2021 Review: Landslides for African incumbents, Zambia opposition upsets Lungu

Elections are a major feature of the news agenda each year. 2021 was no different. Presidential, Parliamentary and local elections were held across the continent.

Incumbents were retained and the rise of opposition was witnessed elsewhere. As part of our review of the 2021 news calendar, Africanews looks back at elections that took place across the different sub-regional blocs.

Presidential polls in East Africa – Uganda, Djibouti and Ethiopia

Uganda’s long-serving president Yoweri Museveni was again on the ballot paper as he sought to extend his tenure. The polls were marred by heavy-handed clampdown on opposition voices with the reason that COVID-19 meant campaigning must be done online.

In the end, Museveni won the disputed January 14 polls by over 6 million votes (58.38%) and by that secured his sixth consecutive term in office.

In Ethiopia, delayed Parliamentary elections were held despite instances of insecurity in some regions. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party won majority seats helping him retain his post.

Abiy’s party won 410 seats out of a possible 547 seats in the Parliament, other parties and one independent candidate managed 12 seats.

In Djibouti, the vote as held on April 9 and President Ismail Omar Guelleh, stood for election against a sole opponent and won by a landslide polling 155,291 votes (97.30%) to extend his rule.

Polls in West Africa – Gambia, Benin, Niger, São Tomé and Principe and Cape Verde
The Gambian election was the first post-Yahya Jammeh elections. The coalition that toppled Jammeh in 2016 had broken down and three key members including incumbent Adama Barrow were running.

Barrow’s new party, the National Patriotic Party, NPP, won the elections with 457,519 votes (53.23%) even though two main opposition parties contested the outcome.

October 17 in Cape Verde, a former Prime Minister, Jose Maria Neves of (PAICV), was elected president after the two-term tenure of President Jorge Carlos Fonseca.

Jose Maria Neves polled 95,803 votes (51.73%) with the now former ruling MpD party’s candidate, Carlos Veiga polling 78,474 votes (42.37%) to come in second.

On April 11, Benin also held presidential elections that were won by incumbent Patrice Talon but it was marred by arrest and detention of major opposition candidates.

In the end, Talon polled 1,982,534 votes (86.30%) as against main opponent Alassane Soumanou’s 261,096 votes (11.37%).

In Niger, the February 21, 2021 vote was a runoff from the December 2020 election that failed to produce an outright winner.

In the end, the ruling party candidate, Mohamed Bazoum won the poll by 2,490,049 votes (55.67%), ensuring that Niger secured its first democratic transfer of power since its independence.

São Tomé and Principe held presidential elections on 18th July but the failure to achieve a first round victor pushed it into a second round. The September 5, 2021 vote was won by the ruling party’s candidate Carlos Vila Nova who polled 45,481 votes (57.54%), he took over from Evaristo Carvalho.

Southern Africa – Zambia presidential, South Africa local elections

On August 12, 2021, Zambia pulled off the biggest surprise of the election year when another veteran opposition candidate, Hakainde Hichelima (running for the sixth consecutive time), beat incumbent Edgar Lungu as Lungu chased his second and final term in office.

Hichelima polled 2,852,348 votes (59.02%) as against Lungu’s 1,870,780 votes (38.71%).

South Africa’s November 1 local elections saw the ruling African National Congress, ANC, record their lowest ever result since the return to black majority rule in 1994. The ANC got less than 50% of total votes with corruption and mismanagement cited as major reasons for the poor showing.

Africa National Congress = 14,531,908 votes (47.52%) a drop of 8.13% from 2016 Democratic Alliance = 6,067,429 (24.57%) a drop of 5.27% from 2016 results Economic Freedom Fighters = 3,223,828 (8.31%) an appreciation of 2.23% from 2016 result The only presidential election in Central Africa took place in the Republic of Congo.

The 21st March 2021, vote was won by incumbent Denis Sassou Nguesso who polled 1,539,725 (88.40%) to extend his stay in office by another five years. Tragically, his main opponent, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, died on the election day.


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