These are hard times even for democracy as coronavirus wreak havoc across the world.
In Africa, some leaders may exploit it by extending their tenure in office beyond the specified time. Countries that had planned to hold their elections this year or early next year find themselves in a tricky situation due to the pandemic.
The virus has now infected 52 countries with over 11,000 cases, 632 deaths with 1,632 recoveries. In Africa, only two countries, Comoros and Lesotho are yet to confirm cases of the Covid-19 disease by April 8.
Some of the countries that had planned elections include Tanzania (October), Uganda, Burkina Faso (November), Burundi (May 20), Central African Republic. Others are Cote d’Ivoire (October), Ghana (November/October), Guinea (October), Niger, Seychelles (October to December), Central African Republic (December) and Malawi(July).
Ethiopia, which had 56 cases by last Friday, had postponed its General Elections that were scheduled for August because of the coronavirus outbreak. Ethiopia, the second-most populous nation in the continent, becomes the first African country to suspend a nationwide vote due to the pandemic.
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On Tuesday last week, Ethiopia’s electoral body, delayed the delivery of equipment and the amount of work that would need to be completed amid virus restrictions necessitated this postponement. A new schedule will be announced “after the risk of the virus has been resolved,” it said.
It would have been a test for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in 2018, won the Nobel Peace Prize last year largely for his efforts at reconciliation with Ethiopia’s neighbour and longtime foe Eritrea.
President John Pombe Magufuli, who is in his first term this year February got support after Tanzania’s former Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye rejoined the country’s ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), becoming the second former Prime Minister to rejoin the party in less than a year.
The country now has 25 cases so far and one death.
Sumaye, who quit leading opposition party Chama Cha Demokrasia Na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) last year end, announced his rejoining of CCM during a meeting of CCM’s Board of Trustees in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
Magufuli, 60, recently told his party (CCM), that he had no intention to run for a third term when his current term ends in 2025, not 2020.
Burkina Faso will hold elections for president and National Assembly on November 22.
It’s not the first time elections have been rescheduled before. In 2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo delayed the presidential contest because of Ebola. Experts now warn that there will be concern where some governments may use the crisis to avoid holding the election.
“If one is postponed because of coronavirus, will it be rearranged? If so, when? Incumbent governments could be given an opportunity to reschedule at a moment when the opinion polls are more favourable,” poses Toby James, a professor of Politics and Public Policy at University of East Anglia.
Political analyst Herman Manyora said postponing polls will depend on which months the elections will be held.
“Surely when there is an election to be held in April or May, then it will be a challenge, forcing postponement. But it will also depend on the scale of the pandemic effect in that country, for instance if by June the pandemic effect will have been dealt with, some countries might consider holding elections in the next one or two months,” said Manyora.