Press Review CW 19/2024: Change through elections?
Press Review 3 May 2024 to 8 May 2024

Parliamentary elections in Togo

On Sunday, the Commission Electorale Nationale Independante du Togo (CENI) published the provisional results of the Togolese parliamentary elections on 29 April. Accordingly, the current ruling party Union pour la République (UNIR) secured an absolute majority in parliament with 108 out of 113 seats. Compared to the parliamentary elections in 2018, in which the party won 59 out of 91 seats, it was able to increase its share of the vote. The remaining five seats went to various opposition parties, which, in contrast to 2018 when many opposition parties under the C-14 coalition boycotted the election, had called on the population to vote this year. The Alliance des Démocrates pour le Développement Intégral (ADDI) won two parliamentary seats, while the Alliance Nationale pour le Changement (ANC), the Dynamique pour la majorité du peuple (DMP) and the Forces Démocratiques pour la République (FDR) each secured one seat. The election results must now be confirmed by the Constitutional Court. According to the President of the CENI, Dago Yabré, voter turnout was 61 per cent, two per cent higher than in the last elections. In addition to the members of parliament, 179 regional deputies were also elected, who together with local councils will elect the newly introduced Senate. The UNIR also won the regional elections by a clear margin and will have 137 regional MPs, while the opposition parties won 39 seats; the remaining three seats went to independent candidates.

Regional and international election observation missions expressed their satisfaction with the organisation and conduct of the polling stations. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) stated on Wednesday that they welcomed the establishment of a framework for permanent consultations and the smooth conduct of the electoral campaign and praised the calm conduct of the elections. The previous day, the election observation mission of the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CEN-SAD) had judged the elections to be free, fair and transparent. Parts of the opposition, however, did not agree with these assessments. For example, only 70 election observers were on site, as criticised by opposition candidate Nathaniel Olympio from the Parti des Togolais (PT). The Dynamique pour la majorité du peuple (DMP), a coalition of opposition parties and civil society opposition, stated that a large number of abusive votes had been found at some polling stations. There had also been delays in the start of voting and some electoral lists had not been published. However, controls were also tightened in the run-up to the elections, which were postponed twice following backlash from the opposition to the constitutional reform passed by parliament at the beginning of April. The National Electoral Commission refused to allow the Togolese Bishops’ Conference to send election observers to the country and the Haute Autorité de l’Audiovisuel et de la Communication (HAAC) also temporarily suspended accreditations for international journalists who wanted to report on the election.

The parliamentary elections took place against the backdrop of a controversial constitutional reform, which was confirmed at the beginning of April and changes Togo’s political system from a presidential to a parliamentary one (press review CW 13/2024). In future, the president will no longer be elected directly by the people but by parliament and will be given a more ceremonial role. The appointment of the new position of Chairman of the Council of Ministers, who will act as head of government, is particularly controversial. According to the new constitution, the office will automatically be filled by the leader of the strongest party in parliament. Following UNIR’s victory in last Monday’s elections, this post will now fall to the incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé, who is also chairman of UNIR. The opposition sees this as an extension of the power of Gnassingbé, who took over the presidency from his father in 2005, and accuses the president of wanting to extend his term of office through the reform.

 

Mozambique’s ruling party FRELIMO appoints new chairman and presidential candidate

On Sunday evening, the central committee of Mozambique’s ruling party Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) surprisingly elected Daniel Chapo as its new chairman and presidential candidate. The 47-year-old, who had not previously held a position on the committee and was not one of the internal favorites, was able to win with 225 out of 249 votes (approx. 94%). His closest rival Roque Silva had previously withdrawn from the race and resigned from his position as General Secretary of the party. With the appointment of Chapo as presidential candidate and party leader, incumbent President Filip Nyusi, who had been confirmed as FRELIMO leader in 2022, also ended media speculation about a possible candidacy on his part in the general elections on 9 October this year. According to the constitution, Nyusi, who was already elected president of the country in 2014 and 2019, is not allowed to run for a third term.

Chapo is still considered a relatively unknown politician. The political scientist and former radio presenter has been governor of the Imhambane province in the south of Mozambique since 2016. At the age of 47, he is the first presidential candidate of the former freedom movement FRELIMO, which was born after the country’s independence from Portugal in 1975; he is primarily intended to appeal to younger voters. These will play an important role in the upcoming presidential, parliamentary and regional elections. According to the National Electoral Commission (CNE), there are 7.7 million young people eligible to vote this year, but only around half of them have registered for the elections so far.

The other parties are also already positioning their candidates for the presidential election. The Movimento Democrático de Moçambique (MDM) will enter the race with the head of the parliamentary delegation and brother of party founder Lutero Simango, while the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO) is expected to present its candidate after its party congress next week. With 49-year-old Valencio Mondlane, who successfully ran for mayor of the capital Maputo in last year’s local elections but was not elected due to massive electoral fraud, RENAMO could also run with a candidate who is popular among the younger generation. However, he must prevail internally against the 53-year-old mayor of the harbor city of Quelimane, Manuel de Araújio. The official registration period for parties wishing to run in the elections in October ended on Tuesday. A total of 32 political parties have registered. The deadline for submitting the list of presidential candidates to the Constitutional Council is 10 June.

The candidates are facing major social, political and economic challenges and Chapo is not taking on an easy legacy within his party either. In various areas, the country has still not recovered from the consequences of the civil war that broke out after Mozambique’s independence between FRELIMO and the military predecessor of RENAMO and lasted from 1977 to 1992. It was only in 2019 that President Nyusi signed a new peace treaty, the Maputo Accord, with RENAMO following a resurgence of violence. Nyusi’s time in office was also overshadowed by a government loan and corruption scandal worth around USD 1.2 billion. FRELIMO, which has won all elections since independence and also controls the majority of local authorities, has also repeatedly faced accusations of electoral fraud; most recently in last year’s local elections, which were followed by violent protests. In addition, Mozambique’s north-eastern province of Cabo Delgado, where large deposits of natural gas have been discovered, has been the scene of attacks by the Islamist militant rebel group Ansar al Sunna, also known locally as Al-Shabaab, since 2017. The attacks have since led to several thousand deaths and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. Since the attack in 2021 on the port city of Palma, which is located near the gas production project of the French company TOTALEnergies, the multi-billion dollar project, which is the largest private investment project in Africa if completed, has been temporarily put on hold. Most recently, the company had indicated a willingness to continue the project after the Mozambican military, with the support of Rwandan troops and the intervention of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), managed to achieve some military successes against the rebels. Since the beginning of the year, however, the rebels have once again stepped up their attacks. Curbing the violence and convincing TOTALEnergies that it is safe to resume work will also be the main priorities for Daniel Chapo in the election campaign.

 

In other news

The allAfrica Media Leaders Summit 2024 begins today, Wednesday, in Nairobi with a focus on reshaping African media in times of critical transformation. The three-day media summit will bring together 300 different African media owners and representatives of governments, companies, academia and civil society from over 40 African countries. The event is organised by the online platform allAfrica, which collects and publishes Africa-related newspaper articles from 130 news organisations. In addition to panel discussions, new digital innovations will be presented at the summit, including the Metaverse platform Ubuntuverse, which aims to build a bridge between cultures and increase the continent’s connectivity in education and technology and is described by the organisers as a milestone of the digital media age. The 2024 Media Excellence Awards will also be presented this year, including the allAfrican Leadership Award for outstanding contributions to economic change and development and ten awards for the lifetime achievements of media professionals from seven different African countries. The media summit is the largest of its kind on the continent and has already taken place in a similar form from 2008-2013 under the name African Media Leaders Forum.

 

 

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