Democracy Takes A Beating In Elections Across African Continent
By Lisa Vives
Foul play may have been the winner in recent national elections in Tanzania, where the ruling party swept up an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats and the leaders of both top opposition parties lost theirs.
Citing “seditious language”, the election commission suspended the campaign of opposition challenger Tundu Lissu. Heavily armed police blocked his entire convoy for hours as he headed to launch new offices earlier this month. In a similar fashion, opposition candidate Seif Sharif Hamad was arrested on October 29, soon after holding a press conference in Zanzibar.
Zitto Kabwe, a leader of Hamad’s ACT-Wazalendo party, complained on Twitter: “Police have arrested the whole ACT leadership and one of the leaders was beaten to near death. We are not sure if he is still alive and he is in custody.”
With almost all votes counted, President John Magufuli of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party is claiming victory with 12.5 million out of 15 million votes cast while candidate Lissu of the Chadema party chalked up only 1.9 million.
“We’re calling for fresh elections and the disbandment of the electoral commissions that participated in the fraudulent elections”, Lissu told the Financial Times. Tanzania Elections Watch, a regional whistleblower, called the election “the most significant backsliding in Tanzania’s democratic credentials.”
Tanzanian lawyer and Magufuli critic Fatma Karume tweeted that Thursday was the president’s birthday. “He is going to get the present he has always wanted: No opposition in #Tanzania,” she said.
In another heavily contested election, Guinea’s electoral commission declared incumbent President Alpha Conde the winner of presidential election with 59 percent of the vote. Restrictions on internet and phone usage had sparked violence that led to the deaths of nearly two dozen people.
In Guinea’s neighbor to the south, President Alassane Ouattara has claimed victory despite weeks of street clashes over the president’s bid for a third term. Ouattara won all 20 of the districts announced by the electoral commission with results from the other 88 districts expected shortly.
Christopher Fomunyoh, a Cameroonian scholar with the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, opined grimly: “Democratic trends have reversed and there are now fewer democracies in Africa than 20 years ago… Many countries in Africa are falling short in their efforts to consolidate constitutional rule as to presidential term limits, laws on elections, civic space and political party activity.”