Africa heads into an election year 2019

Voters in several African nations, including Nigeria and South Africa, are headed to the ballot box in 2019.

Experts predict a neck and neck race between Nigeria’s incumbent Muhammadu Buhari and his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar.

“The spike in violence again has meant that while Buhari ran on bringing peace and stability back to Nigeria, he hasn’t succeeded,” said Sophia Moestrup, deputy director for Central and West Africa at the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

No political change in Senegal

Neighboring Senegal, which is regarded as a stable country, is preparing for presidential polls in 2019. There is little doubt President Macky Sall will be re-elected, said the NDI’s Moestrup, adding that the vote comes at a good time for the incumbent  Senegal’s economy is prospering.

That trend could continue over the next few years. Beginning in 2021, Senegal plans to extract oil and gas, which could give the country’s economy an additional boost. At the same time, experts have urged developing Senegal’s infrastructure even more, as most Senegalese still live in poverty.

Moestrup welcomed the fact that the civil society groups in both Senegal and Nigeria are very active, and want to hold politicians responsible for their actions. She also pointed out as positive that 14 of 15 presidents in West Africa, with the exception of Togo, served no more than two terms.

Weak opposition groups

Southern Africa also faces elections in 2019, none of which are expected to bring much change. Many countries are ruled by former liberation movements that are likely to stay in power. “One of the challenges in this region is that, in part because of the colonial histories, there hasn’t been an adequate formation of appropriate political choices across the spectrum,” said Paul Graham of the Johannesburg-based Freedom House human rights organization.

In fact, observers are keenly watching South Africa, which is scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections at a date that has not yet been determined. Many experts believe the ruling African National Congress (ANC) will win overall, even if it suffers individual losses.

The former party of Nelson Mandela faces waning popularity that its current leader, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, is trying to turn around. The president has freed the state from some of the corrupt forces that took hold under former President Jacob Zuma, Graham said, but he argued that Ramaphosa faces a great deal of opposition within the party.


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