4 African Elections You Should Pay Attention to in 2013


For many African countries, celebrations for the year 2013 are long over, and the continent now needs to focus on its internal issues. Over the course of the next year, issues like economic growth, human rights, international development will be at the top of the list. 2013 means getting closer to the challenging deadline of the Millennium Development Goal of fighting poverty by 2015. Western governments have repeatedly stated that a multilateral collaboration with the African governments will be necessary to reach stability, fight corruption and deal with the serious humanitarian crises.

In this light, the coming African presidential elections will play a pivotal role. Some countries’ contests will go unnoticed, but others won't. It might be Kenya, which has been waiting for fair presidential elections for a while now. Or Tunisia, which has revolutionized its political outlook in a mere two years. Or again it may be that elections will finally put an end to violence in countries like Mali.

Such predictions aside, here is what you have to know about the top four most-watched African presidential elections in 2013.

1. Kenya: Expect delays.

Kenya has been waiting for its presidential election since August 14, 2012. Finally, a High Court ruling has decided to hold general elections to choose a president, members of parliament, and local representatives on March 4, 2013. But many are worried that, as in 2007, the election will be marred by violence. Kenyan political parties are mostly formed by people from the same ethnicity, and in the aftermath of the election thousands of people died during ethnic riots.

The two main candidates for the 2013 election, Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, were already part the election scenario six years ago.

Odinga, of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), is the current Prime Minister. He gained the role in 2007. On that occasion, he also claimed the elections that brought Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity (PNU) were fraudulent.

Kenyatta, of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), is the son of Kenya’s first ever President Jomo Kenyatta. Currently, Kenyatta acts as deputy Prime Minister. Kenyatta was appointed deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in 2008, but resigned from the latter role after the International Criminal Court accused him of crimes against humanity. They claim he is partly responsible for the 2007 violence.

If neither candidate gains a majority in March, a second round will be held on a date yet to be decided. The incumbent president Kibaki would be likely to stay in office ad interim for that period.  

2. Libya: A new constitution.

2013 will be a very challenging year for Libya. After the defeat of Gaddafi’s dictatorship in 2011, the country faced several changes. The first legislative elections tok place in July of 2012 under the vigil eye of the United Nations. The elections were the first form of democratic vote the country experienced since the '60s. For some, it was too early for the country to vote at all, but the democratic engine needs to go fast if Libya wants to approve a new constitution.

The political timetable was set by the Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) decided a full multi-party election will take place in 2013. By the time the national election takes place, the democratic bodies should be ready, and citizens (who in some instances are voting for the first time) will have to learn about political parties, the constitution and voting rules quickly.

The Public National Council, elected last July, , will manage the political process to prepare Libya to its first general election which will replace the interim government appointed by the NTC and led by Prime Minister Aburrahim El-Keib.

3. Mali: U.S. support for fair and free elections.

In the past 20 years, Mali never had to ask for help for managing its political life. But everything changed after March 22, 2012, when President Amadou Tounami Touré was deposed during a coup d’état operated by mutinous soldiers. The attack was made five weeks before his term ended. With this, Mali lost its chance to hold presidential elections in 2012 gaining only political turmoil, a consistent humanitarian crisis and a conflict in the South part of the country where members of Al-Qaeda settled. Agence France Presse reported around 4.6 million people are currently experiencing food insecurity and around 341,000 have been displaced since the coup d’état.

In April, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) authorized the creation of a transitional government for 12 months. Dioncounda Traoré, President of the Malian National Assembly, was chosen as transitional president. He consequently appointed Cheick Modibo Diarra as prime minister.

The interim government's term will end in May 2013. Many people, including Muslim and Catholic leaders as well as those in the U.S., are calling for free and fair elections. In June 2012, Johnnie Carson, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, clearly stated that the American government intended to support Mali during the elections, which he requested be held in May.

4. Tunisia: Great expectations.

In only one year, Tunisia managed to overthrown a dictator and hold its first legislative election. With a new constitution coming, the country is often held up as a role model for other countries. . Before former President Ben Ali was ousted on 14 January 2011, the next presidential elections were scheduled for 2014. But after the Arab Spring, Tunisians called for an earlier election right after a decision was made on the constitution.

Last June, the Tunisian prime minister announced the presidential elections would have taken place around March 20 in 2013. With a new set of laws that will come into power in April 2013, Tunisia is now set to hold presidential elections on June 23 with a presidential runoff on July 7. The dates were announced by the interim government. The decisions have vitalized the country's political landscape, as some 70 parties were formed after the decision was made.