Editor: Denis Kadima
Managing Editor: Heather Acott
Contributors: Stephen Chan, Albano Agostinho Troco, Samuel Adams, William Asante, Joseph Olusegun Adebayo, Blessing Makwambeni, Philip Onguny, Gift Dorothy Makanje, Kabale Ignatius Mukunto
Key terms: election, observation, free and fair, peaceful and credible, plausible, algorithm, post-war Angola, electoral, politics, authoritarianism, Africa, democratisation, technologies, voter turnout, Ghana, voter experience, framing, media, media framing, peace journalism, reportage, Kenya, vernacular radio, ethnic conflict, peacebuilding, crimes, moral turpitude, dishonesty, Malawi, violence, campaigns, young party cadres, Zambia
Stephen Chan is Professor of World Politics at SOAS, University of London
ABSTRACT: The first large-scale election observation was of Zimbabwe's 1980 independence elections. Since then, election observation has become a regular worldwide feature and many international organisations, official agencies, and non-governmental organisations field observation teams. They all use similar methodologies, largely derived from the original 1980 model. A third of a century later, it may be time to consider whether the use of electoral observation has outlived its usefulness - or is itself being used to mask forms of electoral cheating. This paper considers five 21st century African elections - in Kenya (2007), Zimbabwe (2008, 2013 and 2018) and Zambia (2016), through the reflections of a pioneer of the 1980s observation prototype.
Albano Agostinho Troco is a PhD candidate, Department of Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
ABSTRACT: The southern African nation of Angola was included in the third wave of democratisation which began rolling over the African continent in the late 1980s. Structural political and economic reforms, including multiparty elections, were introduced in Angola as part of a peace settlement designed to set the country on a path to effective democratisation. However, the resumption of the armed conflict in the aftermath of the country's founding elections in 1992 blocked Angola's transition towards the consolidation of a multiparty democratic dispensation. The end of the civil war in 2002 renewed hopes for normal democratic development through a return to electoral politics. Building on the conception of elections as both instruments of democracy and tools of authoritarian rule, this article examines the progress, problems and prospects for democratisation brought about by the resumption of electoral politics in post-war Angola. The analysis of the evidence gathered from qualitative secondary sources suggests that, since the end of the war in 2002, Angola has seen the establishment of electoral hegemony. The MPLA has total dominance of not only the electoral process - its rules, their implementation and adjudication - but also of electoral results, allowing the winner to rule unchallenged. This has subsequently been used to engender other types of political domination, including constitutional and central government hegemony, thus ensuring regime entrenchment.
Samuel Adams is Professor and Dean in the School of Public Service and Governance, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, Accra
William Asante is a PhD Candidate in the School of Research and Graduate Studies, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, Accra
ABSTRACT: This study investigates the experiences of voters with election technologies such as the biometric system for voter registration and verification (BVRV), as well as whether such technologies affected both turnout and trust in Ghana's 2012 and 2016 elections. The paper also explores whether the introduction of BVRVs increased or decreased levels of voter trust in the Electoral Commission (EC) and election outcomes. Using both primary and secondary data, the study found that the introduction of BVRV in election management in Ghana influenced the turnout for both the educated and the uneducated. While most of the former were eager to experience this novel approach, the same could not be said of the latter, less educated group. The study noted that state institutions do not take population diversity into consideration when introducing technological interventions. They take it for granted that citizens have the same capability, resulting in the marginalisation and neglect of a large section of the populace; this lack of trust in turn has a negative effect on voter turnout. The study recommends that such inequities in society should be taken into consideration when implementing interventions like BVRV in election management, specifically in Ghana but also in other African countries with similar socioeconomic and political conditions.
Joseph Olusegun Adebayo is a postdoctoral research fellow, Journalism and Media Studies Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town
Blessing Makwambeni is a Senior Lecturer, Research & Postgraduate Coordinator, Media Department Public Relations Programme, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town
ABSTRACT: In 2008, Kenya hovered on the brink of a war arising from the political violence that followed the general elections. In reportage akin to that of the infamous Rwandan genocide of 1994, the Kenyan media pitched the country's different ethnoreligious groups against each other. The result was a wanton loss of lives and property, as well as a highly volatile socio-political climate. By 2013 when the country was about to conduct another general election, apprehension ran high amongst the populace. However, in what seemed like a sharp deviation from what had happened in 2008, media reportage of the election was more conflict-sensitive. Although there were pockets of irregularities, the 2013 election recorded less violence and the media was lauded as a key reason for that. In the 2017 election, the media was once again at the centre of public discourse, this time accused of sacrificing democracy in the cause of peace. Public observers accused the media of downplaying and/or underreporting irregularities and outright election rigging for fear of a possible outbreak of violence. The argument by many journalists and media practitioners was that the media practised peace journalism. By analysing selected articles from Kenya's mainstream media, this article examines peace journalism in its many complexities and contextual dynamics, in order to clarify the thin line between peace journalism and advocacy
Philip Onguny is Assistant Professor of Conflict Studies Saint Paul University, Ottawa
ABSTRACT: This article examines how the shifts in vernacular radio narratives influenced intergroup relations during the 2007-08 electoral violence in Kenya. Using media as an analytical framework, together with original in-depth interview data collected over four months of fieldwork in 2010, the article explores how vernacular radio listeners in Kisumu, Eldoret, and Nyeri interpreted the 2007-08 electoral violence prior to, during, and after the event. It argues that the framing of electoral stakes and subsequent violence by vernacular radio stations is mainly between differentiated and concerted frames, depending on the stage at which the violence manifests itself. Differentiated frames reinforce divisive and/or rebellious attitudes, and are likely to increase intergroup competition and further violence along ethnic lines. Concerted framing underpins the perceived areas of common interest believed to transcend disparate group allegiances, and this establishes the possibility of intergroup dialogue and collaborative attitudes. These findings also highlight the central role of ethno-linguistic proximity and ethno-regional polity as potential drivers of vernacular radio frames, particularly in situations of electoral violence.
Gift Dorothy Makanje is Head of the Department of Foundational Law, University of Malawi, Zomba
ABSTRACT: The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi disqualifies any person for election as president, vice president or member of parliament who has, within the last seven years, been convicted by a competent court of a crime involving dishonesty or moral turpitude. The Local Government Elections Act also disqualifies such a person from being elected as a councillor on similar grounds. In addition, once elected, these office holders can lose their seats on similar grounds. The question becomes, what are crimes involving dishonesty or moral turpitude? Worldwide, courts have struggled to define this amorphous concept. In Malawi, a few cases have been heard in both the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal to determine whether the offences in issue were crimes involving dishonesty or moral turpitude. The courts have labelled some offences as involving dishonesty or moral turpitude, in other instances have rejected this label and in yet others have avoided expressing an opinion one way or another. What is clear is that these words remain vague but will keep coming up in the courts for determination in relation to various offences. This paper is of the view that this disqualification is an unlawful limitation of various political rights guaranteed under section 40 of the Constitution. While exploring different approaches to clarify the phrase moral turpitude, it is ultimately recommended to simply scrap this disqualification from the law and to empower the electorate to freely choose whoever they want.
Kabale Ignatius Mukunto is a lecturer at the Dag Hammarskjöld Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia
ABSTRACT: Zambia's 2016 general elections were a turning point in the country's political history, with electoral violence threatening its democratic fabric. This paper analyses accounts of electoral campaigns by one private online newspaper, the Lusaka Times, to reflect on the relationship between electoral violence and young party cadres. Evidence from the study indicates that negative socioeconomic conditions, leadership manipulation and incentives as well as the perception of plural politics all contribute to the susceptibility of young people to electoral violence. The violence witnessed in 2016 included molestation and intimidation, seizure of public property, public disorder, vandalising of party property, lawlessness and aggressive rhetoric. The paper also notes that events of 2016 were counterweight to the consolidation of democracy as the activities of young party cadres undermined the free political participation of other stakeholders.