Foresight Africa 2015: Democracy and Elections Across the Continent

At least 15 countries in Africa will hold legislative or presidential elections in 2015. For a continent that has been plagued by decades of coups and political instability, opportunities to deepen democracy are always welcome, but never easy.

The events in Burkina Faso in late 2014 are a good example of these complexities: The Burkinabè overthrew their president of 27 years, Blaise Compaoré, in October, when he tried to change the constitution so he could run yet again. While citizens celebrated, the army stepped in, a move that made many observers nervous, as it was reminiscent of so many past military takeovers. Then again, the army has promised to act as only a transitional player, committing to usher in elections in 2015 and instating civilian Michel Kafando as interim president.

In his recent Foresight Africa brief, Brookings nonresident fellow John Mukum Mbaku provides a snapshot of four of 2015’s forthcoming elections: Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Sudan. He argues that each of the governments in these countries, as well as in the other fledgling democracies around the continent, must use their 2015 elections as the opportunity not only for more participatory elections, but also for strengthening institutions and the rule of law.

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Mbaku explores the history of controversial elections and related civil wars in Côte d’Ivoire, previewing the issues likely to be the most contentious this time around. He also examines the upcoming Tanzanian general elections and constitutional referendum. Tanzania—a country that has successfully held four free and credible elections—will also be voting on the status of the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar. He reviews the steps that led to the recent events in Burkina Faso as well as his hopes for the transition process. Finally, Mbaku discusses Sudan’s 2015 elections and whether they mean anything for President Omar al-Bashir’s reign.

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Read Foresight Africa 2015,

which details the top priorities for Africa in the coming year, to learn more about the 2015 elections around the continent as well as other critical issues for the region.