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Sunday, March 20, 2016 | Daily Nation
In Niger, the incumbent is facing a hospitalised opposition candidate
Sunday will mark a rare occasion in the calendar of African politics, with a controversial presidential election in Congo, two runoffs — in Benin and Niger — and a long-awaited repeat poll in Zanzibar. The day promises to be exciting as Cape Verde holds parliamentary elections while the Senegalese take part in a constitutional plebiscite.
In Congo Brazzaville, veteran president Denis Sassou-Nguesso will be making a bid for a controversial third term. After 32 years in power, the Congolese president is one of the continent’s five longest-serving leaders, and is widely viewed as the quintessential African strongman.
Benin and Niger will be holding runoff presidential polls following inconclusive first round ones early this year. At the same time Zanzibar, which is part of Tanzania, will be holding a repeat presidential poll following the chaotic one in October.
While the pre-runoff situation in Benin has been calm, matters have been different in Niger and Zanzibar, where tension has mounted. There have been opposition threats to boycott the polls.
In Zanzibar, the Civic United Front has for a long time insisted that the annulment of last year’s results was a ruse by the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi to deny it victory, during which its presidential candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad, dramatically declared himself the victor even before results were announced.
A coalition of opposition parties in Niger announced on Tuesday that it would boycott the runoff, claiming it will be rigged. Although president Mahamadou Issoufou got 48.4 per cent of the votes cast during the first round on February 21, he did not win the majority he needed to avoid a second round, and was to face runner-up Hama Amadou.
The latter won 17.79 per cent of the votes in the first round.
By the end of the week, Amadou was receiving medical treatment in Paris. According to media reports, the 66-year-old former premier and parliament speaker was flown to France on Tuesday, having been held in jail on baby-trafficking charges.
In the meantime, the opposition coalition said the constitutional court, responsible for validating poll results, was working with the government to ensure Issoufou got a second term. The opposition said it would not recognise the results of Sunday’s run-off.
Unlike the uncertainty in Niger, which happens to be one of the world’s poorest countries, the situation in Benin is different.
The duel, pitting PM Lionel Zinsou against businessman Patrice Talon, will be tough. Each wants to replace President Yayi Boni whose second term expires on April 6. While Zinsou has the support of the incumbent, Talon is backed by other hopefuls who failed to make a mark in the first round.
As the drama unfolds in Benin and elsewhere, nearby Cape Verde will also be holding parliamentary polls.
Out of an estimated population of 508,000, at least 350,000 people have been registered for today’s elections, which according to media reports would include 173 women out of 551 candidates.