History in the Making?
In 2024, over 60 countries will be participating in general elections globally, which will be a phenomenal year in world history. Included in these 60 countries are 17 African countries, summing up to over 180 million eligible voters who would be deciding to either maintain an incumbent government or otherwise. These African countries are Chad, Mozambique, South Sudan, Guinea-Bissau, Botswana, Algeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Mauritius, Tunisia, Senegal, Namibia, South Africa, Comoros, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Mali. This is important because included in these 17 countries are some of the most unstable African countries, marked by violence and coup d’état, with some having to organise elections after a long time. This election would be South Sudan’s first since gaining independence in 2011, as well as Burkina Faso and Chad’s opportunity to potentially transition back to civilian democratic rule.
2024 First Quarter
The year 2024 in relation to elections has already been very eventful. During this first quarter of the year, Comoros had already finished their election, which was conducted on January 14, 2024. Incumbent President Azali Assoumani emerged as the winner of said elections, and this would be his fourth five-year term of office as president. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of the population, or 338,940 registered voters out of 800,000, made their way to the ballot box. This election was characterised by opposition leaders' boycotts, allegations of ballot stuffing, and other malpractices, while the incumbent government and the electoral commission vehemently denied these allegations.
Over the weekend, President Macky Sall announced plans to reschedule the election from February 25 to August 25, which would extend the term of the president. On Monday, the Senegal parliament voted to hold the presidential election at a much later date, December 15, 2024. President Macky Sall cited a dispute over the candidate list and corruption within the electoral commission. A group of protestors were right outside the parliament demonstrating against the rescheduling of the elections, which led to police firing tear gas, mobile internet being disrupted, and school children being sent home. This move from the President and the Parliament threatens to perpetuate the instability that has riddled the political system of Senegal.
The 17 African countries scheduled to have elections this year have a combined population of 310 million, of which 58% will be eligible to vote. In Chad and Mali, less than 50% of the population would be eligible to vote because of how youthful the population is (most of the population is still under 18 years old). This begs the question of whether the results of the population would be the true representation of what the country wants. Additionally, around 500 million of the population in Africa is without proof of identity, which makes up 1/3 of the population. As an inference, it can be estimated that around 60 million people could be excluded from voting.
Electoral Logistics and Financing
Africa has been known to have the costliest elections in terms of logistics, personnel, and technology. Between 2000 and 2018, Sub-Saharan Africa spent nearly $44.3 billion on elections, with the electoral cost per capita in Africa being $4.50, which is twice the world average and higher than Europe, North America, and Australasia, even though Africa has a much lower GDP per capita. For example, in 2019, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy found that in Mali, members of parliament spent around 54,000 euros on a round of presidential and legislative elections, while the average monthly salary for Malians is under 100 euros per month. Furthermore, it was shown that 28% of that amount was spent on the actual day of the election, equivalent to 150 times the monthly salary of Malians spent in a single day. African voters still experience problems with voting procedures, voter registration, and secure access to polling places, even though their elections are the most expensive of any other region.
Subsequent Expectations on African Governments
As the election year rolls out, there are so many expectations on the African continent. Would the countries that have had a single party dominate for a long time be able to see a power transition? Would countries that have suffered coups in recent times take advantage of this period to transfer power to civilian rule? This election year in Africa holds the potential to define the nature of governance in the region for years to come.
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