Wednesday, 17 August 2016

ZAMBIA: Lungu wins by a whisker as opposition cries foul

This week we consider the recent elections in Zambia and South Africa and a new opposition alliance in Ethiopia, while President Salva Kiir changes his mind again about the prospect of more foreign troops to keep the peace in South Sudan.

ZAMBIA: Lungu wins by a whisker as opposition cries foul
Backers of President Edgar Lungu rejoiced and waved party banners after the electoral commission announced on 15 August that he had held the presidency with 50.35% of the votes, and won himself a full, four-year term in State House. Supporters of challenger Hakainde Hichilema, who polled 47.63% of the votes, took to the streets to protest at what they called an 'electoral coup'.

International dignitaries called for calm while police said in Lusaka that they had arrested over 150 protestors across the country, mainly from Hichilema's United Party for National Development, after clashes over alleged rigging on 16 August. On 13 August, observers from the European Union were excluded from the counting process which, they pointed out diplomatically, may have reduced confidence in the results.

The next step is for Hichilema to file a formal complaint to the Constitutional Court detailing his vote-rigging claims but it's not clear whether that will delay plans for Lungu's presidential inauguration. Meanwhile, the government negotiates with the International Monetary Fund for desperately-needed finance to compensate for falling export revenues.

SOUTH SUDAN: Salva drops opposition to bigger UN force
After fiercely opposing 'interference' by foreign forces in South Sudan, and hastily convening demonstrations in Juba to back his stance, President Salva Kiir has now said he no longer opposes the United Nations Security Council decision to send an additional 4,000 troops to bolster the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). But he claimed the right to discuss the UN plan for an unspecified period before the government makes a formal response.

Some senior figures in the government army are strongly opposed to a bigger and stronger UN force, not least because the sacked Vice-President, Riek Machar, says he and his allies will not return to Juba in its absence. Salva is coming under increasing international pressure since detailed reports emerged of widespread atrocities by government soldiers during the shoot-out last month with Riek's forces and in the aftermath. Human Rights Watch this week released a devastating report on murders and rapes it says were committed by soldiers under the command of General Paul Malong Awan and President Salva which will be hard to ignore.

ETHIOPIA: Formerly divided opposition faces lethal force in Addis demonstration
When protestors representing the Oromo and Amhara, the ethnic groups which make up some 60% of Ethiopia's 100 million people, took to the streets of Addis Ababa in protest last Friday, it was a milestone for the long-fragmented opposition. Police killed many, Amnesty International has claimed, as they quickly broke up the demonstration.

If this show of strength is repeated it could be a serious challenge to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn's government. Hailemariam labelled the protests a security threat. Many see the unrest as the result of pent-up frustration in an opposition that has failed to win even a single seat in parliament. Until now the sometimes violent protests in Oromo, which exploded last November, and in Amhara, where the state also used maximum force, had been seen as local issues. The protestors' agenda appears to be widening to include demands for sweeping reforms of the land laws and of the political system.

SOUTH AFRICA: Hard bargaining as the ANC cedes power in post-election deals
The spectacular performance by Wayde van Niekerk, winning a gold medal in the 400 metres at the Olympic Games, among other stellar performances by South African athletes, was a welcome boost for a country battered by a weakening economy and concerns for its political future. Senior ANC figures are talking about the need for dramatic changes after the party's disastrous performance in the 3 August local elections and diminishing confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

Now, the ANC faces tough negotiations behind closed doors with its political opponents to form coalition governments in the 27 – out of 278 – municipalities where no party won an outright majority. The ANC's share of the vote fell to 53% from an average of 62% five years ago in national elections. Its nearest challenger is the centre-right Democratic Alliance whose leader Mmusi Maimane has won over substantial numbers of black voters.

In many of the most contested municipalities, the radical Economic Freedom Fighters, which scored an average national vote of about 8%, could play a kingmaker role. It's not clear how far the EFF and the DA can work together. Both parties announce their plans this week. But translating those into practical terms to share power in over 20 municipalities, whose total budgets are worth more than $10 billion, could take weeks and months of negotiations.

No comments: