Africa is facing an intense election year in 2023. Two main courses, authentic giants that together account for 22% of the continent’s population, will open and close this period, beginning with Nigeria on February 25, where bipartisanship is reeling due to the irruption of the obimania, and ending with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where Felix Tshisekedi sees his second term threatened by a host of posh opponents. But it will be in summer and autumn when the presidential appointments with the ballot boxes accumulate, from Sierra Leone to Zimbabwe, passing through Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar and, if the ongoing transition processes allow it, Sudan and Libya.
The regional power Nigeria is, without a doubt, the star electoral convocation of the year. The current president, Muhammadu Buhari, has already completed his two terms and has to make way for new faces. The top favorite is Atiku Abubakar, a 76-year-old businessman and very veteran politician, an eternal unsuccessful candidate for the presidency, who leads the list of the once all-powerful political machine of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), now in opposition. In front of him emerges the figure of Bola Tinubu, 70, the historic governor of Lagos and a powerful candidate who has the backing of the party in power, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Once again, one candidate from the north and one from the south, one Muslim and one Christian.
However, the bipartisanship that has marked Nigerian politics in the last two decades could be blown up with the irruption of Peter Obi. At 61, this banker and former governor of the small state of Anambra emerges as an alternative to the traditional parties with an aura of incorruptibility and a fighter against corruption. In an oil-producing country with immense wealth, but mired in a chaos of corruption and security crisis, many young people are betting on him in opposition to the old political class. He’s not young, but he seems so much more so than his rivals. In other words, Obi wants to become a Macron.
The bipartisanship that has marked Nigerian politics in the last two decades could explode with the irruption of Peter Obi
But if the elections in Nigeria are exciting, in the DRC they will be no less. There are still 11 months to go before the appointment with the polls and not all the candidacies have been closed, but the names of some of the great tenors are already known. The first of all is, without a doubt, the current president Felix Tshisekedi, whose poor balance at the head of the nation could put sticks in the wheels of his re-election. If the opponents Augustin Matata, Adolphe Muzito, Delly Sesanga and even the irreducible Martin Faluyu do not seem to worry too much, three other names keep Tshisekedi awake at night.
The first, already confirmed as a candidate, is that of Moïse Katumbi, former governor of the wealthy province of Katanga and until a few months ago a wayward ally of the current president. The other two potential candidacies have not been presented, but they are even more dangerous for the current occupant of the presidential palace: the mysterious Joseph Kabila, a former head of state who maintains a powerful party structure and favors in this immense country, and the one who could The big surprise is the gynecologist Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018, who in recent weeks has been critical and combative like few others with the government’s management. Although he has more prestige outside the DRC than within the country, for the moment, he leaves the daisy behind.
June 24 is the date marked on the calendar for the presidential elections in Sierra Leone, where the polarization between the two big parties, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), in power, and the All-Union Congress, continues. Town (APC). If the former is clear that his candidate will be Julius Maada Bio, the current president, the opposition party has yet to define who its candidate will be, since its natural leader, Samura Kamara, is on trial for alleged corruption. The experts predict a close duel between the two parties, without clear favorites.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo there are two potentially dangerous candidates: Joseph Kabila, former head of state, and gynecologist Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018
In Zimbabwe, everything points to the reissue of the duel that Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa already had in 2018, less than a year after the all-powerful dictator Robert Mugabe was evicted from power through a coup organized by Mnangagwa himself, known in his country like The crocodile. So it was he who took the plunge, feeding the hope of a change that from the first bars seems to have been frustrated: Mugabe’s successor, the man who ended the nonagenarian and eccentric leader, has not managed to get his country out of the economic stagnation and continues to repress activists and opponents. Opposite him, Nelson Chamisa, at the head of the Citizens for Change Coalition, insists on going to the polls to lead Zimbabwe to a real alternation. For this he counts on seducing young people. The elections will be between July and August.
In Gabon, nothing new under the sun. Although he has not yet formally announced his candidacy, everything indicates that Ali Bongo, president since 2009 after the death of his father, is preparing for a new electoral competition scheduled for August. On this occasion, the monolithic Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), which has been in power for half a century with the Bongo clan at the helm, does not want surprises like the one experienced in 2016, when Jean Ping was about to win and rejected the results, leading the country to a brief institutional crisis. The big question will be whether the various tenors of the opposition are able to agree on a unified candidacy. With the octogenarian and isolated Ping practically excluded, the main contenders are the newly minted opponent Alexandre Barro Chambrier, former Minister of Oil with Bongo; former Parliament Speaker Guy Nzouba-Ndama; and the only woman in the running, Paulette Missambo, at the head of the National Union.
On October 10 it will be the turn of Liberia, chaired since 2017 by former soccer player George Weah. Who is emerging as his great rival at the polls is the successful businessman and great benefactor Alexander Cummings. Also at the end of the year, Madagascar will go to the polls to choose between two old acquaintances: either the continuity of the current head of state, Andry Rajoelina, or the change proposed by Marc Ravalomanana, president between 2002 and 2009. Finally, it seems unlikely that the elections that should be held in Sudan and Libya to get both countries out of their respective institutional crises are even called. Too many knots to untie in both countries.
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