Southern African News Features                                           SANF 12 No 6, February 2012

SADC awaits elections in four countries

by Joseph Ngwawi

At least one national election is expected in southern Africa this year, with three others pending.

Buoyed by an atmosphere of relative peace and political stability that has obtained in the region for the past few years, SADC is awaiting polls this year in Angola and possibly in Lesotho, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

President José Eduardo dos Santos announced in a New Year’s Day televised address that Angola will hold elections to choose new Members of Parliament (MPs) by the end of August 2012. Under the new Constitution, the President is elected from the largest party in parliament, similar to the system in South Africa.

“In the year starting in the few coming days, we will hold for the third time elections to choose our National Assembly’s MPs and the President of the Republic, holder of the Executive Power,” dos Santos said.

He said the elections will be held within the first eight months of 2012 and assured Angolans that “legal mechanisms are being created for these elections to be well organised, transparent and fair.

“It is up to everyone, the voting citizens in particular, (to assume) the great responsibility to make the right choice to guarantee the continuity of the construction of an Angola of peace, democracy and development,” he said.

This is the first time Angola will hold elections since adopting a new Constitution in 2009 under which the President is elected by Parliament from the largest party in the House of Assembly. Under the new governance charter, the President’s tenure will now be limited to two terms.

The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) led by dos Santos won a 27-year civil war against the former rebel group, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), and then overwhelmed the opposition in the 2008 election in which it obtained 82 percent of the valid votes cast.

Elections in Lesotho, Madagascar and Zimbabwe are subject to the successful conclusion of ongoing processes to resolve disputes among the main political players in the respective countries.

In the case of Lesotho, a SADC-brokered political dialogue was concluded in April 2011, paving way for elections possibly later this year. The main political stakeholders in Lesotho are currently engaged in a law reform process that would see the Constitution and Electoral Law reviewed to incorporate changes proposed during the dialogue.

Post-electoral dissatisfaction emerged in Lesotho after the 2007 elections as the main opposition party refused to accept the results, plunging the country into a crisis.

This resulted in a negotiating team comprising heads of churches in Lesotho and facilitators from the SADC Organ troika being put in place by southern African leaders to address the situation.

Stakeholders to the meditation process included the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho, the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy, opposition parties and the government.

Zimbabwe’s general elections depend on the successful conclusion of an ongoing process to draft a new Constitution, which should be presented for a national referendum.

President Robert Mugabe has voiced concern at the slow pace of the constitution-making process but has expressed his determination to have the referendum and subsequent elections held this year.

Under a power-sharing agreement brokered by SADC in 2008 between Mugabe and former opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, Zimbabweans should go for elections after a new Constitution is in place.

SADC-led mediation efforts have seen Madagascan leaders agree to set up a transitional government to run the country until fresh elections are held this year.

However, implementation of this agreement continues to be a challenge. Former President Marc Ravalomanana has twice been barred from returning to the country from exile in South Africa.

SADC together with other partners have pledged to intensify efforts to ensure the resolution of political disputes in Madagascar.

Madagascar slid into political turmoil in March 2009 after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina seized power from Ravalomanana in a public demonstration backed by the military, in much the same way that Ravalomanana himself had seized power a few years earlier.

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SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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