“Tempos de Mudança na África Ocidental”2 de novembro de 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Time for Change in West Africa
West Africa is undergoing several political changes as several countries are holding elections. Cote d’Ivoire makes the top of the list with its first presidential election since its civil war in 2002. However, while many are hopeful that the elections will have a positive effect on the war-torn country, others remain leery as to the uncertainties that could soon follow.
The current president Laurent Gbagbo is facing 13 challengers with the main candidates being Alassane Ouattara, popular in the pro-rebel north, and Henri Konan Bedie, former president toppled in 1999 in the country’s first coup. If someone fails to win the majority vote, the top two finishers will face off in a second election round set to be held on November 28.
The UN has deployed 9,000 peacekeepers, and last month Gbagbo passed the final 5.7 million person voter roll with the government handing out millions of identity cards. It is said that an estimated $400 million has been spent on the state-of-the-art biometric IDs with some observers saying that it was the most expensive election in the world.
And following on the heels of an attempted coup, Niger closed its national borders for voting on a referendum on a new constitution. The ruling junta hoped for a voter turnout of at least 70%, but Reuters reported that polling stations in Niamey had very few visitors. Some voters claimed that when they arrived, they were turned away after being told voting slips had yet to arrive.
The voting on the referendum is important as the outcome will have Niger distinguished between a secular or Islamic state. With 98% of the country’s population Muslim, this election will pave the road for a new civilian leader to be announced by April. If adopted, the constitution guarantees immunity for the leaders of February’s coup and commits them to handing over power on April 6 next year, by which time a newly elected civilian president is due to have been inaugurated.
Another West African country, Guinea, has officially announced the country’s presidential run-off election to be held on November 7. The military junta leader and interim president, General Sekouba Konate, has repeatedly delayed run-off elections although the National Independent Electoral Commission’s president and the country’s Prime Minister proposed elections to be held on October 31.
The first round of elections was held on June 27 with Cellou Dalein Diallo gaining 44% and Alpha Conde taking 18% of the vote.
And in Guinea-Bissau, President Malam Bacai Sanha suffers from diabetes and remains hospitalized in Dakar, Senegal. Sanha gained presidency in September 2009 after winning a runn-off election in July with 67% of the votes only six months after soldiers assassinated former president Joao Bernardo Vieira. Recently, the country’s Interior Minister Satu Camara Pinto has ignored a decision by the country’s prime minister and acting leader Carlos Gomes Jr. to dismiss her. Some sources say that the Prime Minister is gearing up to take over the presidency after Gomes Jr. suspended Camara on Wednesday when he named three national deputy police commissioners without Pinto’s approval.
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