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Home arrow Africa arrow Africa And The History Of Electoral Frauds
Africa And The History Of Electoral Frauds PDF Print E-mail
Written by The Leadership   
Dec 12, 2010 at 02:20 AM

The recent electoral drama in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leader, Alasane Quattara, has once more thrown up the debate of the ugly side of elections in Africa vis- a- vis its leaders’ undemocratic attitude.

Dismissing loud international condemnation of his action as 'foreign interference', incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire last week took the oath of office for a second term, swearing to solemnly  respect and faithfully defend the constitution of his country.

What is gradually snowballing into a major crisis that may lead to a dreaded civil war, if not handled properly, is the result of the presidential election held recently, in which Alasane Quattara challenged the incumbent Gbagbo, and is said to have won the election. The world's number one cocoa producer was split into a rebel-held North and a government-controlled South after an attempted coup sparked a civil war in 2002. A peace deal was signed in March 2007. Sadly, the attempt to return the country to a democratic path is being frustrated with the now popular sit -tight attitude of African leaders.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro has, meanwhile, warned that the situation ''threatens the ideal of reunifying the country.'' He has since resigned and thrown his weight behind Alassane Quattara, the veteran opposition leader and economist, whose camp is said to be planning its own swearing-in. That would give the country two presidents.

Gbagbo, who has the support of the army and gendermarie, also has control of the state television.

The army sealed land, sea and air borders, a night curfew was imposed and several French news organisations were banned. President Gbagbo was sworn in after the Constitutional Council overturned the results of the Independent Electoral Commission in the November 28 presidential run-off that gave the verdict to Quattara.

The president of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), Youssouf Bakayoko, under tight security in a hotel in Abidjan, on Thursday declared Quattara winner of the ballot with 54.1 per cent of the votes.

But the Constitutional Council, which validates election results, penultimate Friday, overturned the Electoral Commission's declaration, saying it had annulled hundreds of thousands of votes in several key areas in Quattara's northern stronghold and declared President Gbagbo the winner with 51.45 per cent of the votes.

Paul Yao N'Dre, chairman of the Constitutional Council and a Gbagbo ally, said the irregularities in those northern constituencies invalidated the results. Gbagbo's camp had earlier prevented the Electoral Commission from declaring the result by tearing up the document.

The above scenario clearly reflects the politicking that has characterised the African continent for ages, as well as political phases of fraud.

Ethiopia's first election, since its 2005 contest, was marred by protests that led to the deaths of two hundred people. Voting was smooth and steady in the capital, Addis Ababa, but the opposition said there had been irregularities elsewhere in the country.

Officials from the main opposition alliance, Medrek, said its agents had been blocked from observing the polls in the southern Oromia region where it expected to make some gains.

"It doesn't look like an election, even by African standards," Medrek leader, Merera Gudina had said.

"In some areas, we even heard that ballot boxes were opened and stuffed before the arrival of our people," he said, warning on the possibility of rejecting election results.

A coalition of local and international rights groups  reported that the balloting was marred by widespread rigging after the government prevented monitoring. It said opposition candidate representatives, and independent monitors who were supposed to be allowed to watch the voting, were barred from almost all polling stations around the country, allowing officials to stuff ballot boxes.

Though official results had not been announced, candidates' supporters around the country took to the streets in anger after hearing that their favourites lost. In the southern province of Assiut, police fired tear gas at a procession of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, armed with sticks, who were carrying their candidate, Mahmoud Helmi, and chanting "Islam is the winner."

"We  will review our assessment regarding the elections. But one thing is for sure, all this cheating was done with millions of witnesses," he continued.

Allegations of electoral fraud by Mr Meles' governing Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) led to protests and deaths in 2005.

In the general elections held in Egypt , protesters set fire to cars, tires and two polling stations, clashing with police firing tear gas in riots that erupted around Egypt over allegations that the ruling party carried out widespread fraud to sweep parliamentary elections.

The country's most powerful opposition movement, the Islamic fundamentalist, Muslim Brotherhood, acknowledged that its lawmakers may be all but completely swept out of parliament by what it called rampant rigging.

That's a significant blow to the group, which held 88 seats - a fifth of the outgoing parliament, and it is widely believed that it was government's goal to drive out its only real rival's lawmakers. The election showed the Brotherhood's limited options after repeated crackdowns in past years, including the arrest of some 1,400 of its activists in the weeks ahead of the vote.

A coalition of local and international rights groups  reported that the balloting was marred by widespread rigging after the government prevented monitoring. It said opposition candidate's representatives and independent monitors who were supposed to be allowed to watch the voting were barred from almost all polling stations around the country, allowing officials to stuff ballot boxes.

Same story goes for Gabon. Late Gabonese president, Omar Bongo died in June, 2010,  after more than 40 years in office, during which he was alleged to have  rigged elections and stole his country's oil wealth. His son, Ali Bongo, claimed victory in the election to replace the old dictator. Ali was former defense minister. His troops fired tear gas to break up post-election protests.

Opposition candidate, Pierre Mamboundou claimed that exit polls showed he handily beat Bongo. "It's not just a possibility of fraud. It's fraud, pure and simple. The Gabonese people do not want a dynasty. Forty-two years of President Bongo is enough. They want change," he had said.

Students stormed some Gabonese embassies abroad. In Gabon's major cities, protesters erected roadblocks. It's the first major civil strife in years, in what was once one of West Africa's most stable and prosperous countries. But the Bongos' deep corruption had fueled a powerful strain of resentment. Among the most visible signs of the Bongos' alleged theft were two matching yachts bobbing off the capital of Libreville, where some 30 per cent of people live in poverty. One yacht belonged to the deceased president, the other to Ali.

Zimbabwe perhaps stands out as the worst country as it relates to electoral fraud. President Robert Mugabe has variously engaged in what could perfectly pass for electoral dictatorship. From constitution maneuvering to  outright votes manipulation , his is a trait that defies common sense in democracy.

March 14, 2002, Mugabe's opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai described the results of the election as "the biggest election fraud I have ever witnessed in my life." Tsvangirai, a former labour leader said, "We believe that in fact the voice of the people of Zimbabwe was not fairly heard.''

What was to follow after series of negotiations was sharing of power by Tsvangirai and Mugabe. Like the forced marriage that it is , the government today can best be described as a shadow and mockery of democracy with the economy at a very dangerous end, being at the receiving end.

In Kenya in 2007, the opposition Orange Democratic Movement swept the political landscape, ''cleaning out'' the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki's cabinet, including his vice president, foreign and defense ministers, and a host of plutocratic parliamentarians. Yet Kibaki held on to power, leading to riots that killed about 1,500 people and displaced more than 250,000 Kenyans.

Warnings from the West have had no effect. For example, in response to Zenawi's crackdown on the opposition, European governments temporarily withheld aid, and multilateral institutions suspended loans to the regime. The U.S House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 2003) to hold Zenawi's regime accountable, but it failed to clear the Senate. And in Kenya and Zimbabwe, though the West pressed Kibaki and Mugabe to form coalition governments, the country remains more divided than ever.

This time Zenawi seems even more determined to circumvent Ethiopia's democracy. In April, his regime announced that in local elections, the opposition won a paltry three out of 3.6 million "contested" seats.

Elections in Ethiopia under Zenawi's dictatorship, now spanning two decades, have manifested two recurrent patterns. First, Zenawi has spared no effort to eliminate his opposition. He has used intimidation, threats, arbitrary arrests and detentions, bogus prosecutions, extreme violence, fraud and trickery to wipe out his opposition. Recently, Zenawi invited the opposition for 2010 election talks, but promptly demanded that they sign a "code of conduct" before discussions could be held. Leaders of an alliance of opposition parties under the umbrella of an organisation known as Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia walked out of the talks, plainly sensing a trap. Zenawi retaliated by initiating a campaign of harassment and intimidation that sent nearly 500 opposition members to detention.

Zenawi has succeeded in distracting the opposition from making the election issue-based, or a referendum on his regime to inconsequential issues about personalities and individual grievances. There is little discussion by the regime or the opposition about the formidable and apocalyptic issues facing the country.

Famine threatens to wipe out one-fifth of the Ethiopian population. There are thousands of political prisoners held in regular and secret prisons without trial. Gross abusers of human rights walk the streets freely. Ecological catastrophes, including deforestation, soil erosion, over-grazing, over-population and chemical pollution of its rivers and lakes, threaten the very survival of the people. Galloping inflation has made life unbearable for most Ethiopians. Rampant corruption and plunder of the public treasury has left the country with only a few weeks of foreign currency reserves. And there has been no accountability for the reckless intervention in the Somali civil war, the squandered resources and wasted young lives, among many other issues.

In Nigeria, after nine months of legal wrangling, a presidential election tribunal in 2008 upheld late Umaru Yar'Adua's declared victory, despite evidence of widespread rigging and fraud. This was in the same year that Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF suffered massive defeat in Zimbabwe's national elections. After intimidating supporters of his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai with violence, Mugabe, at 84, "won" an uncontested run-off election.

Apart from June 12, 1993 presidential election conducted under Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, perhaps no other election in Nigeria has been close to free and fair. While controversy greeted the 1979 elections that ushered in the Shehu Shagari government, the subsequent ones held to usher in democracy from 1999 till date has been all but impressive.

The worst elections held in Nigeria took place in 2007 when outright rigging, ballot box stuffing, violence, election fixing, detestable voter registers and pandemonium characterised the election. At the end, the courts presided over about 80 of the 109 senators' seats, two third of reps, and 29 of the 36 governorship seats. Indeed, to say that the judiciary conducted the elections for Nigeria is to drive the nail to the head. Worst still, the judiciary, just months to next year's elections is still paying host to electoral petitions.  Africa is under the siege of electoral lawlessness indeed.

Since Ghana's military dictatorship ended in 1992 when it adopted a new constitution, Ghanaians have shown the essential prerequisites for a successful multi-party democracy in Africa. They institutionalised the rule of law and conformed their laws to meet international human rights standards. They created a strong judiciary with extraordinary constitutional powers that made failure to obey a Supreme Court order a "high crime." They included strong protections for civil liberties, allowing Ghanaians to freely express themselves without fear of government retaliation.

Ghana established an independent electoral commission responsible for voter registration, demarcation of electoral boundaries, conduct and oversight of all public elections, referenda and electoral education. Above all, Ghana's uncompromising constitutional language made it illegal to have tribal or ethnic-based political parties, the root of most conflicts in Africa.

The glimmer of hope shimmering in the Ghanaian experiment proves that multi-party democracy can be successfully instituted in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa without bloodshed. Failure to do so may once again force Africans to prudently heed Victor Hugo's admonition: "When dictatorship is fact, revolution becomes a right." If it gets to that point, it may not be sweet tales for the African continent.


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