SADC elections in full swing

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Timo Shihepo

 

Windhoek - The SADC region will be hoping for trouble-free elections as five more member states are expected to hold elections this year.

The region experienced challenges when three of its member states, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe held their elections in 2018.

Zimbabwe’s post-elections violence in August last year, disputed elections in DRC late December, and Madagascar’s never ending elections’ conflict, painted a bad picture over the usually calm SADC region.

This year, elections in SADC region are in full swing as five more countries are heading to the polls. Three countries -- The Comoros, South Africa and Malawi -- have conducted their respective national elections this month.

Malawi held its elections on Tuesday.

This year, politically troubled Comoros was the first country to have its elections on March 24, where President Azali Assoumani was accused of changing the constitution to allow him to run for an unprecedented term, which he won. He was also accused of using intimidating tactics against the opposition to give himself an unfair advantage.

In South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa led the African National Congress (ANC) to a victory. Although the ANC won with a decreased 57% majority compared to 65% in 2014, the elections were peaceful, free and fair.

Free and fair elections is what the region is hoping to see when five more countries head to the polls this year. In Madagascar, despite already electing Andry Rajoelina as president in December last year, the country is set to go for polls again on May 27 to chose parliamentarians. The election will take place to elect 151 new members of the National Assembly. Only 431 candidates are running for the parliamentary elections - a decrease from 2 053 candidates in 2013.

Mozambique is set for elections on 15 October 2019. The presidential, legislative and provincial elections date was announced amid the negotiations between the government and former rebels, the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo).

Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party fought a bitter 16-year civil war that ended with a peace deal in 1992, but Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama took to the bush again in 2013 as his supporters waged a new low-level insurgency.

In December 2016, Dhlakama announced a truce with the government, which until now is yet to culminate in a formal peace accord. Dhlakama died in May last year and his party has nominated a successor.

In Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi will contest his first presidential elections in October, after he was handed power when former President Ian Khama stepped down last year in April. A change in relationship between the two, however, will see Masisi facing a tougher challenge than he should. This is because reports have it that Khama might throw his support to opposition parties during the elections because Masisi has been replacing his loyalists from government’s key positions with his own people.

This could undermine Botswana's carefully-crafted reputation as a country with country. Already, Botswana’s four main opposition parties have launched a coalition to challenge the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the 2019 elections.

In Namibia, current president and SADC chairperson Dr Hage Geingob will lead the Swapo Party to national and parliamentary elections on November 27.

Mauritius will close off the elections calendar with polls slated for December.

SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Tax, this week said the Secretariat wishes these countries peaceful elections.

Due to events of the past, the regional body had to revisit the way it has observed elections and they are busy operationalising those issues. Dr Tax said they have been receiving criticism regarding SADC’s value of election observation.

“It has a lot of benefits and with this new approach, which we have devised, you start with the pre-elections. When you go for pre-elections, you scan the environment in terms of the legal environment, political environment and peace and security environment. It is like an early warning mechanism that this is what we are seeing and this is what we hear from the stakeholders. So, it has been very useful,” Dr Tax told The Southern Times in a recent interview.

SADC chairperson, Dr Geingob, also said he was happy that leaders in the region were changed using a democratic process instead of coups.

 

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