African Election Map 2011 – 2012 – By Simon Freemantle, Standard Bank
Africa’s political plates are shifting. In concert with economic gains realised over the course of the past decade in particular, and the concomitant rise in a more connected, and increasingly more empowered populace, political stability (or at least constructive change) is elevating. Africa’s reputation, tinged by decades of instability, is gradually being altered with each election which takes place in a manner befitting of maturing democratic systems. Today, Africa is more peaceful than at any stage in its post-independence history.
Yet, important (and in some cases seemingly intractable) pockets of instability persist. Many of Africa’s nascent political systems are in flux as pervasive challenges are either substantively overcome, or prove too towering to brace. Evidence of this fluidity is found in Freedom House rankings of Africa’s political systems: in 2001 Africa was deemed to have 20 electoral democracies, yet only 13 of these retained this status in 2011. Meanwhile, four countries not ranked as electoral democracies in 2001 had improved sufficiently to achieve this designation in 2011. That said, over the course of the past decade none of the 9 countries ranked as being “free” have seen this status altered. Between 2001 and 2011 four countries improved their ranking from “not free” to “partly free”, while six countries regressed. In 2011, 18% of African countries were deemed to be “free”, 42% “partly free”, and 40% “not free”.
Remaining in step with Africa’s changing political vista is critical for those engaged in the continent’s ongoing resurrection, and an analysis of fluctuations brought about at the ballot box provides one such steer. Of course, change can be much less predictable””this year, North Africa erupted, toppling three leaders who had, collectively, served at the helm of their respective countries for 88 years. In all, fifteen African countries held elections in 2011; in four of them a change of guard was brought about. In 2012, the unfolding of democracy in North Africa will be profound, as will critical elections in Kenya””a country eager to reframe its reputation following a violence-marred election in 2007. Angolans and Ghanaians, too, go to the polls, dictating the course for two pivotal African economies.
This report, the first in what will be an annual offering, offers no projections on likely electoral outcomes, but rather offers as factual as possible a map for the political changes which have taken place in the year that has passed, and those to watch in the year to come. Africa’s political terrain is in flux, and certainty around electoral timelines is, at times, elusive. Remaining abreast of those developments which are concrete, as well as those which remain fluid, is an important element underpinning a coherent African strategy.
View the report in full here