This is an important election year for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with several contests scheduled to take place across the region. Although elections have become a regular feature of life in SSA, respect for democratic principles is frequently lacking, leading to disputed outcomes and a lack of legitimacy. Coups are a perennial risk, but the overall trend is towards more accountability and openness. Today’s newsletter explores these dynamics and how they will shape the region’s upcoming elections.
Electoral procedures remain an issue
Government legitimacy is an ever-present theme in SSA. Elections are frequently disputed because of flawed procedures and a lack of transparency, and this will be no different this year. For example, we expect Somalia’s presidential election (which is conducted in an indirect manner, with parliament electing the president) to go ahead; however, the May deadline may be deferred as rival political factions within the government continue to accuse each other of undermining the electoral process. We expect an increase in post-election political polarisation, and some form of international peacekeeping force will remain in place in the country in 2022-23.
Incumbent governments are largely safe
A deep distrust in politicians who have failed to address voter concerns, such as rampant corruption, weak economic performance and rising inflation, has driven public dissatisfaction with incumbent governments in SSA. However, we still expect most ruling governments to retain their parliamentary majorities. For instance, despite widespread socioeconomic instability, we expect Angola’s current president, João Lourenço, and his party to secure another electoral victory, given a weak opposition, his party’s grip on the state apparatus and a well-managed election campaign. Lesotho will be an exception; its ruling parliamentary coalition will break up, reflecting in-fighting and a fractious political scene.
Spotlight on Kenya and Chad
Kenya’s presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for August, as the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, is stepping down after serving two five-year terms. We expect Raila Odinga, the leader of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, to win by a narrow margin, helped by Mr Kenyatta’s endorsement. Meanwhile, the timeline for Chad’s return to civilian rule (following a military takeover after the death of the long-standing president, Idriss Déby, in 2021) is likely to be stretched. We do not expect elections to be held in 2022, with the military likely to use instability to justify extending its rule.