Africa has a record number of 18 elections coming up next year, yet voter numbers are dwindling, African Union commissioner for political affairs Dr Aisha Laraba Abdullahi has said.
Briefing the media on Friday ahead of the AU summit in Sandton, Abdullahi said there were no longer as many coups in Africa as there had been in previous years, as countries were embracing multiparty democracy.
"Africa used to be the continent of coups," she said.
"There is no doubt that the acceptance of multi-party democracy by member states brought with it the formation and growth of political parties. Democratic elections thrive on citizen participation in the selection of their leaders," she said.
Africa should replace "the politics of bullets with the politics of ballots".
Lack of voter education, confidence
However, Abdullahi added there was a "noticeable reduction" in voter turnout on election day in African states.
She said this was because of a lack of voter education and reduced confidence in electoral processes.
"Thus the worrisome trend of increasing voter apathy needs to be addressed through vibrant civic education and building confidence in electoral processes."
Abdullahi said electoral violence also posed a threat to participation by citizens in elections, and the tensions that follow have the potential to destabilise the continent.
The AU was assisting governments to put in place independent elections management systems to deal with this problem.
Eight AU member states have had elections so far this year, including Benin, Comoros, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo and Zambia, Abdullahi said.
"The African Union Commission anticipates the remaining elections for this year to be as peaceful as the ones that were conducted in the first half," she said.
Burundi, Tanzania, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea and Burkina Faso are still to have their elections, although Abdullahi said the AU Commission was concerned about Burundi and the Central African Republic, which is yet to determine an elections date.
She said the AU would not send observers to Burundi's elections later this month if the environment was not free and fair.
Burundi's recent failed coup attempt as well as the attempt by President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third term is high on the AU summit agenda this weekend.
Next year elections will be held in Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Somalia and Uganda.