Africa: Presidential Elections to Watch in Africa This Year

Vice President Saulos Chilima with his security.
6 January 2019

After the relentless electoral drama across Africa last year, several countries will hold presidential polls this year.

The most significant general elections, after the DR Congo one, will be held in Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Libya, Malawi and Mauritania.

In Nigeria, the presidential, Senate and House of Representatives polls are slated for February, while the election of governors and members of state assemblies will follow on March 31.

The two front-runners in the presidential poll will be incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who will be pitted against his former ally-turned-rival Atiku Abubakar, 72, who served as Nigeria's vice-president between 1999 and 2007.


In South Africa, the general election slated for May is widely viewed as a test for the ruling African National Congress, which needs to re-assert itself after being steeped in controversies and scandals during the Jacob Zuma era.

The presidential election, on the other hand, is expected to give current president Cyril Ramaphosa an opportunity to legitimise his power through the popular vote.

In neighbouring Namibia, President Hage Geingob will be seeking re-election on the ticket of the ruling South West African People's Organisation.

Among the hot issues in the poll will be land, given that years after independence, white Namibians own 70 per cent of commercial farmland despite the fact that they make up less than 10 per cent of the population.

Still in southern Africa, Malawi will be holding presidential, National Assembly and local elections on May 21 amid mounting corruption cases, some implicating President Mutharika himself.


As matters stand, incumbent Mutharika, 78, and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party will be challenged at the ballot by his own former vice-president Saulos Chilima and ex-president Joyce Banda.

In Mozambique, President Filipe Nyusi and the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) are widely expected to have an edge in presidential, legislative and provincial elections slated for October 15.

As for Botswana, just like neighbouring South Africa, the country has a system in which the president is elected by parliament, and this is expected to happen in October. Already the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has been in power since 1966, has established a succession plan in which the presidential term ends more than a year ahead of the national elections.

The result is that the incumbent -- in this case current president Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is also the BDP's presidential candidate -- has an almost guaranteed lead.

Other riveting elections will be held in Senegal, where 57-year-old President Macky Sall will be seeking a second term in office, as well as in Algeria, which will hold a presidential poll on April 17.


In the latter, the frail and wheelchair-bound President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is reportedly set to run for a fifth consecutive term in office despite the fact that he is 81 and has been ailing for years.

Matters will be different in Mauritania, which will hold a presidential election in the middle of the year to find a replacement for current president Ould Abdel Aziz, who rose to power after a putsch in 2008.

Still on presidential polls, Tunisia will be holding one in December, while at different times of the year quite a number of countries will be holding gubernatorial, provincial, Senate, parliamentary and local polls.

Different kinds of referendums will also be held in Libya and Ghana, respectively in February and September.

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