Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Angola chooses 3rd President since 42yrs of independence

Angolans vote Wednesday in an election that will see President Jose Eduardo dos Santos quit after nearly four decades in power, but with his hand-picked successor widely expected to take over.

The longtime leader has laid the groundwork for his designated successor in an oil-rich country where poverty, corruption and human rights concerns are unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.

Defense Minister Joao Lourenco is the ruling MPLA party's candidate to succeed dos Santos, who is expected to remain party leader. Lourenco, whose association with 74-year-old dos Santos dates to the war against Portuguese colonial rule, has pledged to fight graft if elected.

He would likely encounter the entrenched interests of an elite partly dominated by the president's family, including daughter Isabel dos Santos, who heads the state oil company Sonangol although media reports have indicated that she could vacate the post.

Isabel dos Santos is reputed to be Africa's richest woman, hailing from a nation with one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Angola endured decades of civil war that ended in 2002, leaving at least half a million people dead, several million displaced from their homes and infrastructure devastated.

Despite evidence of cronyism, the selection of Lourenco as a successor to dos Santos and the avoidance of a "dynastic transition" to one of the president's children indicates "that internal checks and balances may be stronger than many believed," said Soren Kirk Jensen, an associate fellow in the African program of Chatham House, a London-based institute.

"As the process unfolds, it is clear that Angola is following the pattern of gradual democratization from other governments in Southern Africa headed by former liberation parties that led the armed struggle for independence from colonial powers," Jensen wrote in an analysis.

The MPLA, whose Portuguese acronym means Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, is the election front-runner after winning in 2012 with 72 percent of votes amid allegations of irregularities.

The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) party, a former rebel force that fought the MPLA in the civil war, is the main opposition challenger and won nearly 19 percent in the election five years ago.

Heavily reliant on oil production, Angola has since struggled because of the global fall in commodity prices and the opposition seeks to capitalize on what it says is growing discontent in the southern African nation's young population.

About 9.3 million Angolans are registered to vote for the 220-member National Assembly, and the winning party will then select the president. Dos Santos, who has received medical treatment in Spain this year, appeared alongside Lourenco at a weekend rally on the outskirts of the Angolan capital of Luanda.

"I come here just to reiterate my personal support to our candidate" said dos Santos, according to the Portuguese news agency Lusa. "I do not doubt that the MPLA will win the elections, and he, our candidate, will be elected the next president of the republic of Angola."

Lourenco, in turn, praised the president, describing him as "the captain of the team" and saying "he has always been in command."

Dos Santos, who is praised by some Angolans for his role in ending the civil war, has previously indicated that he was considering retirement and then remained at the country's helm, though this time it appears certain that he will relinquish the post of president.

The only other African leader who has ruled longer - by about a month - is President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 75, of Equatorial Guinea. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 93, has been in power since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Angolan critics have alleged that the ruling party has unfairly used state machinery ahead of the election, noting that most campaign coverage on radio and television stations has focused on the campaign of the MPLA.

Election observers from other African countries will monitor the vote, but the European Union is only sending a small team instead of a full-fledged observer mission because it says the Angolan government wanted to impose restrictions, including limited access to polling stations around the country.

In a statement, Amnesty International said Angola's next leader must work to reverse attacks on freedom of expression and other rights. Criticizing the president is considered a crime against state security in Angola, and peaceful protesters, journalists and others have been jailed for long periods or "forcibly disappeared without a trace," the group said.

Source: (AP)

Monday, August 21, 2017

#LiberiaElections: ‘No Amount of Negativity Will Distract Me from the Presidency’ - Weah

In what some are describing as a political tsunami that swept across Monrovia and its environs over the weekend, the leader of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), George Manneh Weah, has called on Liberians and all the country’s development partners to ensure that the October 10 elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent atmosphere.

Making probably the most anticipated speech in the ongoing elections campaign season at the official launch of the 2017 CDC campaign at the party’s Congo Town headquarters, Weah said that as the country heads to its first, true democratic transition in 74 years, it is necessary for all, including the Liberian government, the European Union, ECOWAS, UN, UNDP and the various diplomatic missions accredited to the country, to “work assiduously to ensure that we conduct a free, fair and transparent election as the party endeavors to make Liberia a better place for everyone.”

Speaking from a prepared speech to the massive crowd of supporters, Senator Weah said: “Fellow partisans, our country is at a crossroad, and the launch of the CDC campaign marks the beginning of the party’s history to sustain the peace. 59 days from today, we will be going to the polls to elect a leader of our choice as we transition from one leadership to another. Nevertheless, as the champion of peace, and in a spirit of true patriotism, I will like to use this occasion to call on all Liberians and stakeholders of Liberia to commit themselves to conducting a peaceful and violence free election.”

Calling Liberia the “common denominator that put us together,” Weah implored Liberians to resist any action that has the propensity to tear the country apart and deride the gain we have made as a people and nation over the years, adding that the “CDC is committed to violence free election.”

Interestingly, thousands of partisans, supporters, and sympathizers patiently waited for Senator Weah over 12 hours at the party’s headquarter as he toured other parts of Monrovia before heading to headquarter. Partisans of the CDC have described the 2017 crowd as a first in the history of Liberia’s politics, with a call from the political leader to put it into votes come October 10.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Four Presidential Candidates Debate ahead of #LiberiaElections

Four major presidential candidates have met at a national forum to defend their individual platforms to lead the country.

All Liberian Party standard bearer Benoni Urey, vice president and standard bearer of Unity Party Joseph Boakai, the Alternative National Congress’ Alexander Cummings, and Charles Brumskine of Liberty Party participated in the debate.

Presenting his platform, Urey said if elected as president, his administration would work to get the country back on its path of progress and development by strengthening the economy, reconcile the population and decentralize the country’s resources.

He said development in the country depends on every citizen, thus making the need for unification a pressing imperative, irrespective of ethnicity, religious and political backgrounds among others.

“We believe the involvement of the entire Liberia and not a selective few will carry us a long way,” he said.

According to him, Liberia will only move forward when its people agree to put aside the past and change their minds and ways towards their country and one another.

Boakai said his government would better manage the country’s resources through the provision of an accountable, responsible, and experienced leadership.

He promised to provide citizens the opportunity to actively participate in the rebuilding of their country by employing a system that would increase youth employment and technical and vocation skills training.

He said he brings to the table a long history of practical experience about the issues that affect ordinary citizens.

“It is about time that we think Liberia, love Liberia, and build Liberia,” he said, evoking his campaign’s slogan.

Also presenting the summary of his administration’s programs was Cummings, who promised to initiate new strategies to move the country forward.

He said after 170 years of independence, Africa’s oldest republic remains among the least developed country on the continent and among countries of the world.

He said as Liberian goes to the polls in October, its citizens must now reflect the country’s high level of poverty and a per capita income that is among the lowest in the world.

According to him, one fundamental truth that must be understood by every citizen is that the country will continue to remain the same if nothing changes about the form of leadership.

“If you keep doing the same thing, you will not get different results,” he said.

He said another fundamental truth is that the best predictor of future performance and future behavior is tied to past performance and past behavior.

Cummings said he has been opportune to work in large corporations around the world, and has delivered results, adding that his experience and achievements puts him at an advantage to provide better leadership for the country.

However, he said to achieve this, his administration under an ANC platform will include other qualified Liberians, scout out resources to groom the private sector and leverage technology.


Citizens and international partners attended the debate. Photo: Gbatemah Senah

For his part, Brumskine promised that his leadership would focus on empowering ordinary citizens, improving health care delivery, building the capacity of Liberian businesses restoring hopes to abandoned youths.

He said to restore the quality of education, his government would fix the problems affecting the education system.

“I thought of young people in Liberia who graduate from high school, some of them with honors. Yet, they fail [the University of Liberia] entrance exams. There is something fundamentally wrong with the education system of our country. That we must fix, too,” he said.

The Liberty Party standard bearer promised that he would work to reconcile the country and restore family values and improve basic infrastructure. All these he promised to do using his integrity, experience, and capacity to get political will from others in government. He also committed to cutting down his salary those of other public officials, including his vice president and cabinet members.

The candidates were speaking on Thursday at Paynesville Townhall during a debate organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition and sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.

The coalition comprises of media and civil society organizations including the Press Union of Liberia, the Liberia Media Center, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia, Transparency International and the Liberia Women Media Action Committee.

The debate focused on key thematic areas, including economy, security and rule of law, peace and reconciliation, agriculture, youth empowerment and development and anti-corruption.

Abdulla Kamara, the Head of Liberia Holding Consortium, said the debate would help inform the judgements of electorate.

Kamara’s organization, in its third survey report released on the elections, indicated that more than 260,000 registered voters, representing 13.6 percent of the total registrants, are still undecided on who to cast their vote for on October 10.

George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change and Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment had also been invited to the debate but they were not able to attend. The organizers said Weah had traveled out of the country while Jones had been in rural Liberia, campaigning.

By: Gbatemah Senah

AEP
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Monday, August 14, 2017

Kenya and Rwanda - a Tale of Two Elections, Two Countries

On August 4, Rwanda held presidential elections, which returned incumbent president Paul Kagame with a 98.63 per cent victory. The other candidates in the race were Dr Frank Habineza and Mr Philipe Mpayimana. This is the background of Rwanda's elections.
President Kagame was constitutionally barred from contesting in this election, but a constitutional amendment was procured for the benefaction of his candidature. The particulars of the procurement of this constitutional amendment are that over 99 per cent of the population demanded that Kagame be enabled to seek re-election (or to be precise, to continue ruling Rwanda).
They petitioned parliament demanding for a constitutional amendment. Parliament was overwhelmed by petitions from over 99 per cent of the population. Since the voice of the people is the voice of God, parliament had no choice but to initiate a process that led to a constitutional amendment. A referendum held to validate the constitutional amendment returned 99 per cent of the voters as supporting the said constitutional amendment. Why then do our experts say president Kagame's 99 per cent victory was eye-brow rising?
The people who 'forced' Kagame to continue ruling them are the same people who voted in the referendum to 'legalise' their 'force'. And these are the same people who voted in the presidential elections to actualise their 'force'. Consistency!
Rwandans don't do things in half measures. In fact, experts on Rwanda say Kagame has not even reached the level of electoral victory enjoyed by former president Gregoire Kayibanda and military ruler Maj Gen Juvenale Habyarimana. Which is why my request to know the percentage of the spoilt or invalid votes was understandably dismissed by a Kagame aide thus: Must there be spoilt or invalid votes?
Kenyans went to the polls on August 8. But as is the wont in these things, it is one thing for one to vote and quite another for one's vote to count (or be counted). As opposed to Rwanda, the number of spoilt votes in the Kenyan poll is annoyingly high that it may take a bronze medal.
In spite of all else, the most important thing in the last three Kenyan elections is that a two-party system has been established. The significance of an established two-party system is that it offers the country the best chance for power to change hands from one political group to another.
Kenya's 'two-party system' is not a de jure, but a de facto situation where political parties have formed grand coalitions that effectively control more than 80 per cent of the votes (or parliamentary seats).
In Rwanda, all political parties (except one) supported Kagame's candidature. Some parties offered to support Kagame even before RPF (his party) declared him as their candidate. That's not a grand coalition, but a grand co-option.
The length of the term of office for which Kagame was re-elected on August 4 is seven years (ending in 2024). After 2024, presidential terms of office will be reduced to five years each.
And after 2024, one can only be a president of Rwanda for only two terms of office.
So, the new term of office (for which Kagame was elected is like a personal gift to him. However, he is eligible to run for office in 2024 and 2029.
I have heard some whispers that president Kagame has said this will be his last term. I have nothing to comment on those whispers because leaving power at that level is a personal matter and calls for depth of character.

In the first place, there will be no constitutional requirement to stop him to seek re-election in the next two elections (2024 and 2029).

#LiberianElection 2017: Will it be a straight contest between UP’s Boakai or CDC’s Weah?


Who will be Liberia’s next president? Will the presidential race this time break away from the past by ending in the first round or like history, be obliged to engage the traditional second round or what’s referred to as run-off between the governing Unity Party (UP) Joseph Boakai and Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Senator George Weah? Or will it be another new comer- a Johnny-just-come from an unfamiliar political background? However, Liberty Party’s Charles Brumskine and the other new faces should not be taken for granted; it appeared this time around they are financially potent and ready for the presidential race.

Fortunately, this election will be won by an influential presidency candidate who has the well-organized political chemistry in place across the country, one who came with the reservoir of ideas and the inspiration to play on the emotions of the exasperated voting population and also be able to make the election people centered oriented; one who will speak thought on issues affecting bulks of the needy populace.

Nevertheless, can the three new comers-Jones, Cummings and Urey pull the votes and viewing both to pride themselves to be first among equals who would create as serious upset cut down the old faces like Boakai, Weah, Brumskine, Prince Y. Johnson, Tipoteh and emerge as winner or will it be the king-maker Senator Prince Johnson this time around upsetting the rest?

Spiraling, some predict the process will end-up into traditional run-off running, between CDC’s Weah on one hand and one of the following persons possibly  UP’s Boakai, LP’s Brumskine, ANC’s Cummings or MOVEE’s Jones.; UP’s Boakai  and CDC’s  Weah are  serious contenders  that should not to be taken for granted.

To elect the new Liberian president, voters go to the polls twice. Unless one candidate can get a majority of more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round (held on October this year), the two candidates who receive the highest scores will face each other in a run-up. The candidates most likely to reach the second round are currently Vice President Boakai and Senator Weah, meaning both candidates will fight for the Liberian presidency after dozens of other heavyweights candidates shall crashed out of the first round.

During these elections, all parties’ candidates and independent candidates campaigned freely across their constituencies while the presidential candidates campaigned throughout the country, presenting their visions and platforms or agenda to the voters by either personal interactions and through the local media. However, the local media on a large scale regularly betrothed into biased reporting by treating some candidates with favor, while the rest are not given free media access to present their cases to the people.

Anyway, the presence of some Johnny-just-come in the process is expected to introduce new dynamism in the race for the 2017 political process considering their financial powers and influences to financially pull electorates in their directions. Will the 2017 General Elections be a referendum on the governing Unity Party-led government or will this democratic process lead to the perpetual dynasty of the UP?

Never has a Liberian presidential election captivated so many national and international interests and commentators before. And the stakes in this race are high. The incumbent vice president, Boakai is poised to name his running mate while Senator Weah has since picked his running mate, senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

But as the world has witnessed in shock over the past year, polls and statistical models do not always come to fruition. If they did, Hillary Clinton would now be president of the United States and David Cameron would still be prime minister of a Brexit-less Britain. And in Liberia, a country that has a huge illiteracy rate in Africa, the voters might go for new faces or an old face and a new comer; the country voters are unpredictable.

Given the evidence of the past year, it would be unwise to discount such a Boakai-Weah in the run-of. It is also true, however, that a new comer triumph would be the biggest political shock yet.

By way of comparison and taking curb from the recent American and French elections, the gulf was never even close to being so large for Trump against Clinton, not even when he was seen as a total outsider upon first announcing his nomination in the summer of 2015.

Two weeks ahead of the election, Trump was between five and 10 points behind Hillary Clinton. In swing states, the margin was only a couple of percentage points. And, of course, as it turned out, Trump did end up losing the popular vote but winning the White House. Therefore the other presidential candidates including LP’s Brumskine, ANC’s Cummings, MOVEE’s Jones, Senator Johnson or Urey cannot be ruled out of the process.

Many are of the conviction that if the presidential election ended into a run-off between CDC and UP, the king-makers in the process would be Cummings, Jones, Urey, Brumskine and Senator Johnson.  But the question is which of the two—CDC and UP, will these political heavyweights give their supports? Will they keep the UP’s longevity for additional six years of 18 year rule or will they go for an opposition win over the ruling party?

It is an indisputable fast that Liberians are yet to see a captivating political character , one whose owns the political chemistry to out rightly win the 2017 presidential election, a character who can removed greater number of poverty-stricken messes from abject poverty to a new level of appreciative livelihood, one that will momentously improve the provisional of basic necessities of life like electricity, paved roads across the country, safe drinking water for a majority of the population, reduce the massive unemployment and create jobs, ensure quality education and available and affordable health care among other necessities of human needs.

But can these essential necessities be visible in the absence of placing state authority in the hands of a  leader-one who lack the political will to conclusively combat corruption and cannot commends greater respect from the population? History tells us that no matter how great a nation is, if the citizens of the nation and other nations began to lose faith in their leaders, that government or leadership could eventually fail as others around the world have in the past.

Will majority of the electorates be prepared to make sound decisions or will voters continue to trade the ever present chronic tradition of their ballots in exchanged for monetary gain coupled with other most essential materials including a ‘tea spoon full of raw rice to pathetically, but just for few minutes ease their immediate quest and livelihood. Otherwise will Liberians use the October elections to punish the political corrupt and egocentric bureaucrats or do the opposite to make wrong choices again?

Majority of these political parties are, and remain fragile, weaken by either poor leadership or the government in order to keep regime dynasty. Nowadays political parties in the country often function as fly-by-night-venture upon only being active during election periods. Immediately after electoral exercises, these political institutions most often and in some cases, eventually disappeared in thin air while craving through reflection by operating from hand-bags and the back seats of some aging vehicles and unidentified offices.

Some of these prime concerns include lack of quality education and improved health delivery system, growing poverty, destitution and hard cost of living, corruption, lack justice for the poor and rule of law for all, lack of decentralize development, economics viability and empowerment of the poor, security for all and reduce the high prices of basic commodities and merchandises.

Currently we have not yet experienced a greater likeability of any of these aspirants either the familiar old faces of the body politics of Liberia despite their declaration to contest the October’s General-Election.  The question on the lips of political pundits is: Will the 2017 General Elections be a referendum on the governing Unity Party-led government or will this democratic process lead to the perpetual dynasty of the UP?   With five-month to this year’s elections, there are major concerns on the lips of political pundits and electorates, but another question is Can any of these political aspirants win on the first ballot?

The 2017 poll should not be used by avaricious politicians and other bureaucrats to exploit the poverty-stricken masses’ vulnerability; these elections shouldn’t be reduced to tribal and regional, instead it should be classed as a precise movement for positivity in Liberia. Our people need to realize that the combination of strength and distance inspired a confidence that any challenge could be overcome after it had prevented itself.

When a group of political individuals vying for elections are so constituted are obligated to deal with one another, there are only two possible outcomes; either one party becomes so strong that it dominates all the other to be the only voice or no political party is ever quite powerful enough to achieve the goal.

Assuming-perhaps as a result of the hardship in the country, the bulk of the electorates is expected to naively make wrong decisions to elect the folks before they realize the consequential backlash of their decisions.

Owing to the poverties and destitution prevalent across the country, the indication is the bulk of the electorates will vote with frustration, fury and resentment, as suffering in the country will overplay in the democratic process in 2017. But let it be made clear that in term of substance, the various political parties come with nothing that give much hopes and aspirations, instead the same old story with empty impracticable promises.

Nowadays in Liberia, every Dick and Tom appeared to have solution to the numerous problems facing this country.  Some of these aspirants have not won a Susu Club or community elections while some these fly by night political parties are being hosted in a shared apartment, but yet they want the people of Liberian to trust them with the nation’s highest office; what a national disgrace.

What a political shame for a country with less than four million populations to have about sixty-five registered political parties in the country; by the time the nation goes to the polls, these political parties numbers are expected to double by half.

Generally, they fall far too below the ability to possess the muscles that will propel them to play a cardinal role in influencing public policy and providing checks and balances wherein the government will not operate as an exclusive authority or law and gospel unto its self and not being answerable to the custodians (the people) of power in keeping with the nation’s constitution. These parties are not able to exercise oversight beginning with their members, moreover to run their offices professionally, effectively and smoothly.

Most of these so-called parties are surviving from individual pockets, a result, political institutions especially parties are built around individuals. The parties that are form in this class include the governing Unity Party, CDC, Liberty Party, ALP, UPP, LAP, and several others. Whenever these individuals whose influences and financial assistance these parties are operating on are no more around, such a party is doomed and definitely will collapse; why? As an evident, this has been the case of several political parties such as the TWP, NPP, UPP, LUP, LAP and NDPL.

For instance, two former ruling parties-NDPL and NPP were exclusively centered on the financial supports and influences of ex-presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Ghankay Taylor;  and true to the hard facts of reality, these two parties no longer possess the political dynamism in this era to occupy the presidency, while the ruling Unity Party likeability among voters has vanished along with its shrinking influence in the political dynamism is gradually melting away, thereby posing a daunting task for the Boakai-driven UP to take state power in 2017. But a question from skeptics is when will that generation of politicians ever learn?

This situation is not only limited to political parties but also extended to organizations and institutions in the country. Many persons have expressed fears that the departure of President Sirleaf from the political scene will ultimately be the end of the ruling Unity Party’s once respected and widely recognized leadership, thus shaping state power to another party.

The question is which party with the political juice and substance to measure up to the eagerly awaited expectations of the wailing for positive and realistic change? Until political parties and institutions in the country can be prepared to smoothly operate outside the sways and pockets of individuals, Liberia’s political system is stuck in a gloomy orbit and properly set to suffer a downward trail.

Unarguably, if Veep Boakai, Senator George Weah, Senator Prince Johnson, Cllr. Charles W. Brusmskine, Alexander Cummings, Simeon Freeman, Benoni Urey and Dr. Mills Jones were to terminate their memberships from their respective parties, these parties will lose their essence, steam and dynamism and would politically succumb from the political scene. However, One of these political heavyweights, in the 2017 presidential election is likely to be the king or the kings-maker, a trophy colonized by Senator Prince Johnson as evident in the 2011 elections.

By: Josephus Moses Gray