Review 2021: Landslides for African incumbents, the Zambian opposition upsets Lungu


Elections are a major item on the news agenda every year. 2021 was no different. Presidential, parliamentary and local elections have taken place across the continent.

The incumbents have been retained and the rise in opposition has been observed elsewhere. As part of our review of the 2021 news calendar, Africanews looks back on the elections that took place in the various sub-regional blocks.

Presidential polls in East Africa – Uganda, Djibouti and Ethiopia

Longtime Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was on the ballot again as he sought to extend his term. The polls were marred by a brutal crackdown on opposition voices on the grounds that COVID-19 meant the campaign had to be done online.

In the end, Museveni won the disputed election of January 14 by more than 6 million votes (58.38%) and thus secured his sixth consecutive mandate.

In Ethiopia, delayed parliamentary elections were held despite insecurity in some areas. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party won majority seats, which helped him retain his post.

Abiy’s party won 410 seats out of a possible 547 seats in parliament, other parties and an independent candidate won 12 seats.

In Djibouti, the ballot was held on April 9 and President Ismail Omar Guelleh, stood for election against a single opponent and won a crushing ballot with 155,291 votes (97.30%) to extend his reign.

Surveys in West Africa РGambia, Benin, Niger, Ṣo Tom̩ and Principe and Cape Verde

The Gambian elections were the first post-Yahya Jammeh elections. The coalition that toppled Jammeh in 2016 had collapsed and three key members, including incumbent Adama Barrow, were running.

Barrow’s new party, the National Patriotic Party, NPP, won the election with 457,519 votes (53.23%) although two main opposition parties contested the result.

On October 17 in Cape Verde, a former Prime Minister, José Maria Neves de (PAICV), was elected president after the two terms of President Jorge Carlos Fonseca.

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

On April 11, Benin also held presidential elections won by outgoing President Patrice Talon, but these were marred by the arrest and detention of key opposition candidates.

In the end, Talon collected 1,982,534 votes (86.30%) against 261,096 votes for his main opponent Alassane Soumanou (11.37%).

In Niger, the February 21, 2021 vote was a second round of the December 2020 elections which failed to produce an absolute winner.

In the end, the ruling party’s candidate, Mohamed Bazoum, won the ballot by 2,490,049 votes (55.67%), ensuring Niger’s first democratic handover since independence.

São Tomé and Principe held presidential elections on July 18, but the lack of a first-round winner pushed them to the second round. The vote of September 5, 2021 was won by the ruling party candidate Carlos Vila Nova who obtained 45,481 votes (57.54%), he succeeded Evaristo Carvalho.

Southern Africa – presidential in Zambia, local elections in South Africa

On August 12, 2021, Zambia won the biggest surprise of the election year when another veteran opposition candidate, Hakainde Hichelima (present for the sixth consecutive time), defeated incumbent President Edgar Lungu while Lungu was continuing his second and final term.

Hichelima received 2,852,348 votes (59.02%) against 1,870,780 votes for Lungu (38.71%).

The November 1 local elections in South Africa saw the ruling African National Congress, the ANC, register its lowest result since returning to black majority in 1994. The ANC won less than 50% of the total voices, corruption and mismanagement being cited as the main reasons for the bad show.

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

On March 21, 2021, the vote was won by outgoing Denis Sassou Nguesso who polled 1,539,725 (88.40%) to extend his term of office by five years. Tragically, his main opponent, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, died on polling day.


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