January 19, 2011 § 3 Comments
Two elections on Sunday, one which should be fairly straightforward but isn’t, one which should have been far from it but will be.
Portugal will elect a President. The President has wide ranging powers in theory, but in practice (following a constitutional convention developed in the ’80s) rarely uses them and acts more as a figurehead.
The centre-right coalition’s candidate Aníbal Cavaco Silva is standing for a second term. He is the first centre right president since the carnation revolution and the feeling is he should walk it, potentially in the first round. He is backed by the centre right Social Democratic Party, the right wing People’s Party and the new centrist Hope for Portugal Movement.
His main rival is Manuel Alegre, a Socialist Party candidate backed by four left wing parties: the Socialist Party, the Left Bloc, the Portuguese Workers’ Communist Party and the Democratic Party of the Atlantic. The Socialist Party rule the country, and whilst having a President of the opposition has been the status quo for the last four years, and has not yet caused any major problems, they would still dearly like their own man in the job – particularly if things get rocky over the sovereign debt crisis. Opinion polls show the Socialist Party with a clear lead in national support but do not yet show this being translated into presidential votes.
And then there are the others: Fernando Nobre is a doctor and founder of AMI – Assistência Médica Internacional (a Portugese split-off from MSF), he was voted the 25th greatest Portuguese man ever in a national poll. He is running as an independent. Then there are two other left wing candidates: Defensor de Moura (a Socialist Party candidate who refuses to back Alegre), and Fransisco Lopez (backed by the Communist Party and the Greens); and one other right wing candidate: José Manuel Coelho of the New Democrats (a breakaway faction of the popular party).
In addition we have a general election in the Central African Republic. To quote my own CAR page:
“In 1993 the first competitive elections were held. They were won by Ange-Félix Patassé (a north-westerner [in other words a Banda, for more on what this means you can read the full article here]) and his MLPC party, which espouses a broad tent pro-democracy platform.
Patassé survived several coup attempts with the backing of the French and rebels from Congo. However in 2003, as the French appeared to switch sides, he was deposed and a General – François Bozizé – seized power. His support comes mostly from Gbaya groups and northerners in general – who received government jobs in return. Most Muslim groups used to support Bozizé but switched in 2005 when he didn’t provide the promised jobs and now many Muslim groups support the rebel UFDR.
Bozizé held elections in 2005 which Patassé was not permitted to participate in. Bozizé won at the second round and the non-partisans in Parliament who supported him subsequently formed their own political party: the KNK. Bozizé has always officially run as an independent, but in practice the KNK is his party. The KNK has adopted a broadly centre left political platform.
No elections were held between the coup and these elections on Sunday. As a result there have been a number of military insurrections – some have been politically motivated, others are driven by warlords with an eye for the main chance.Areas of the north west are in the hands of a rebel group loyal to Patassé known as the APRD. Areas of the north east are controlled by the Muslim based UFDR. Further areas of the north east are controlled by a rebel group known as the FDPC; they used to be loyal to Bozizé but went rogue. Further rebel groups include the MLCJ and the CPJP. Some of these groups are thought to have links to Congolese rebel groups and some to rebel groups in Darfur – although it is not entirely clear who supports who.
Meanwhile areas in the east of the country have been taken over by the fight between the Ugandan army and the Ugandan rebel force – the Lords Resistance Army – which has spilled over multiple national boundaries. [In other words the situation is deeply confused with the impact of the Sudan-Uganda-Chad proxy war, of which more here and here]
In 2009 peace talks and a UN peace mission led to a unity government with Bozizé as Pesident and a new Prime Minister: Faustin-Archange Touadéra. By 2010 all groups had accepted the arrangements except the small CPJP. Even so elections were delayed several times [but will now finally happen this Sunday]
They look set to be interesting: Bozizé and the KNK are the dominant political force but the MLPC should be competitive. They are looking to move beyond Patassé and have picked, as their presidential candidate, Martin Ziguélé. Meanwhile Patassé will be contesting the elections as an independent. The winner is likely to be one of these three – and it is likely parliament will elect predominately non-partizan’s, MLPC and KNK members. A potential forth force is that of André Kolingba’s Central African Democratic Rally. Kolingba was CAR’s last dictator before ’93 and oversaw the country’s transition to democracy.
[Here are the results from last time]. In that Presidential election Bozizé beat Ziguélé, Kolingba and a number of others by 43% to 24%, 17% and less than 5% each in the first round. In the second round Bozizé beat Ziguélé 65% to 35%
To Parliament were elected 42 members of the KNK, 34 non partisans, 11 members of the MLPC and 8 members of the CLDR. Minor parties picked up nine seats: the Social Democrats (pro Patassé centre left) 4, the Patriotic Front for Progress (socialist) 2, the Alliance for Democracy and Progress (vehicle for the former sports minister) 2, the Löndö Association (ethnically based) 1.
I wrote that a few months ago, and my aspiration that the elections be competitive seems not to have stood the test of time. Zinguele has pulled out. Jean-Jacques Demafouth of the APRD launched a spirited campaign but then too pulled out. So that just leaves Bozize and Patasse (and Gros Raymond Nakombo – a Kolingba loyalist), and I would be surprised if Patasse was competitive. That said, Demafouth and Zinguele remain on the ballots, prompting speculation that they have not entirely pulled out but merely threatened to do so (or even that news of their pulling out is deliberate misinformation spread by Chinese newspapers at Bozize’s request) and so the situation is far from clear cut. As for the elections to parliament, it is not at all clear that these will go ahead at all.
And just to make things even more interesting the trial for war crimes of Congolese MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba in the Hague has just entered the stage of hearing the evidence pertaining to war crimes committed by Bemba’s troups in the CAR in support of Bozize.
If you speak French you might enjoy this polished performance by Nakombo on French TV: