If I was president, I’d get elected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday, and buried on Sunday

March 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

We have three elections on Saturday: Benin and Haiti both have second round Presidential elections, and the Central African Republic will have runoff elections in 70 of the 105 seats in its Parliament.

The CAR is the simplest so we’ll do it first. I discussed the result of the first round earlier so you can see the problem. If you scroll down here you can read the back story as to how this could have been a quite interesting election. It won’t be. The KNK will win a stonking majority and the only real question will be how stonking.

Benin has a quite interesting but also straightforward election which again is well set up by my piece here and the country profile here. Since then the only thing to add is that it is going to be really close. It also will almost certainly be delayed as final first round results haven’t been confirmed yet. Partial results suggest Houngbedji may be leading Yayi on partial results but Yayi will probably edge ahead and it will almost certainly be a runoff: Abdoulaye Bio Tchane appears to have secured a third but a distant third.

It is not clear yet how much of the psephology surrounding the election is mere speculation but the received wisdom appears to be that Yayi’s native north have voted heavily for him but the nation’s political elites and the voters they control have gone for Houngbedji.

Which brings us to Haiti and I barely know where to begin.

Scroll down here (and go to previous entries) and you will begin to get a feel for what a bizzare, problematic, and prolonged election this has been.

They vote on Sunday. After many court cases, much controversy, wrangling and at least four failed attempts at compromise it has finally agreed that the runoff will be between Mirlande Manigat and Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly. Manigat is the wife of a military-imposed dictator of the 80s and is vaguely rightist. Martelly is a former crooner who used to dance around naked and is vaguely centrist – although a bit all over the place. The main political forces of the country are kind of divided as most were motivated by support or animosity towards the Preval regime candidate – Celestin – who it was finally determined didn’t even make the second round.

Also up for election in the first round were 11 senate seats (just over a third) and all 99 deputies. Both Senate and Chamber of Deputies were dominated by the Preval/Celestin regime’s Front for Hope which has rebranded itself for this election as Inité – although Haitian politics is fragmented enough that they don’t have a majority in either.

So far they have won 1 senate seat and 10 chamber seats, with 1 other senate seat and 8 other chamber seats going to 6 other parties. The other 9 senate seats and 71 deputy seats also go to a runoff on Sunday. So it looks like whoever of Martelly and Manigat win there will be a fragmented legislative dominated by the old regime.

Sound like a recipe for chaos? Well then Baby Doc Duvalier showed up.

Baby Doc is the son of Papa Doc. He was the dictator for fifteen years, and so played a major part in shaping modern Haiti, although not as large a part as Papa Doc’s (also interestingly only 15 year) rule did. He was not as much of a monster as his father, but he was still fairly appalling. It is not clear what he thought would happen when he arrived back in Haiti after many years of exile, but what did happen is exactly what I expected: he was arrested and charged with human rights abuses and massive corruption.

So surely it couldn’t get any more unstable? Well the day before polls open Aristide is due to return to Haiti.

Aristide is a seminal and controversial figure in the modern political history of Haiti. According to his many fans he was a modernising, initially leftist and then centrist, democratically elected leader who did more than anybody to help the poor, and whose only crime was to get on the wrong side of a US administration who didn’t want anything resembling socialism on their doorstep. According to his equally numerous detractors he was a corrupt totalitarian who burned political opponents alive.

He was first elected in 1991 with 67% of the vote, the first Haitian president elected by anything which could even vaguely be called a fair vote. After less than eight months he was deposed by a military coup arguably with US backing. He was then reinstated in 1994 (again actually, arguably with US backing) and allowed to serve out the last fifteen and a half months of his term. He then successfully installed Rene Preval as his successor (having technically  come up against the term limit of the time despite having been out of power for most of his term) but irrevocably fell out with Preval in a matter of months. He was then re-elected in 2001, and this time managed to serve 35 months before again falling victim to an arguably US backed coup.

It is not clear what his motivation is for returning – he cannot enter the election in any form. It may be that with a dangerous political vacuum potentially arising he wants to start a revolution or a popular Egypt/Tunisia stype movement for fresh elections. It may just be that with the Preval/Celestin regime clearly falling he now feels safe to re-engage with politics at what – one has to admit – is an interesting time.

It is also not clear what the reaction will be: Martelly has helpfully called for him to be murdered whilst the US and much of the international community has suggested the timing is unhelpful and are trying to dissuade or stall him. This article provides an interesting alternative take on that view.

So it could be interesting. Whatever happens I cannot recommend this report highly enough and if you don’t have time to read it then this article has a decent overview of who is who.

Results time

Irish election results have finally been confirmed. As World Elections, who have all the details, said it was an epic Fail.

Updating the detail on the Chad results, it appears parliament will look like this:

MPS: 83

The MPS are Deby’s party and have an outright majority. In addition many seats were won by MPS candidates running on joint tickets with allies  such as VIVA ( a split off from the National Rally for Development and Progress), RDP (Rally for Democracy and Progress – a northern based party) and RNDP (National Rally for Development and Progress – a southern based party). You may remember these parties used to be the principal opposition parties, but how times change. In full:





So a total of 131 seats. Many news outlets are counting the RDP as effectively the same as the MPS and so quoting a figure of 11o for the MPS. In actuality all these parties are effectively the same as the MPS


This is the National Rally for Democracy and renewal, a southern based party with an ambivalent attitude to Deby. One more of their MPs got in on a joint ticket:


URD: 8

This is the Union for Renewal and Democracy of Kamougué who I also mention in the piece linked above.


This is the moderate National Rally for Democracy in Chad (they spell it with a T). In addition two more seats went to what I assume are two allies:

RNDT Le Reveil: 2


A southern, pro-federal state party

And then we get into the really tiny local parties:



UDR: 2

AND: 1

AND/R: 1








PUR: 1



UDT: 1

UET-V: 1



Aside in which I blow my own trumpet: those results are not available anywhere else on the internet yet to my knowledge. The media just reported the headline figures, and the Chad election commission website only put the details up without flagging up who won – this is what I crunched to produce the results.

There is more on the story of the Chad elections if you scroll down here.

Moving on: Samoa

The HRPP absolutely mullahed the TSP, willing 36 seats to 13. I wrote a preview here explaining that that means.

Benin I covered at the top of the Page and Estonia was superbly summarised by World Elections.

Micronesia elected 14 independents as it always does. I don’t think they’ve elected a president from among their number yet.


I wrote about the background here and here. In the end Issoufou beat Oumarou by 58% to 42%, which is kind of what was expected. Most of all it appears the vote was fair

Parliament is now Issoufou’s PNDS: 39 seats, Oumarou’s MSND 26, Amadou’s MDN 24, the ANDP-Zaman Lahiya 8 seats, the RDP-Jama’a 7 seats, Ousmane’s CDS 2, others 5 – in other words the runoffs didn’t really help the big parties.


6 elections in 8 days

February 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Or it could have been. Actually we are due a mere five as Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni won emphatically enough on the first round to negate the need for a second.

First up on the 4th of March is Samoa. Samoa’s system of government is – depending upon your point of view – either delightfully bonkers, deeply iniquitous or both. 47 members are elected to the Parliament – or Fono – by multi member first past the post, although in practice it is now virtually single-member as there are now 35 single member seats and only 6 two member seats. The Fono elects a Prime Minister who has the confidence of the house and an O le Ao o le Malo – or symbolic head of state – for a five year term.

Meanwhile the politics of day-to-day Samoan life is dominated by the network of 35,000 tribal chiefs – the Matai – all of whom answer to the four paramount or royal chiefs: the Tama a Aiga. When the 1960 constitution was established it was envisioned that the leaders of government would always be one of the four Tama a Aiga. In actual fact that is not required but  – tradition being what it is – the O le Ao o le Malo has always been one of the Tama a Aiga, and the first Prime Minister not to be one wasn’t elected until 1982. Up till 1990 the Matai were the only people allowed to vote and, to this day, only the Matai can stand for election.

O le Ao o le Malo is Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Tufuga Efi – and he is not up for re-election until 2012. He was also Prime Minister up until 1982. These days he is seen as a fairly non partisan and consensual figure but it was not always thus. In the 1980s opposition to his economic reforms led to the creation of Samoa’s strongest political force: the Human Rights Protection Party.

They have now been in power for more than twenty years (nearly thirty years bar six months in 1987)  and are most likely to win again, securing another term for Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi. At the last election they had 30 of the 49 seats and briefly gained another five when five independents joined them. They are campaigning on the success of the 2007 switch from right hand driving to left hand driving, their response to the recent Tsunami, and their desire to turn Samoa into a renewable energy and sports hub.

The remaining seats at the last election went to nine independents (which became four when five joined the HRPP) and to the Samoan Democratic United Party: a centre-rightish pan opposition grouping who won the remaining 10. However the SDUP lost one seat following a court case and two more following defections and so ceased to be recognised as a political party. Some the former SDUP leadership joined the HRPP whilst a group of 11 independents mainly comprising of the backbenchers clubbed together and formed a new opposition party: the Tautua Samoa Party.

They are campaigning at this election primarily on the HRPP’s plan to legalise gambling – which the HRPP claim makes financial sense but the TSP claim will increase crime. The TSP also want to shorten parliamentary terms and cut public spending. Part of their campaigning strategy – sending their leader to spend a week fasting in the woods in search of divine intervention – is unlikely to be particularly successful, but other parts – reaching out to smaller opposition parties like the anti right-hand-drive People’s Party (the change from right to left was incredibly controversial and led to the biggest protests in Samoan history) and the anti tribalist Samoa Party – may well stand them in better stead.

The field is made up by the small left wing Samoa Progressive Political Party and the Christian Party – who despite the name mostly campaign on Women’s issues.

Here are some former Samoan Rugby heroes Sapola and Palu telling you to vote – they may be somewhat over-egging the point:

Then on the 6th of March we have Estonia and Benin.

I’m writing about Benin for Think Africa – and will put the piece up once it is up there. In the meantime I wrote about Benin before here.

Estonia uses a modified form of d’Hondt PR to elect 101 members using two tiers (there are district constituencies and then the final result is averaged over the nation) semi-open lists (lists are open at the district tier with anyone meeting the Hare quota automatically elected – lists are closed at the national tier), a modified formula (the number of seats is multiplied by 0.9 to slightly prioritise larger parties), a 5% threshold (at the national tier only), and full internet voting (the only country in the world to do so).

Currently the government is formed by the market liberal Reform Party (32 seats) led by the popular PM Andrus Ansip, in coalition with the liberal conservative Respublica (19 seats). He formerly had an outright majority with the Social Democrats (13 seats) but they walked out in 2009 and he has been in a technical minority (as the Speaker is also Reform making it 50-50) ever since after talks with the agrarian People’s Party (2 seats) failed.

The main opposition comes from the centrist socially liberal Centre Party (28 seats), although the Greens (6 seats) and one independent also enjoy representation.  Unemployment of around 14% is set to be the big issue, and should hurt the government, Ansip’s personal popularity notwithstanding.

Here’s a jolly guide to voting online:

Then on the eighth of March it’s The Federated States of Micronesia. Elections are non partisan so there’s not much to say – the relative populations of, and turnout on, the islands seems to be the main determining factor. Ten members are elected by first past the post every two years, four are elected by d’Hondt PR across the whole federation every four years (this is the four yearly election). That makes a parliament of 14 who then elect the President and Vice President from amongst the four elected by PR. By elections are then held to replace the winners in Parliament.

Finally on the 12th of March its Niger. As I wrote before it’s Seini Oumarou vs Mahamadou Issoufou with twenty parliamentary seats still to decide. It should be close and it will be interesting.

Now here’s some results:

The Central African Republic which I wrote about here and here several times (scroll down).


François Bozizé – KNK – 66.08%

Ange-Félix Patassé – independent – 20.10%

Martin Ziguélé – MLPC – 6.46%

Emile Gros Raymond Nakombo – Central African Democratic Rally (RDC) – 4.64%

Jean-Jacques Démafouth – ARPD- 2.72%


KNK: 26

Ind: 8


Going to a second round runoff on March 20th: 70

Chad which I wrote about here and here several times (scroll down):

MPS: 133

National Union of Democracy and Renewal: 11

15 other minor parties (details sketchy): 44

Uganda, I gave some results and background here (scroll down).  Here are the full Parliamentary results:

NRM 279

Ind 37

FDC 34

Democratic Party 11


Conservative Party 1

Justice Forum 1

Ireland, more background here (scroll down)

FG 70

Lab 36

FF 18

Sinn Fein 13

Soc 2

Others 14

Still recounting 13

Some short and simple stories

February 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

Some updates and one election to come this week (plus Switzerland is having a referendum on gun laws but Switzerland has a referendum every other week so I’m not covering it). All of them, touch wood, fairly straightforward.

Cape Verde

The Parliamentary elections have happened and the PAICV won with 37 seats to the MPD’s 33 and the centre-right’s UPID’s 2. Meanwhile I’m afraid I was wrong about the Presidential elections, at one point they certainly were going to be coterminous but at some stage they changed their minds and the presidential election will now be later in the year – possibly august.


You may remember I gave an account of what was to be expected in Niger’s elections here. So far it has come to pass: They were thought to be fair. Tandja loyalist Seini Oumarou made the runoffs with 26%, as did Mahamadou Issoufou of the PNDS with 36%. A lot of opposition are rallying around Issoufou, but surprisingly not all: Hama Amadou of the MDN, and a few others backing Oumarou.

The Parliamentary result was similar: Issoufou’s PNDS taking 39 seats, Oumarou’s MSND 26, Amadou’s MDN 24, Ousmane’s CDS 2, and 24 going to a second round.

Central African Republic

It looks like the poll was somewhat less than fair, or at any rate it was not competitive. Bouzize won with 66% in the first round and his KNK party looks to be in the lead in most of the seats in parliament. Here’s some more about the CAR.


Chad has the first round of its parliamentary elections on the 13th. If you feel like you’ve read that before it is because this is about the third attempt at holding elections. All of its 130 multi member seats will be elected and there will be round one voting for its two-round single member seats. Chad is not a model democracy, and forces loyal to president Déby will certainly triumph. The remaining seats will go to parties whose names contain words like “national”, “renewal”, “rally”, “democracy”, “development”, and “progress. I wrote about Chad at length here and it all remains fairly current.

A good year for Niger?

January 27, 2011 § 3 Comments

Niger will host absolutely vital elections on Monday.

In case you’d forgotten Niger is the inland one in north-west Africa that looks like a leaping goldfish. It’s north of Nigeria, west of Chad, south of Algeria, and east of Mali. It had a history which will be depressingly familiar to readers of this blog and students of the region: French Colony -> single party left-wing rule supported by the army -> one ethnic group (Hausa) dominates -> democratization in early 90s -> ethnic civil war by underrepresented minorities (Tuareg and Tobou) in which neighbouring powers (Chad again, and Libya) interfere -> uneasy peace and fragmented democracy interspersed with military coups.

Then in 1999 there was a pleasant change. Mamadou Tandja managed to break not only the (Hausa) ethnic hegemony of the presidency but also the (Djerma) ethnic hegemony of his own party. He ran on largely economic issues (he’s centre right and slightly liberal) and whilst by no means did Niger immediately start to smell of roses (Niger remains the country with the lowest Human Development index (HDI) on the planet) he did give them ten years of stability, relative peace, and politics as normal. Elections were even held which were given a reasonably clean bill of health – and even more remarkably were competitive. Whilst his neighbours wallowed in frankly implausible 80% and 90% majorities, Tandja was happy to twice just sneak in with 40% of the vote (and 60% in the second round). in addition his party (the MSND) rarely win more than about a third of parliamentary seats with the effect that he had to negotiate coalitions for much of his time in power. Niger was, at that stage, one of the most democratic nations in the region.

Of course it was too good to last and, according to his opponents, the power went to Tandja’s head and he turned into another dictator. The facts, from which you can draw your own conclusions, are that when his term expired in 2009 he called a referendum asking to a) abolish term limits (he did himself however promise Sarkosy not to run for a third term), and b) be allowed to continue ruling for at least three more years without the need for another pesky election. The referendum was passed by an unrealistic and un-Tandja like 92% on what Tandja claimed was a 68% turnout. Opposition groups, who organised a boycott, claimed turnout was only 5%, whilst international observers had the temerity to suggest the actual figure was somewhere between the two. With opposition parties boycotting in protest, Tandja’s MSND then swept the parliamentary elections.

Fearing the Tandja presidency was turning into a dictatorship, the Army then launched a coup “to restore democracy”. Of course, whenever an army launches a coup they claim it is “to restore democracy” and it almost never is. Moreover the army (left-wing authoritarian like all armies in the region) had been itching for an excuse to remove Tanjda for decades.

Yet, there are two sides to this, Tanjda was undoing the democratic structures and the Military junta’s subsequent actions were not the traditional ones of a dictator. They put forward a very sensible constitutional amendment which strengthened the  role of Parliament, introduced new checks on the President’s power, and strengthened the role of the judiciary and the separation of church (well mosque) and state. Then they held a referendum on these reforms that didn’t appear to be rigged. And they are holding fresh elections, on time, and as promised. So far so good – but they remain nevertheless the leaders of a military coup.

In other words it seems impossible to tell from the outside, and doesn’t seem to be that obvious from the inside either, who the goodies are in this story. It may be that there are none, but that strikes me as being a somewhat trite analysis. The real motives of the various factions will become much clearer once we know a) how Monday’s poll went and who won and b) how the sides comported themselves after Monday.

The election

Two elections will be held on Monday: the first round of the two-round first-past-the-post Presidential election, and the Parliamentary election. The latter consists of 105 members elected by eight geographical constituencies by d’Hondt PR and 8 members elected by first past the post in eight ethnically based national constituencies for eight protected ethnic minorities (so guaranteeing them one seat each). Here are some quite interesting but apparently unfinished thoughts on the effects of this system.

The election is to all intents and purposes going to be a referendum on Tanjda and the coup. Both sides accept this and, coup and interim government notwithstanding, Tandja’s supporters are running very much an incumbency camapign based upon his record; whilst the other parties are running an opposition “oust the dictator” style campaign. Tandja himself has been forbidden from entering the election (the interim government expressing the clear view that his term limit is, in any case, up) but his MSND will be a strong force (arguably the strongest united force) in both elections. Their Presidential candidate will be Tandja’s close ally: former PM Seyni Oumarou. Oumarou himself is on bail for charges of embezzlement which may or may not be politically motivated.

Almost all the other parties have gathered together into an alliance called the Co-ordination of Democratic Forces of the Republic. They will fight the first round of the presidential election and the Parliamentary election as individual parties but will then unite for the second round around whichever candidate makes it into the runoff – in theory. It is not immediately clear who that is likely to be, but there are some frontrunners.

The leaders of the opposition for much of the last ten years has been the centre-left PNDS. They are a fairly new party: formed in the early nineties and which first started to poll encouragingly around 1998. Perhaps surprisingly, and unusually for the area, they don’t have much in the way of links back to the old Diori dictatorship, or to leftists in the army, but appear to represent a genuinely new left. Their leader for the last 17 years, and presidential candidate, is Mahamadou Issoufou. They traditionally get around 30% of the seats in parliament with the help of their many allies (smaller left wing parties, including parties that do stem from the old dictatorship).

Also usually winning around 30% of the seats in parliament are the CDS party of former President (in the 90s) Mahamane Ousmane. Ousmane is the candidate this time around as well; he had been living in exile as there was a warrant out for his arrest but this was quietly dropped to allow him to run. The CDS is kind of centre-right and Hausa based but lacks a strong ideology: its basically a one man band. There is bad blood between the PNDS and the CDS: they were allies in the 90s but then the PNDS pulled out of the ruling coalition bringing down Ousmane’s presidency.

Then there is a new party: the MDN. This is the creation of Hama Amadou, a perennial party-swapper and serial Prime Minister who, until 2009, was leader of the MSND  and a supporter of Tandja but fell out with him, and lost the leadership of the party, over the constitutional crisis. It is not clear how much of a following Amadou has, or how big his party is, but some news organisations are taking his candidacy very seriously indeed.

A final party worth a mention is the Social Democratic Rally, or RSD, of Amadou Cheiffou. Cheiffou is an interesting character, he’s from the Peulh ethnic minority and rose to prominence in the last days of the old dictatorship – serving as the transitional prime minister between 1991 and the full restoration of democracy in 1993. He was then a prominent member of the CDS, until he split from them in 2004 at what he saw as their obstinacy in not supporting their fellow centre-rightists in the MSND. The RSD has since always been close to the MSND with the result that it never did that well electorally – the three more established and distinct parties (MSND, PNDS, and CDS) dominating parliament.

However, in keeping with its policy of critical support for the MSND, it did not boycott the 2009 elections – unlike all the other opposition parties – and as a result it is currently the only party of any size (apart from the MSND of course) in parliament. Incumbency might count for something, but in this highly polarised election I would expect them to get squeezed. They have refused to join the Co-ordination of Democratic Forces of the Republic and the expectation is they will back the MSND in the second round.

I imagine we won’t have the full results for a good while after Monday.

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


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.


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:


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

Elections this weekend

October 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

We only have one election this weekend.


Kyrgyzstan elects its parliament on Sunday – 120 MPs will be elected by closed list PR and so far the OSCE says things are free and fair. The President, Roza Otunbayeva, will stay in power regardless of the result but this is the first democratic test of her Government – which took power following a coup in April of this year. People will be keenly watching to see how her supporters do relative to allies of the former president Bakiyev.

In reality though it will not make much difference – a hugely hostile parliament will be the least likely result. What will be interesting to see is how different both turnout and results are in the southern areas of Osh compared to the north. Osh was Bakiyev’s base and there is far less support for the coup there than in the rest of the country. There has been open talk of seceding from Kyrgystan and inviting Bakiyev back to be president of a “Southern Kyrgystan”. Moreover many are worried that if political divisions harden along regional lines it could lead to the kind of inter-regional civil war which left many tens of thousands dead in neighbouring Tajikistan in the 1990s.

In reality both of these outcomes are quite unlikely but it will be interesting to see if the result of this election is a coming together for Kyrgyzstan or a drifting apart.

Finally since this is my blog I’m going to plug a piece I wrote at the beginning of the year on the coup.


Niger was supposed to have a constitutional referendum on Sunday but it has been delayed to the 31st to allow 600,000 more names to be added to the voter lists. This is part of a move to normalise politics in what seems to be a genuine desire for democracy on the part of the military Junta.

The story starts in late 2009 when former president Mamadou Tandja, upon coming to the end of his term, changed the constitution to give himself three more years in power. Elections were held to ratify the changes but their fairness was doubted. Elections were then held to the parliament which the opposition boycotted. Fearing that the country was going to slip back into dictatorship, the military launched a coup and ousted him. It remains to be seen whether this is due to a genuine desire to restore democracy or whether the purpose is to install a puppet regime with military support.

The constitutional changes look good on paper. The position of Prime Minister is restored, the President’s powers are trimmed, and several added checks and balances are introduced. All MPs have to be re-elected every five years and the President is limited to two 5-year terms.

I expect you’re wondering what Niger’s national anthem sounds like:

The next elections are in the Czech Republic on Friday. More on that soon. Finally here is President of Bolivia, Evo Morales in action:

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