The will of the people: four elections


Rwandans celebrate Kagame’s landslide poll win 

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Pictures: AP, Timothy Bernard, Reuters, AFPRwandans prepare to vote in the presidential elections at a polling station in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Friday, August 4. President Paul Kagame won another term after the government disqualified all but three candidates. Picture: Jerome Delay / APA woman casts her vote in the country’s constitutional referendum on Saturday at the polling station in Nouakchott.  Picture: AFPPresident Jacob Zuma has survived his latest vote of no confidence despite the ballot being held in secret. Opposition parties had hoped the secret ballot would mean some MPs from the governing ANC party might side with them against the president. But the motion was defeated by 198 votes to 177. Picture: Henk Kruger / ANAKenyans line up to vote in Bissil, 120km south of Nairobi,  on Tuesday. Kenyans went to the polls to vote in a general election after a tightly-fought presidential race between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and main opposition leader Raila Odinga.

President could rule until 2034

Stephanie Aglietti

Rwandans on Saturday celebrated the third-term victory of President Paul Kagame who pledged to continue transforming the nation after winning re-election with a record 98.63% of the vote.

There had been little doubt that the 59-year-old would return to the helm of the east African nation which he has ruled with an iron fist since the end of the 1994 genocide.

“I am very pleased. I had hoped for this victory,” said Yvette Uwineza, a 36-year-old computer scientist. “The continuity is reassuring,” she said, crediting Kagame with developing the country and creating “a better life for Rwandans”. 

Interim results published by the electoral commission  showed Kagame outdid his previous wins of 95% in 2003 and 93% in 2010.

“It is clear from what we can see that his excellency Paul Kagame has been elected with 98.63 which means he is the declared winner as far as the provisional results are concerned,” said the commission’s Charles Munyaneza.  

The tally matched the proportion of people who supported a constitutional amendment two years ago permitting Kagame to run for a third, fourth and fifth term potentially seeing him rule until 2034.

“I honoured your request, and this (election) confirms that Rwandans made a choice based on the future they want,” Kagame told thousands of supporters at his ruling party’s headquarters in Kigali in the early hours of the morning.

“We are going to continue with the work we started by advocating for a better Rwanda.”

Turnout was 96.42% of 6.9 million voters. 

Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party – the only permitted critical opposition party – won just 0.45% of votes, beaten into third place by the little-known independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana with 0.72%.

Both accepted their loss and vowed to continue in politics.

“I am not going to stop here. I urge all citizens to join be so we can become stronger for the next election,” Mpayimana said.

Rwandans celebrated Kagame’s win in muted fashion, with no spontaneous large gatherings in the disciplined nation.

Inside a gymnasium in the capital music and dancers entertained hundreds of party loyalists who celebrated into the morning.

“We are celebrating the presidential election,” said one young man as he danced. “We are celebrating Paul Kagame!” another yelled out next to him.

Kagame has been the de facto leader of Rwanda since, as a 36-year-old, his rebel army routed extremist Hutu forces who slaughtered an estimated 800 000 people – mainly minority Tutsis – and seized Kigali in 1994.

He was first appointed president by lawmakers in 2000.

Kagame is credited with a remarkable turnaround in the shattered nation, which boasts annual economic growth of about 7%, is safe, clean and has little corruption. 

Rwanda also has the highest number of female lawmakers in the world.

However rights groups accuse Kagame of ruling through fear, relying on systematic repression of the opposition, free speech and the media.

Kagame’s critics have ended up jailed, forced into exile or assassinated. 

Few Rwandans would dare to openly speak out against him.  – AFP

Mauritania votes to abolish senate by referendum

Hademine Ould Sadi

Mauritanians have voted to abolish their senate and alter their national flag by referendum, the electoral commission announced on Sunday, in a clear victory for President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz the day after the vote.

While turn-out was 53.73%, 85% of voters on Saturday declared “Yes” to changes put to a referendum when they were defeated in the senate in March, despite fierce criticism from a boycott movement that called for mass protests during campaigning. The boycott movement drew broad political support from figures as diverse as religious conservatives and anti-slavery activists.

Members of opposition parties spearheading the boycotters held a press conference on Sunday during which they denounced an “electoral farce which has given way to open-air fraud", adding that people “had clearly rejected the constitutional amendments".

They said they would not recognise the results of the referendum, having previously claimed the government would rig the vote.

The most contentious issue surrounding the vote, given that just one opposition party campaigned for “No” while the boycott campaign attracted several parties and civil society movements, was the turn-out.

Turn-out was just 36% in the capital, Nouakchott, but was much higher in the remote rural areas, at times hitting 80%, the electoral commission said.

The boycott movement held several protests attracting thousands of supporters, but were also prevented from demonstrating by the security forces, who on Thursday shut down several planned rallies close to the capital with tear gas and beat protesters back with batons.

The UN Human Rights Office said on Thursday that “protest leaders were reportedly beaten up and a number of them were arrested” during campaign rallies in the last few weeks, urging the government to ensure fair and credible elections.

Around 1.4 million Mauritanians were eligible to vote, and celebrations were expected from the select opposition parties that did support the revision.

The opposition groups opposed to the measure say they are concerned that, despite Aziz’s claims to the contrary, he is laying the groundwork for a third term in power – with his own prime minister saying last month that he supported the idea.

Aziz himself fuelled speculation on Saturday by saying that “in two years, or even 10 years other amendments could arise to adapt our constitution to reality", without elaborating. Aziz came to power in a coup in 2008 and was elected in 2009 and again in 2014 for a second five-year term. – AFP 

SA’s Zuma survives vote to oust him as president

ANC MPs stick by embattled leader

South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence, with enough African National Congress (ANC) lawmakers sticking by their leader despite divisions and fierce criticism of his rule.

The motion brought by the opposition needed to secure 201 of the 400 votes in Parliament to succeed, but fell short with 177 votes, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete announced.

If Zuma had lost, he would have been forced to resign along with his entire cabinet.

Criticism of Zuma from within the ANC has grown amid multiple corruption scandals and South Africa’s mounting economic woes, while the celebrated party of Nelson Mandela has declined at the polls.

But ANC officials and analysts had predicted the president would survive the vote given the party’s large parliamentary majority.

“The party will spin this as a win, but it’s a weak victory,” independent analyst Daniel Silke said, after at least 30 of the 249 ANC lawmakers voted to oust the president.

“There are marked signs of a rebellion within the ANC. It will perpetuate the factional infighting after a relatively close vote. There was a substantial mutiny.” 

The ANC celebrated victory over what it described as an attempted “soft coup”.

“It has been the publicly stated intention of the opposition… to sow seeds of chaos in society to ultimately grab power,” it said in a statement.

Several opposition parties led thousands of anti-Zuma protesters outside the National Assembly before the vote, while supporters of the president held a rival march.

“Today’s motion of no confidence result is closer than anyone expected,” Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party said, hailing “brave” ANC lawmakers who voted against Zuma.

“Jacob Zuma is the manifestation of what the ANC has become – a toxic mix of corruption, cronyism and nepotism.”

Mbete, the Speaker of Parliament, made a surprise decision on Monday to hold the ballot in secret after a campaign by the opposition who hoped to encourage ANC members to vote against their leader without fear of intimidation.

Zuma, 75, is due to step down as head of the ANC in December, and as president before the 2019 general election – lessening pressure for his party to trigger imminent change.

The ANC has acknowledged recent criticism of the party, including the impact of a cabinet reshuffle in March when respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan was replaced with a close Zuma ally.

Gordhan’s sacking led to a string of downgrades to South Africa’s credit rating as well as causing the rand currency to tumble.

Public support for the ANC, which swept to power under Mandela in the first non-racial elections in 1994, slipped to 55 percent in last year’s local polls – its worst-ever result.

A handful of MPs, including Gordhan, have publicly joined calls from anti-apartheid veterans and trade unions for Zuma to resign, as South Africa endures record unemployment and a recession.

Zuma has been engulfed by several corruption allegations while in office. A court last year found him guilty of violating the constitution after he refused to repay taxpayers’ money used to refurbish his private rural house.

He has been accused of being in the sway of the Gupta business family, allegedly granting them influence over government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses.

He is also fighting a court order that could reinstate almost 800 corruption charges against him over a multibillion-dollar arms deal in the 1990s.

Zuma is seen as favouring his ex-wife, former African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to succeed him ahead of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. – AFP

Kenyatta surges ahead, but opposition cries foul

Fran Blandy

President Uhuru Kenyatta appeared headed for re-election on Wednesday but his rival Raila Odinga claimed a massive hacking attack had manipulated results, ratcheting up tensions in east Africa’s richest economy.

With ballots from 92 percent of polling stations counted, electoral commission (IEBC) results showed Kenyatta leading with 54.4 percent of the nearly 14 million ballots tallied against Odinga’s 44.7 percent, a difference of 1.3 million votes.

“These results are fake, it is a sham. They cannot be credible,” Odinga told a press conference in the early hours of the morning as partial results fell quickly via an electronic tallying system aimed at preventing fraud.

He later detailed accusations of a massive hacking attack on the electronic system, saying hackers had gained entry to the system using the identity of top IT official Chris Msando, who was found murdered and tortured late last month.

“This is an attack on our democracy. The 2017 general election was a fraud,” said Odinga, claiming detailed evidence of the hacker’s movements. He would not say how he got the information, as he wanted to “protect his source”.

Odinga claimed the IEBC had not provided the scanned forms meant to accompany the results. 

The 72-year-old, who is making his fourth bid for the presidency as the flagbearer for the National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition, accused his rivals of stealing victory from him through rigging in 2007 and in 2013.

“You can only cheat a people for so long,” he said.

In 2007, the disputed vote resulted in two months of ethnically driven political violence that killed 1 100 people and displaced 600 000, a major blow to a nation seen as a regional bastion of stability.

The contested election in 2013 was taken to the courts and ended largely peacefully, though Odinga lost.

“The voters, too, must await the results while acknowledging that their favourite candidate can actually lose. It is a critical measure of democracy that there will be winners and losers,” read an editorial in the Daily Nation newspaper.

The normally traffic-choked streets of Nairobi were deserted on Wednesday, and some businesses remained closed as the country held its breath over the result. – AFP  

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