Oh dear

December 4, 2010 § 3 Comments

This is a blog post in two halves. In the second half I am going to go through a number of elections we missed. I had preciously been rather suspicious of Wikipedia’s list of upcoming elections and had tried to find more official sources. However these have let me down a few times now so I’m going to use Wikipedia in future. In the meantime we’ve missed coverage of elections in the Comoros, Guam, Guinea, and Moldova. So I will go through what we’ve missed.

But first we need to talk about the Ivory Coast. This is very sad. As we discussed earlier, the run off election looked set to be very close between Alassane Ouattara, who is backed by the northern former rebels, and current President Laurent Gbagbo. The results were originally announced with Outtarra winning by 54% to 46% and he was duly sworn in as president, that should have been at the end of it.

Instead Gbagbo went to the supreme court, insisted many thousands of Outtara’s votes were fraudulent and got them to invalidate several thousand of Outtara’s votes – enough to overturn the result. Gbagbo has now been sworn in as president. Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, the leader of the rebel forces, has resigned in protest at the reversal and withdrawn his support for Gbagbo’s government and – whilst 7,000 UN troops are in the country to prevent a return to civil war – the conditions are now ripe for voilence to resume. Gunshots have already been heard in some areas.

It’s all very tense, and oh so avoidable.

Anyway here’s a round up of what we’ve missed:

Guam is an island in the pacific. It is an unincorporated territory of the USA, meaning the USA rules it but it can elect its own governor. This it did on the 2nd of November, the Republicans won.

The Comoros are a small archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean. They had a first round presidential election on the 7th of November; the second round will be on December 26th.

In Comoros the three main islands take it in turns to supply a president. So last election the only candidates were from the island of Anjouan. This time round all the candidates will be from the island of Mohéli. This election is more interesting that most in that it follows the failed attempt of the Anoujouan President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi to extend his term. Whilst elections have tended to be non partisan in the past, Comoran politics seems to be moving towards a party system – or at very least towards pro and anti Sambi factions.

Elections are held in two rounds, in the first round only the people of the nominating island (Mohéli) vote. The top three then go on to a second round where the entire archipelago vote. Current vice president – and firm Sambi supporter – Ikililou Dhoinine won the most votes with 28%. Sambi’s support had at one point threatened to split into two factions but the other faction failed utterly to make an impact. Former Mohéli governor Mohamed Said Fazul came second with 23% of the vote and is now seen as the main opposition hope.

Controversially Abdou Djabir was awarded third place over Bianrifi Tarmidhi. Both have around 10% of the vote; Tarmidhi was originally awarded third place, but the courts stepped in and invalidated a crucial few hundred of his votes.

Guinea is a country in Africa. Politics has been chaotic since the death of President Conté in 2008, the instant resultant military coup, and the assassination of the head of the junta in 2009. A first round election was held in June of 2010 which resulted in the necessity for a runoff between RPG (a democratic opposition party) leader Alpha Condé and Cellou Dalein Diallo – leader of the UFDG (another party to oppose the coup, this party had links to Conté’s regime). The junta delayed the second round a number of times but when it finally went ahead, on November 7th, it was thought to be pleasantly free and fair. It was also very close but Condé edged it.

Finally Moldova had an election. World elections covered it on detail and there’s not much more to add, except it now seems that at last Moldova will be able to form a government.

Some much more interesting elections

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

So whilst a fairly predictable election unfolded in the USA, three elections were being counted in Africa.

Niger backed its new constitution by 90% of the vote on a 52% turnout. That’s quite low and suggests that the suggested boycott by religious groups unhappy with the newly entranced separation of church and state had some impact. However, as far as we can tell, Niger is making healthy strides towards democracy. Here’s the background.

Tanzania’s election was the most competitive yet, but the ruling CCM still held on easily. With 183 ( of 239) constituencies reporting in the results of the Presidential election, the CCM candidate is ahead in 143 of the constituencies counted so far, with the centre-left CUF ahead in 20 and the centre-right CHADEMA ahead in just seven. There’s never been a runoff in Tanzanian history, and whilst it remains on the cards, no one is banking on it.

Meanwhile there’s not yet much clarity on the Parliamentary results but it appears that the CCM are down about 50 seats, losing 22 (or almost half) on Zanzibar (mostly to the CUF) and 28 on the mainland (mostly to CHADEMA). This makes it roughly (and these numbers will change):

CCM 156

CUF 41

CHADEMA 33

Others 2

The election for the government in  Zanzibar went to the wire, the CCM beating the CUF by just 400 votes (0.1%). And history was made when Salum Khalfani Bar’wani won the Lindi Town constituency for CHADEMA and became Tanzania’s first ever Albino MP. Albinos had traditionally been subjected to fairly horrific discrimination.

Whilst the CCM still held on this was an important election, almost a sea change in Tanzanian politics. Elections are now competitive and Tanzania can no longer be said to be a one party state. Now, will the CCM throw their toys out of the pram and crack down hard on opposition (there are already rumours that the police improperly interfered in some areas) or is this the beginning of a pluralist Tanzania?

There is more background here.

Meanwhile in the Cote d’Ivoire may even have a change of government. As we discussed before, these elections are taking place in a deeply divided society (the north and south hate each other and have just fought a protracted civil war), and are five years late . It was expected that president Gbagbo would win easily, although he may just being forced into a run-off. Far from it, the results were:

Gbangbo (south): 36.9%

Outarra (north): 33.4%

Bedie (south): 27.5%

With Bedie’s supporters vehemently opposed to Gbagbo and having a kind of alliance already with Outarra, we look set to have a winner from, and with the backing of, the rebel north in the second round on the 28th of November. However, it appears (and we’ll have to wait for the full result before we can see if this is true) that Outarra did so well by stretching out to people in the south – and its true you can’t get 32% of the vote just from the rebel held areas (the areas in question are too sparsely populated, and much of the population are considered foreigners by the Government and denied the right to vote).

This means on the one hand that if Outarra wins he could be the genuinely pluralist leader the Cote d’Ivoire needs (but lets not deify him just yet, he has served as Prime Minister before and is therefore not completely innocent of the partisanship that led to civil war). However on the other hand it might mean he has already peaked, and that those in the south who would have been willing to vote for a northerner of any sort have already done so.

Meanwhile in the rush to count the presidential result, the parliamentary results are lagging behind. something which has raised concerns amongst EU election monitors. But it looks like we could be set for a hung parliament with Outarra’s Republicans sweeping the north, Bedie’s Democrats the east and Gbagbo’s Popular Front the south.

Very interesting indeed.

A whitewash, or a fresh Cote of paint?

November 1, 2010 § 9 Comments

So, excitement. Four elections over the weekend. Let’s do the most straightforward ones first.

Brazil went to Lula’s PT’s Dilma Rousseff as expected. However, I at least, was expecting a more emphatic victory than she got. She ended up picking up 9% more votes than in the first round to win with 56%. Meanwhile the Social Democrats candidate – Serra – picked up a further 11% to reach 44%. Part of the reason was that whilst the right – such as it is – were happy to back Serra the left were deeply deeply deeply deeply deeply (update, apparently not that deeply – see comments) split on whether to support Rousseff. Anyway, hats off to the first ever female President of Brazil.

Rousteff

Niger has voted on its constitution but it looks like it will be Wednesday or Thursday before we know the result. It will almost certainly be a yes vote by around 90% but it looks like turnout could be lower than the 70% the ruling junta was hoping for. This is because a number of leading Sufi Pirs (the most influential clerics in the country) have called on people to boycott the referendum as one of the changes is the formalisation of the separation of church and state.

Again, we might have to wait for presidential elections later in the year before we see how genuine the junta’s desire to give up power and return to civilian rule is. However, they gave out a promising signal on Sunday when they said that none of the junta’s leadership were intending to contest the upcoming elections. There’s some more background here.

The status quo was retained in Bahrain, and the anti monarchy coalition I posited here did not come to pass (there’s more background on the Bahrain page – which I will update later today) but that was not the real story of the night.

The results are the worst ever for secular parties in Bahrain – every single one of the 40 seats went to religious parties. They were also a disappointment for the Shia opposition who once again fell two seats short of a majority. However every single opposition seat is held by one party – the Shia Al Wefaq.

Which brings us to the main story: whilst Sunni members loyal to the monarchy did win a majority, the actual Sunni pro-monarchy parties were absolutely devastated as independents ran riot. The leading governing party Al Alsalah won only 3 seats (a loss of 5) whilst the Salafi Al Menbar won only 2 (also a loss of 5). Vaguely pro-monarchy Sunni independents amassed 17 seats (an increase of 10).

Bahrain parties

So when I said the status quo was retained, that was a little simplistic. Sunni pro-monarchy members are the majority, but they are totally split, their political parties have been, drubbed and the largest party (by a factor of 6!) is the Shia opposition. Last time round four of the seven independents banded together into a bloc called “the Future Bloc” for greater bargaining power. If they could persuade a few more to do the same this time they could easily form the new government without ever having stood under a platform and without anyone really knowing anything about them.

Alternately Al Alsalah and Al Menbar might be able to tempt some of the new independents over into their column and we might end up with something similar to the previous government. Otherwise we look set for an Al Alsalah/Al Menbar coalition government despite the fact that they only got five seats between them. The Coalition would also not have a single seat in the Capital (which Al Wefaq almost swept) or the south (which independents did sweep).

Of course the one group which will be delighted with all this is the creepingly authoritarian Monarchy who are likely to continue to pull all the strings.

Last, but certainly not least is the Cote d’Ivoire. Sadly we won’t get any results until Wednesday at the earliest (I’ll do a Cote d’Ivoire and Niger update later in the week)  but that they have happened at all is news in itself. Remember this was the eighth attempt to hold the poll. I previewed the elections last week.

So far it has been reasonably peaceful, and the UN mission says they are satisfied with security arrangements and think the poll will be “credible”. Gbangbo’s supporters have accused foreigners of using false documents to vote for the opposition – but this is to be expected as many of Gbangbo’s supporters view the entire north of the country (which is Muslim as opposed to the Christian south, and has large numbers of seasonal workers from Central Africa living in it) as being inhabited by foreigners. So far $400 million has been spent on determining who is Ivorian and who isn’t – leading some to call it the most expensive election in the world – however as the issue is more political than one of passports that will not be the end of the matter.

Turnout seems to be quite high -60% – which is a good sign, and the UN are congratulating themselves on the success of their “Drogba” campaign:

Drogba

There are some nice pictures from polling day here. African Elections (an NGO) will tweet the results as they come in on their account @cotedivoirevote

Your shoes and the world to come

October 28, 2010 § 3 Comments

To be honest the title is not hugely relevant to the article, but “election preview” just sounded so dull. Besides your shoes might come from one of the countries mentioned (I was saving the title for when Taiwanese politics came up in the news, but that might be a long wait). No I haven’t gone totally mad, but I did wake up today feeling like Envy (the band not the emotion). And no I don’t mean I woke up today believing myself to be five Japanese guitarists (or the sixth deadly sin) but just that I wanted to listen to some (the song by the band not the …. ANYWAY).

Where was I?

Four elections on Sunday. Brazil’s second round presidential and gubernatorial elections are previewed here. Basically, expect Lula’s chosen successor Dilma Rousseff to walk it, but the pain of having to support one of the top two candidates is having an interesting effect on the smaller parties and there have been splits and resignations aplenty.

Bahrain will have its second round too – the consequences of which we discussed here.

Niger will have a constitutional referendum which I previewed here. Expect an easy win but turnout will be interesting to see how keen the public are on the new arrangements.

Most interesting though will be the Presidential and parliamentary elections in the Cote d’Ivoire:


The country was split in half by the 2002 civil war. The predominately Muslim north is controlled by various rebel groups: some of which – including the largest, Guillaume Soro’s “New Force” – are involved in power sharing arrangements negotiated with the government, but many others of which are still at war. Meanwhile the government of President Laurent Gbagbo only really controls the south of the country.

These elections are over five years late, it is the eighth attempt at holding them, and question marks still remain as to how fair they will actually be. A favoured trick used in the past has been to declare that rival candidates or their supporters are not sufficiently Ivorian to qualify to vote. The OSCE will wait until elections are over before formally commenting.

Under the terms of the 2007 peace treaty between New Force and the Government Gbagbo made Soro his Prime Minister. This was an astute move as, as PM, Soro is now ineligible to run for President. Indeed there is a rumour that Soro is deliberately keeping quiet during the election as part of a Granta-style deal with Gbagbo whereby Gbagbo will back Soro in 2015.

Whether or not this is the case, it is likely that with Soro out of the race, the opposition will prove too divided to defeat Gbagbo. However, if they can keep him below the 50% mark then it could trigger a very interesting runoff election – if the opposition can unify around the second placed candidate. That is likely to be either former president Henri Konan Bedie – deposed in a coup in 1999, or New Force backed Republican Party candidate Allasane Outarra. These two have worked together in the past. However, it is likely that Outarra would be a better second round candidate; the south is more likely to accept Outarra than the north is Bedie: Outarra has gone out of his way to campaign in the south, whereas memories in the north of Bedie’s 1990s anti-Muslim rhetoric (which some blame for the civil war) are still strong, despite his recent attempts at reconciliation.

The only real opinion poll I’ve seen has Gbagbo on 46%, Bedie on 26% and Outara on 24% so it could be a close call on if there is a runoff – and who will be in it..

The parliamentary elections should also be interesting. 225 seats are elected by first-past-the-post. Gbagbo’s Popular Front should do well, but if they carry all before them then the opposition will almost certainly cry foul. The Republican Party should sweep the North, and Bedie’s Democratic party should pick up some seats in the south. When these elections were first called the two parties had an electoral pact to work together against the Popular Front in the parliamentary elections – but that was now over five years ago, and it is not clear if the pact is still in place.

Speaking of Republicans and Democrats, the next elections after those are the US midterms on Tuesday. Then we have a very exciting week: Burma, Egypt, Haiti, Azerbaijan and Jordan all going to the polls. Tom Harris previewed the mid-terms for us earlier this week – expect the second half any day now – and I will do a preview of the other five, and a roundup of these three results, sometime on Monday or Tuesday.

If any confused Japanese post-rock fans read through all of that in the hope that it would be relevant to them then I can only apologise. But, hey, you’ve got to get new readers somehow.

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