches of government.

Since September 2015, the country has had two more prime ministers. In May 2016, Vaz ejected Correia and tried to bring back Dja, but he was rejected again by Parliament. 

ECOWAS intervened to help - the Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, held negotiations with the three main parties in Guinea-Bissau. Following the negotiations, in October Vaz dismissed Dja (which was what the PAIGC in Parliament wanted) and in November appointed Umaro Sissoco (which was not what they wanted). The PAIGC and one of the main opposition parties, União para a Mudança (UM), said that another candidate, Augusto Olivais, had been agreed to in the negotiations.

On December 13, Sissoco selected a cabinet which the PAIGC in Parliament rejected.

ECOWAS delegation has no influence (yet?) on Jammeh in Gambia

Yahya Jammeh, who took control of Gambia in a military coup in 1994, continues to reject the outcome of the election he lost on December 1.

Presidents from four other ECOWAS countries - Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone - visited Gambia to convince Jammeh to accept the election results, but to no effect (as of yet). Military action is an option but there are no clear plans from ECOWAS on that front.

Jammeh at first (surprisingly) accept the election results, but then he changed his mind. One reason he may have decided to stay is "foolhardy pledges of some of the opposition to arrest him for his many abuses of human rights." Military dictators often negotiate a transition to democracy in exchange for amnesty for any human rights abuses during their rule. Jammeh didn't try to negotiate his exit - he tried to win a fifth presidential election (which is why scholars such as Geddes characterize rulers like Jammeh as a personalist leader).

Nonetheless, the opposition would have been better advised to hold off on any threats to prosecute Jammeh until they were safely in power and had clear control of the military. Investigations into the assassination of Sankara by Compaore were one of the triggers for a coup by Compaore's presidential guard after Compaore (another personalist leader who took power in a military coup) was denied the opportunity to run for a fifth presidential term. Members of military governments don't like to face criminal charges if they step down from power.

The winner of the election, Adama Barrow, says he will go forward with his inauguration in January. If he does, and Jammeh continues to claim he won the presidency, this would be similar to what happened in Cote d'Ivoire in 2010, which restarted the civil war.

It looked like 2016 would be the year when Gambia would no longer be the only ECOWAS country that isn't at least "Partly Free," according to Freedom House, but it looks like that won't be the case. ECOWAS looks likely to enter 2017 as it did in 2016, according to Freedom House: with four "Free" countries (Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, and Senegal), ten "Partly Free" countries, and one "Not Free" country: Gambia.