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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ghana election maps tell the story

2012 General Election Results
2016 General Election Results
(as of Dec. 10)

The two maps above for 2012 and 2016 tell much of the story about Ghana's election results and the regional bases of support for the two main parties.

The NPP regional stronghold is in the Ashanti region (the left blue region in the left map), which is the most populous region in the country with nearly 5 million people. (Apart from Greater Accra, which holds the national capital, other regions have populations under 3 million.) Ashanti region's capital, Kumasi, is the capital of the Ashanti kingdom.

The NDC regional stronghold is the Volta region (the long region to the east), where the Ewes are the dominant ethnic group. Jerry Rawlings, who led Ghana from December 1971 (when he launched his second coup) to January 2001 (when he stepped down after serving two elected terms as president) is from the Volta region.

The other eight regions are relatively competitive between the two parties (and in the northern three regions, third parties sometimes do well).

In 2012, Mahama (NDC) won 8 of 10 regions in the country; in 2016, Akufo-Addo (NPP) won 6 of 10 regions. Similarly, in 2012 the NDC won 148 of 275 seats in the legislature, and in 2016 the NPP is expected to win over 150 seats.

UPDATE: Here is a more detailed map, at the district rather than region level. It shows that Akufo-Addo won in several northern districts. A vote count by region demonstrates that the Ashanti region continues to be the NPP stronghold (76% for Akufo-Addo) and the Volta region continues to be the NDC stronghold (82% for Mahama); in all other regions, each party won at least one third of the vote.

Ghana's Opposition Candidate Wins Presidency in 3rd Attempt

On the same day Gambia's incumbent president withdrew acceptance of his defeat by the oppostion in that country's presidential election, the opposition candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo (NPP), in Ghana's presidential election was announced the winner. The incumbent, John Mahama (NDC), promptly conceded defeat and there is no doubt he will continue to accept the election results.

Ghana is one of Africa's most consolidated democracies. This election is the seventh peaceful presidential election since multiparty elections were reintroduced in 1992, the third alternation of power between parties (following NDC->NPP in 2000 and NPP->NDC in 2008), and the first time an incumbent president was defeated.

Ghana's economy has been growing at 4%, which doesn't sound bad (it's average for the continent), but this is down from 14% in 2011 when the country started pumping oil. Since then, oil prices have come down and the government overspent, resulting in the need for an IMF bail-out last year. Its currency was the worst performing on the continent in 2014, when it lost 27% of value, which means inflation from higher-priced imports. Unemployment among the youth (15-24) is very high, an estimated 48%.

Akufo-Addo is a human rights lawyer who campaigned for multiparty democracy during the authoritarian rule of the PNDC, whose leadership formed the NDC. This year's presidential campaign was his third. In 2008, he received a plurality in the first round, with 48%, but narrowly lost in the second round with 49.8%. In 2012 he narrowly lost with 48% in the first round. This time he won decisively, with 54% versus 44% for Mahama. The NPP campaign emphasized "sustainable jobs through industrialization", promising construction of a factory in each of the country's 2016 provinces.

The NPP also benefits from support in the Ashanti region. The NPP Ashanti regional chairman predicted the NPP would win 90% of the votes in his region. The Ashanti are a major subgroup of the Akan, which is the largest ethnic group in Ghana, making up slightly less than half the population.

Gambia's Surprise Election Result Suspended

It was a surprise that Gambia's President Jammeh wasn't able to stop the electoral commission from announcing he lost the election, and it was a huge surprise that he accepted the loss last Monday, so it wasn't a surprise at all that he changed his mind on Friday. Jammeh complains there were irregularities and called for another vote. No doubt there were irregularities, just not enough to get him the result he wanted.

Côte d'Ivoire's president in 2010 rejected the electoral defeat announced by the electoral commission, which resulted in two presidents holding inaugurations and return to civil war, but in Gambia the opposition isn't armed, so they are relying on hopes that ECOWAS will intervene.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ghana Election History

To put yesterday's election in context, here is Ghana's presidential election history since multiparty elections were re-instituted in 1992. There is regular alternation between the two main parties, and the vote share has been very close since 2000.

When no candidate wins 50% in the first round, there is a runoff between the top two candidates.

Counting for yesterday's election is still in progress, but Nana Akufo-Addo (NPP) is reportedly in the lead with 49.5% of the vote, so a second round may be required. In 2009, the NPP candidate won in the first round but the incumbent NDC candidate won in the second round.

John Dramani Mahama (NDC) 50.7%
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (NPP) 47.7%

John Atta-Mills (NDC) Round 1: 47.9%  Round 2: 50.2%
Nana A D Akufo-Addo (NPP) Round 1: 49.1%  Round 2: 49.8%

John Agyekum Kufuor (NPP) 52.5%
John Atta-Mills (NDC) 44.6% 

John Agyekum Kufuor (NPP) Round 1: 48.2%   Round 2: 56.9%
John Atta-Mills (NDC) Round 1: 44.5%   Round 2: 43.1%

Jerry John Rawlings (NDC) 57.4%
John Kufuor (NPP) 39.7%

Jerry John Rawlings (NDC) 58.40%
Albert Adu Boahen (NPP) 30.29%

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ghana Election

Today was election day in Ghana. The results are coming in. 

From the Monkey Cage, here are 9 things you should know about the election. A quick summary: (1) the two main candidates are incumbent John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Akufo-Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). (2) "the electorates’ appetite for democratic turnovers, a failing economy, and several high-profile corruption scandals increase the chances for the opposition NPP candidate." (3) The economy has been on the decline and inflation on the rise. ... (9) Over 1,000 candidates from eleven parties will compete in parliamentary elections.

Surprise ending to Gambian president's billion-year mandate

The result last month in the US presidential election wasn't the surprise of the year after all. 

Five years ago, Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh said he would rule the small country for one billion years. In February, knowledgeable observers predicted Jammeh wouldn't be leaving office any time soon. In November, Jammeh said that "Allah elected me, and only Allah can remove me.”

As it turned out, these predictions were all wrong. According to the final results, Jammeh received 40% of the vote and the new president elect, Adamah Barrow, won with 43%. 

From independence in 1965 until 1994, Gambia had regular free and fair elections, although the same person - Dawda Jawara - won all of those elections, first parliamentary elections that indirectly made him prime minister, and then direct elections that made him president. In 1994, Jammeh overthrew Jawara and won multiparty presidential elections every five years from 1996-2011. Based on those four elections, no-one expected Jammeh to lose this time:

Some of those elections were close, but Jammeh repeatedly used state power to guarantee victory. For example, in advance of the 2011 election, the Commission for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) declined to send observers to Gambia, stating in a press release that “the preparations and political environment for the said election are adjudged by the Commission not to be conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls.” The Commission added, “The reports of [our] fact-finding mission and the Early Warning System paint a picture of intimidation, an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power, the lack of neutrality of state and para-statal institutions, and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation.”
This year, Jammeh was taking similar steps to win the election. The opposition candidate who placed second in the previous four elections, Ousainou Darboe, was arrested in July. The night before the election, Gambian authorities turned off the internet. International phone calls and street protests were banned.

And yet Jammeh lost. Some possible reasons: Barrow, a real estate developer and opposition politician who emerged as the candidate for Darboe's party, united the opposition behind him by running as the candidate for a seven-party coalition rather than just his party. It may have helped that he was a fresh face.

It was equally surprising that Jammeh accepted the loss, given what appeared strong support from the security forces. Perhaps some members of the military were ready for a fresh face as well.

UPDATE: Economist December 10 story on the "shock victory". And of course Jammeh didn't stick with his acceptance of the loss.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Falling oil prices and violence in Nigeria

Countries with oil wealth often suffer a "resource curse" that can take a lot of forms, including encouraging corruption and violence rather than investment in education and manufacturing, and undermining democracy. 

Then there are the problems that arise for oil rich countries when oil prices fall. 

From Kim Yi Dionne's interview with Omolade Adunbi, regarding the Niger Delta Avengers:
The violence lasted from 1999 to 2009, when the Yar’Adua and Jonathan administrations crafted an amnesty program for former militants who agreed to lay down arms. But rather than address infrastructural deficits, ecological destruction and high unemployment, the (former president) Goodluck Jonathan administration basically created a program that paid former militants not to fight. Many insurgent leaders were paid huge sums to keep the peace. Former militant commander Government Tompolo, for example, got a $100 million contract to police the waterways of Nigeria. Foot soldiers were given monthly allowances far exceeding the national monthly minimum wage.
But when international oil prices collapsed, the state could not continue these payments. The result is that we are witnessing old insurgents clad in new names with the same style of agitation.

Although the Niger Delta Avengers agreed to a ceasefire in exchange for a resumption of monthly allowances. Others, such as the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate group, continue to attack pipelines. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Refugees fleeing Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria spark conflict in Southern Nigeria

Just as conflict in one country can lead to conflict in a neighboring country due to refugees fleeing one conflict and clashing with the residents of the recipient country, conflict in one part of a country can lead to conflict in another part of the country.

In Nigeria, Muslim Fulani herdsmen are fleeing Boko Haram in the north and clashing with Christian farmers in the south.

Add that to Buhari's to-do list, along with Boko Haram and the Delta Avengers and other violent groups in the south.

Casper, You're Fired

Earlier this year, the Nigerian government removed nearly 24,000 "ghost workers" from its payroll.

Now it's Mali's turn. They've identified 13,000 "ghost workers" on the state payroll. These are workers who died or left to work elsewhere but continued to collect checks.

It's not clear to me whether these non-workers had not previously identified because of incompetence or corruption. They are being purged now because of a requirement for Mali's program with the IMF.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Cash Payments to Avengers Resume

The Niger Delta Avengers are an army of unemployed young men who attack oil pipelines if the Nigerian government refuses their demands to send more of the country's oil wealth to the impoverished Delta region.

The Avengers "previously laid down arms in 2009 in exchange for cash benefits under a government amnesty. The government angered former militants (in February) when it cut by two-thirds the budget allocated for the amnesty program which provided stipends and employment training".

Yesterday, the government resumed the cash payment program to the former militants.

The attacks reduced Nigeria's crude output by 70,000 barrels a day, enough to enable Angola to take over the title of Africa's top oil producer.

More constitutional changes underway in ECOWAS countries

While I was writing up the post about Burkina Faso's constitution-writing process, I came across this nice post about other constitutional reforms under discussion in ECOWAS countries.

Some highlights:

  • Cote d'Ivoire, like Burkina Faso, is working on a new constitution. The current constitution requires presidential candidates to have two native-born Ivorian parents, a requirement the current president does not satisfy (a law was passed changing the rule, but it was never ratified in the constitution). As in Burkina Faso, some opposition members complain the process is being rushed.
  • Mali is working on "incorporat(ing) provisions of the 2015 Algiers peace accord signed between the government of Mali and former rebel groups"
  • Senegal shortened the presidential term from 7 to 5 years and clarified the two-term limit
  • Benin, going in the other direction, is considering lengthening the presidential term from 5 to 6 or 7 years, and reducing the term limit from two to one. 
More on Benin:
  • The 35-member commission "unanimously recommends that the president should no longer appoint Bénin’s chief justice, the chair of the superior council of judges .., and the chair of the national audio-visual authority"
  • "It also proposes to augment the number of justices serving on Bénin’s constitutional court from seven to nine, extend their mandate from five to nine years, and to limit the number of justices appointed by the president to one, as opposed to currently three."
  • "However, the commission was unable to reach consensus on proposed changes to the presidential term limit"
  • "President Talon has announced he intends to put the question in front of the Béninese people via referendum before the end of the year. But his proposition may have encountered a sizeable obstacle: Bénin’s constitutional court ruled in October 2011 that presidential term limits could not be changed by way of referendum."

Burkina Faso new constitutional draft due soon

Burkina Faso's president from 1987-2014, Blaise Compaore, was finally driven from office when he attempted to change the constitution to enable him to run for another term. 

Following a military coup, elections were held and Roch Marc Kabore won the presidency. Kabore was prime minister under Compaore and president of his political party, but opposed the attempt to change the constitution to allow Compaore to run for another term. 

In early June, Kabore appointed a 92-member commission to draft a new constitution. A first draft was to be presented in two months, which means any day now. 

Some members of the opposition don't like that timeline, questioning the rush, and demanding a consensual process. 

#GambiaRising leaders locked up - @GambiaRising focused on education

The last time I posted about Gambia, it was about an uprising that started in mid-April against President Yahya Jammeh's government, including demands that he step down.

Two weeks ago, Gambia's opposition leader Ousainou Darboe and 18 others were jailed for three years for participating in those unauthorized demonstrations.
The odds of the president stepping down are low, although Gambia is unpredictable.

@GambiaRising, meanwhile, thanks Tweeters for not posting #gambiarising when protesting the government. @GambiaRising is focused on improving education in Gambia, not overthrowing its government.

Ghana - no change in election date after all

My last post on Ghana was about a proposed constitutional amendment to change the upcoming presidential election date from December to November, and to fix it permanently in November via a constitutional amendment.

The vote for the constitutional amendment did not pass the Parliament. It required a 2/3 vote, 184/275, and only 125 voted for the change. The NPP, the main opposition party, withdrew its support, saying that the process would take too long and would shorten the campaign period before the election.

Reducing the campaign period may have been the goal of the incumbent party, the NDC, according to Kwasi Prempeh. The country has various problems that the opposition party could highlight during the campaign, and moving the election forward a month would reduce the time available to make that case.

(A smaller opposition party, on the other hand - Nkrumah's resurrected CPP - said it was ready for the election to be held in November.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Another attempt to impose presidential term limits in Togo

Legislators in Togo are seeking a constitutional amendment to impose a two-term limit on the presidency. They made a similar attempt two years ago, in the run-up to the 2015 election. If history is a reliable guide, they will fail again.

Most Togolese citizens support presidential term limits. And yet their current president won his third term last year, after his father won five elections (two unopposed).

The current Togolese Constitution (of 1992) originally had a two-term limit. At the time, the president was in a position of relative weakness. By 2002, however, the president had consolidated power and the constitution was amended to eliminate term limits, so he could run for a third term in 2003.

Ghanaian constitutional amendment to always hold vote the day before US presidential election

The Ghanaian parliamentary select committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is working on a constitutional amendment for the elections to be held on the first Monday in November of every election year. Ghanaian election years, since 1992, are always during US presidential election years, and US election day is the Tuesday after the first Monday of November. 

A funny coincidence? Maybe not. Joseph Asunka finds that many African transition elections (the first multiparty election after a period without such elections) were timed to be close to the US election in order to avoid scrutiny. US presidential elections can be very distracting, which takes political observers attention away from any potential shenanigans by former dictators holding multiparty elections for the first time. 

Which is not to say that Ghana's political leadership is seeking cover for political shenanigans this year. According to Freedom House, Ghana was only "Partly Free" with respect to political rights and civil liberties in 1992 (an improvement from "Not Free" in 1991), when President Rawlings led his NDC party to victory, and improved to "Free" in 2000, the first year the NPP party won the presidency. The NPP won re-election 2004, but in 2008 and 2012 the NDC has won, and Ghana continues to be scored as "Free" by Freedom House. 

Nonetheless, the NPP accused the NDC of "stealing votes" in the close 2012 election. The 2016 election may be close as well - the economy has slowed from 14% in 2011 to 4% last year, but NDC has incumbency advantages and the NPP has some divisions. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Avengers in Southern Nigeria

Variant cover art for New Avengers#1 (Feb. 2005), by Joe Quesada andRichard Isanove.

President Buhari has had some success against Boko Haram in the north, but now he is facing more violence in the south. 

The Economist reports that:
An army of unemployed young men ... is threatening to rise up in southern Nigeria and blow up oil pipelines. The industry, on which Nigeria depends for nearly all government revenues, could be crippled, as it was for much of the early 2000s. Production has already fallen to about 1.5m barrels a day (b/d), down from 2.2m last year, as attacks gather pace. This has helped push the global oil price back up to almost $50 a barrel. And it could spell disaster for President Muhammadu Buhari, who is trying to stave off recession. His budget assumed almost double that level of output this year.

Responsibility for much of the damage has been claimed by a mysterious and skilful band called the Niger Delta Avengers...

Reuters reports that:
the Niger Delta Avengers ... might agree to a ceasefire on Thursday (today) to allow the government time to meet its demands ... The militants say they want a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth to go to the impoverished Delta region. ...
Among the factors standing in the way of a ceasefire is that militants are divided into small groups and leaders have little sway over unemployed youths willing to work for anyone who pays them. ... 
Earlier this month, the government said it would scale down its military campaign in the Delta as part of an attempt to pursue talks with militants, who previously laid down arms in 2009 in exchange for cash benefits under a government amnesty.
The government angered former militants when it cut by two-thirds the budget allocated for the amnesty program which provided stipends and employment training.

First Female ECOWAS Chairman

The United States may have its first female head of the executive in November. ECOWAS got there first. 

The executive office of ECOWAS is the Chairman, who is selected by the member heads of state for a term of one year. Earlier this month, first female president of Liberia Ellen Sirleaf was elected by her fellow heads of state to be the new chairman (or chairperson). Goals for ECOWAS include more trade, financial stability, and fighting terrorism.

One topic still under discussion is a single monetary unit by 2020. Previous launch dates for the "Eco" included 2003, 2005, 2009, and 2015.

President Sirleaf first won the presidency in 2005, becoming the first female elected head of state in Africa. She won re-election in 2011, the same year she won the Nobel Peace Prize (along with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


More interesting developments in Gambia (the last time I wrote about Gambia it was on the president declaring the country an Islamic Republic, but without any changes in the constitution).

Gambia has only had two leaders in its history - President Dawda Jawara, who led the country from independence in 1965 until he was overthrown in a coup in 1994, and the man who overthrew him, Commander (now President) Yahya Jammeh.

Jeffry Smith and Maggie Dwyer at the Monkey Cage describe the parallels between the situation leading up to the 1994 coup and today - "an increasingly vocal and inspired political opposition, popular protests demanding change, and armed forces with low morale (including reports that senior officers have refused recent orders). Jammeh also confronts rising international isolation ..." One difference, however, is the security forces - they are larger today, report directly to Jammeh, and engage in repressive action such as "arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, torture and unlawful killings of government critics and dissidents", enabling Jammeh to repel up to eight coup attempts. However, there are now cracks in the military's senior levels.

One thing political science tells us about militaries in government is that if they are forced to choose between unity in the military and control of the government, they will generally choose unity, leading them to often step down from office when faced with popular protests. 

If the military leadership is split, sustained protests have a fair chance of bringing an end to Jammeh's rule. What would follow is difficult to predict - the outcome from the last leadership change wasn't anticipated.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sierra Leone sees the light

From The Economist:
Until this month, Sierra Leone had not seen a real traffic light in more than 14 years. They were all stolen and sold for scrap during a civil war that lasted, off and on, from 1991 to 2002. During that period rebel armies rampaged through the country, terrorising civilians and sometimes chopping off their hands. Hungry for booty, they grabbed whatever they could carry off, from livestock to diamonds, aid shipments, televisions, cars—and traffic lights.
So Sierra Leone’s first post-war traffic light, which now stands proudly at a busy crossroads in downtown Freetown, is more than just a tool to ease congestion. The president’s spokesman, Abdulai Bayraytay, says it represents “a transformation. ..."

Benin's love affairs with outsiders

Donald Trump is highly unusual in American presidential politics in that he is not a politician (nor a war hero, which is the historically most common exception). 

In Benin, however, outsiders are a regular feature in presidential politics. Claire Adida gives a summary in her post about Benin's election. Apart from Kerekou, who led Africa for almost 20 years before democratization and 8 years after democratization, all of Benin's presidents since democratization have been economists, and now it has a businessman.

The March election was, in Adida's terms, a campaign between Zinsou, "The Wrong Kind of Outsider" (too French), and Talon, "The Ironic Outsider" (Benin's wealthiest man, who made his fortune in part through connections with political insiders).

Monday, March 28, 2016

More on Benin's presidential election

I wrote a longer post on Benin's presidential election for the Washington Post's Monkey Cage - you can read it HERE

I was flattered that former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan liked the post enough that he tweeted it

One of the commenters was very kind in making a correction: Prime Minister Zinsou is the nephew, not the son, of former president Zinsou. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Talon wins Benin presidential run-off

I didn't see that coming!

Patrice Talon won the run-off election in Benin.

I was pretty sure Lionel Zinsou would win, even though he was born in France, spent most of his life in France, and had never been elected to office before. He was appointed Prime Minister just 9 months ago, as the outgoing president, Yayi Boni, was grooming him to succeed him to the presidency.

Although Zinsou, from that description, doesn't sound like he would be a strong presidential candidate, Patrice Talon doesn't either. He also had never run for office before. He had been a major supporter of Yayi Boni, helping finance his first two elections, before they had a falling out. Talon accused Yayi Boni of trying for a third term (Benin has a two-term limit) and Yayi Boni accused Talon of embezzling $20 million and of conspiring to assassinate the president with poison. Before entering the presidential race, Talon was in exile in France for three years.

So although Zinsou didn't seem like a natural political star, neither did Talon. Furthermore, Zinsou was endorsed by the main ruling party and the main opposition party. So I was pretty confident he would win.

I'll write more later ...

Senegal referendum election today!

Wow, there really are a lot of big elections in ECOWAS countries today.

Senegal is holding a referendum on constitutional reform today. The referendum would reduce the presidential term from seven to five years, would put an age limit (75) on presidential candidates, and would allow independents to run.

This all sounds like it is reducing the power of the president, but President Macky Sall had promised when elected to reduce the length of his own term, but instead the reform on today's ballot would begin with the next elected president, starting in 2019. So supporters of the president are pushing for a "yes" vote, and opponents are pushing for a "no."

UPDATE: The referendum passed.

Cape Verde parliamentary election today!

Wow, there are a lot of elections in the ECOWAS countries today!

Cape Verde is having a parliamentary election today.

Cape Verde has a semi-presidential system, with a president and a prime minister. Today's election will determine who controls the parliament and therefore the prime minister.

The African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) party has controlled the parliament since 2001, but the main opposition party, Movement for Democracy (MpD), reportedly has a chance of retaking control. Current President Jorge Carlos Fonseca, who won the presidency in 2011, is a MpD member, meaning the government has been "cohabitating" since 2001.

Cape Verde is one of the most democratic countries in Africa, and also a developmental success, having achieved a 100 percent basic education rate.

UPDATE: Big results! From Reuters: "Cape Verde' main opposition Movement for Democracy (MpD) party won parliamentary elections, results showed overnight, taking back power after 15 years. With almost all votes counted from Sunday's poll, MpD had 53.7 percent, versus 37 percent for the former ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV)."

Niger runoff election today!

Voters in Niger choose their president today in a run-off election!

Unlike in Benin, this one has an incumbent running, and there have been some troubling events, including the jailing of a major opposition candidate.

See my previous posts and some great posts by Lisa Mueller at the Monkey Cage for details!

UPDATE: The incumbent wins in a landslide, with 92 percent. 

Benin run-off election today

Voters make the final decision today for Benin's fourth president since multiparty elections were re-introduced in 1991.

My guess is Zinsou will win, given his endorsement by the ruling party and the main opposition party, but you never know.

See my previous posts for details!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Benin headed for runoff

As expected, none of the 33 candidates competing in Benin's presidential election last Sunday were able to achieve a majority on the first ballot.

Also as expected, Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou received a plurality, with 28.4% of the vote. Zinsou is outgoing president Yayi Boni's chosen successor, but he has been Prime Minister for less than a year and before that he was a banker in France, where he was born and raised (although he was also a Special Advisor to President Yayi Boni from 2006-2011; he is also the son of a former president of Benin).

Placing second, with 24.8% of the vote, was businessman Patrice Talon. Talon was once a major supporter of President Yayi Boni, until they had a falling out in 2012, due to allegations of a poisoning plot and Yayi Boni's hopes for a third term.

So Zinsou and Talon, each with more success in business than politics and a history with the outgoing president (himself a former banker), will face off in the coming weeks.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Benin begins voting for president among a wide selection of candidates

After a week delay for distribution of voting cards, Benin voters began voting today for president. The voting has been calm - Benin has peacefully elected three new presidents (and two incumbents) since it democratized twenty-five years ago.

Benin's electoral system is modeled on the French system - if no candidate wins a majority in the first round, there will be a run-off between the top two candidates. Since the country re-introduced multiparty presidential elections in 1991, four of five presidential elections have resulted in a run-off. The exception was 2011, when Yayi Boni won re-election in the first round with 53% of the vote.

With no incumbent running and some 33 candidates competing, it seems like the first round will be followed by a runoff.

The frontrunner is Lionel Zinsou, who is Yayi Boni's successor, current prime minister, and endorsed by Adrien Houngbedji, who has placed second or third in the past four presidential elections.

Other prominent candidates include:
  • Patrice Talon, a businessman who used to be an ally of the president, and helped finance his election campaigns. Talon says he split with the president because Yayi wanted to run for a third term. 
  • Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, former president of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), who placed third with 6.5% of votes cast in the first round of the 2011 presidential election
  • Pascal Iréné Koukpaki, former prime minister (2011-2013).
An interesting aspect of Beninois presidential politics - although there are many parties in the country, and although presidential elections are for the most part free and fair, presidential candidates are often nonpartisan. When Nicephore Soglo won in 1991, he was not affiliated with a party (he was endorsed by an alliance of parties and joined Benin Rebirth (RB) after he was elected). Mathieu Kerekou and Yayi Boni were also not affiliated with a party (although they were endorsed by parties) when they were first elected in 1996 and 2006. Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin (Forces Cauris pour un Bénin Emergent - FCBE), which first contested legislative elections in 2007, was formed by supporters of the president. Among the candidates listed above, Zinsou is endorsed by FCBE (as well as Houngbedji's party), Koukpaki was a member of FCBE when he was prime minister under Yayi Boni; Tchane seems to be running as an independent (as he did in 2011), and Talon, who supported Yayi Boni in 2006 and 2011, seems to be running as an independent.

http://africanelections.blogspot.com/ has some coverage. Here's a quote from an enthusiastic supporter of the frontrunner:
    ‘‘You saw the fever. Did you see wherever we go, people welcomed us, people are happy to have someone like Lionel Zinsou as president of the Republic of Benin. Lionel Zinsou for us is a man of development, Lionel Zinsou for us means development of the country, employment for the youth. That is why we support Lionel Zinsou. And we believe that in the first round, we will win,’‘ said Celine Houessinon, a campaigner for Lionel Zinsou.

    Boko Haram Roving Bandits

    In a famous paper, Mancur Olson notes that governments in successful democracies and dictatorships behave more like stationary bandits than roving bandits. "In a world of roving banditry there is little or no incentive for anyone to produce or accumulate anything that may be stolen and, thus, little for bandits to steal. Bandit rationality, accordingly, induces the bandit leader to seize a given domain, to make himself the ruler of that domain, and to provide a peaceful order and other public goods for its inhabitants, thereby obtaining more in tax theft than he could have obtained from migratory plunder."

    Boko Haram has been behaving like roving bandits, and they are paying the price. The NY Times reports:
    After rampaging across the region for years, forcing more than two million people to flee their homes and farms, Boko Haram appears to be falling victim to a major food crisis of its own creation. Farmers have fled, leaving behind fallow fields. Herdsmen have rerouted cattle drives to avoid the violence. Throughout the region, entire villages have emptied, leaving a string of ghost towns with few people for Boko Haram to dominate — and little for the group to plunder.
    It seems clear that Boko Haram won't be able to establish the caliphate they were hoping for. Dozens of Boko Haram emaciated fighters have surrendered. But most of the group can continue to do a lot of damage while using raids to feed themselves.  The multinational military force (including Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon, with help from the US) will need to do a better job of protecting the area around the Sambisa Forest, where Boko Haram is based.

    Monday, February 8, 2016

    Boko Haram down but not out - Multi-National Task Force slow to form

    Nigeria's President Buhari promised last year to defeat Boko Haram with the help of a Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).

    As shown in the Reuters maps above, Buhari had dramatic success in the months after he first took office in taking most of the territory held by Boko Haram. Since then, however, Boko Haram has switched tactics, using hit-and-run attacks. For example, on Saturday Boko Haram attacked a village in Northern Nigeria and killed almost a hundred people.

    The Task Force that was supposed to help defeat Boko Haram by the end of 2015 has not yet mobilized and is underfunded. Last year a budget of $700 million was announced for the MNJTF, but so far donors, including Nigeria and France, have only pledged $250 million.

    In the meantime, armies from Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon and some troops from the US have had successes against Boko Haram, but because the insurgents take advantage of porous borders to move back and forth between countries, a coordinated effort will be necessary to defeat them.

    Monday, February 1, 2016

    Gambian president opposes peacekeeping intervention in Burundi

    Burundi is in danger of experiencing a genocide between Tutsis and Hutus, sparked by the president's election for a third term last summer (boycotted by the opposition). The constitution limits president's to two terms, but the president decided his first term didn't count because he was elected indirectly by the parliament instead of directly by the voters.

    The African Union charter allows a peacekeeping force to be sent by other AU nations if there is risk of serious violence, such as a genocide, even if it is against the will of the country's government. Burundi President Nkurunziza doesn't want some foreign troops interfering. Other presidents with extremely questionable legitimacy, such as Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh, would like presidents to have the prerogative of keeping meddling peacekeepers out when violence breaks out.

    Benin's front runner runs further in front, with help from main opposition party

    As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Lionel Zinsou, who has been prime minister for around 6 months, is President Yayi Boni's chosen successor and is considered the frontrunner, in a presidential field with almost 50 contestants.

    On Saturday, Adrien Houngbedji and his PRD party have thrown their support behind Zinsou. Houngbedji has run for president in all five presidential elections Benin has held since multiparty elections were re-introduced in 1991. In 1996 and 2001 he placed third, and in 2006 and 2011 he placed second behind Yayi Boni. So his endorsement is a big deal.

    The election is February 28.

    Sunday, January 31, 2016

    Elections and Security in Niger (UPDATED)

    I'm on my way to my daughter's rock concert so I'll add to this later -

    Nice Monkey Cage post from Lisa Mueller on the security situation in Niger, where a presidential election is scheduled for February 21.

    UPDATE: Issoufou is favored to win, but there are two fairly strong candidates running against him. On the other hand, one of those two challengers was jailed for accusations of baby trafficking, prompting a lawyers' strike. Mueller notes that another presidential candidate, a physician, is being investigated as a suspect in Burkina Faso's recent bombing, after he tended to victims of the bomb blast, and in December Issoufou sacked nine military officers in December for a suspected coup plot. The recent military coup in neighboring Burkina Faso just before that country's presidential election can't be far from his mind. So Issoufou obviously isn't feeling safe.

    Apart from the security of his office, Issoufou needs to worry about the related security of his country. There are recent terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali, apparently by AQIM, and Niger has had trouble with Boko Haram in the south. There has been some success against Boko Haram, with help from the US and other Western allies, but this opens Issoufou to accusations of putting Niger on the receiving end of necolonialism.

    Mueller concludes:
    "Questionable arrests and electoral fraud are arguably more threatening to Niger’s democracy than religious fundamentalism. Niger is not Mali or Burkina Faso. The country has its own domestic challenges to contend with, not least among them corruption, drug trafficking and chronic food shortages. A comprehensive international policy toward Niger would take all of those problems, and not just terrorism, into account."

    Monday, January 25, 2016

    New Islamic State in West Africa

    The Economist reports on Gambia's president announcing that the country is now an Islamic Republic.

    A little information about Gambia - it has fewer than 2 million people, it had what many considered free and fair elections from independence until 1984 under Dawda Jawara, until he was overthrown in a military coup by the current president, Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh.

    Jammeh proclaimed Gambia an Islamic Republic on December 15, but the secular constitution is so for unaltered. A group of Islamic scholars, the Supreme Islamic Council, was deployed to stir up support for the decision, but it doesn't sound like Jammeh (who I'm pretty certain is not an Islamic Scholar) is going to give them any power over the presidency.

    Speculation about the reason for the change seems to focus on non-spiritual motives. One of Gambia's main industries is tourism (it has some nice beaches), but the Ebola scare in nearby countries hurt that sector of the economy, and Western donors have cut aid because of human rights abuses. Also, Jammeh has some elections to rig win. Making the country an Islamic Republic might bring in some foreign aid from Gulf States, and appealing to religion may distract some of the (predominantly Muslim) Gambian voters from their economic struggles.

    Challenges and opportunities for new president of Burkina Faso

    The Monkey Cage has a nice post by Arsène Brice Bado summarizing the challenges facing Burkina Faso's first president in nearly 30 years.

    It's a short article/listicle, so you might want as well go ahead and take a look, but here it is in 30 seconds or less:

    Monday, January 18, 2016

    Terrorist attack in Burkina Faso (UPDATED)

    President Kobara is off to a tough start. Twenty-nine civilians from seven countries were killed in a violent terrorist attack in the nation's capital.

    "Officials have not yet been able to determine whether al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Mourabitoun, groups that claimed responsibility for both attacks, used a local jihadist cell or sent fighters from northern Mali."

    AQIM is part of Al Queda and was launched in Algeria, spread to Mali where it took over half the country until the French dropped some bombs, after which it expanded into Tunisia and Morocco. I believe this would be AQIM's first attack in Burkina Faso.

    UPDATE: The Monkey Cage has a nice extended post about what the attack means for Burkina Faso - consequences, challenges, etc. Check it out. 

    November Burkina Faso Presidential Election Results

    People stand in front of a campaign poster for Burkina Faso presidential candidate Roch Marc Kabore in Ouagadougou. Photograph: Joe Penney/Reuters
    Before I started falling behind on my "Daily Journal," I made quite a few posts on the Burkina Faso election, which was originally to be held in October, but delayed by a military coup, which didn't last long.  The election was rescheduled for November, and was won in the first round by Roch Marc Kabore with 53% of the vote.

    Kabore was favored to win since last summer. Under former president Blaise Compaore, who ruled from 1987-2014, Kabore had a number of top posts, including prime minister (1994-1996), president of the National Assembly (2002-2012), and president of Compaore's ruling party, Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP).

    In January 2014, Kabore was among those who opposed the attempted amendment to the constitution to enable Compaore to run for a 3rd term. Kabore resigned from the CDP and started his own party, the People's Movement for Progress (MPP).

    In second place in the November election, with 30% of the vote, was former finance minister Zephirin Diabre, the candidate for the CDP's main opposition party, the Union for Progress and Change (UPC). UPC won 19 (of 127) seats in the 2012 legislative elections, positioning it as the 3rd largest party after CDP (which at the time still had Kabore in its top leadership) and CDP's ally, ADF-RDA.

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

    Former prime minister, accused of baby-trafficking, approved to stand in next month's presidential election in Niger

    Hama Amadou, a former speaker of the National Assembly arrested in November in connection with a probe into a ring of elites accused of obtaining new-borns from “baby factories” in neighbouring Nigeria.
    Niger has a presidential election on February 21. Last Saturday, Niger’s constitutional court approved 15 candidates for the election, "including key opponent Hama Amadou, who was imprisoned two months ago upon return from a year-long exile."

    Amadou was arrested on charges of procuring babies from "baby factories" in Nigeria. Amadou has been both an ally and an opponent of president Mahamadou Issoufou. In 2011, he ran for president against Issoufou and placed third (with 20% of the vote); he supported Issoufou against Seyni Oumarou in the run-off, helping Issoufou win his first term as president. He was elected President of the National Assembly as an ally of Issoufou in 2011 and held the post until 2014, but in 2013 he went into the opposition. In August 2014 he fled Niger to escape the baby-trafficking charges, which he says were politically motivated.

    The three top candidates from 2011 - Issoufou, Amadou, and Oumarou (all of them former prime ministers) - are considered to be the leading contenders in the upcoming election, with incumbent Issoufou considered the favorite to win. 

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016

    You think the Republicans have a lot of candidates?

    You know how the longer you wait to do something, the bigger the job becomes, and so you keep delaying, and then the job gets even bigger? Know what I'm talking about? If not, you're not a procrastinator.

    My point is - I've been meaning since Thanksgiving to do a big catch-up post for all 16 ECOWAS countries, and every day I've delayed, something has happened in each of those countries. So I give up. Let's just talk about Benin's upcoming election.

    Last summer I mentioned there was a Beninois candidate for every card in the deck. Now there are just 48 - four of them didn't do their paperwork right or something. But 48 is still a record! Imagine what that debate stage will look like!

    Lionel Zinsou, who has been prime minister for around 6 months, is President Yayi Boni's chosen successor and is considered the frontrunner. Until he was appointed prime minister, Zinsou didn't have a lot of experience in politics - his background is in economics and banking. But that isn't unusual in Benin - Yayi Boni and Nicephore Soglo were both economists and bankers before they became president.

    The election is February 28.