Tag Archives: local elections

Guinea’s long-awaited local elections – A step backwards in its troubled electoral history?

Guest post by Ulrike Rodgers, Senior Program Manager, National Democratic Institute (NDI)

On February 4, the nearly six million Guinean registered voters were called to elect 7012 local councilors in 342 districts (communes). Nearly 30,000 candidates, including independents, ran for local office. After 13 years in the making, the elections were to be an important milestone on Guinea’s bumpy road to democracy that began only in 2010 with its first multiparty presidential election since independence from France 52 years earlier. However, an exhausted electorate, frustrated by years of political wrangling marked by spikes of deadly violence, and a lack of economic and social progress, responded less enthusiastically to the call to elect their local leaders than in previous elections. Just under 54 pour cent of voters turned out, according to the National Independent Electoral Commission’s (CENI) estimates, a decline from over 64 percent in the September 2013 legislative elections, and over 68 percent for the 2015 presidential elections. The ruling party failed to win an overall majority of councilor seats and lost the capital Conakry to opposition parties and independent candidates. Moreover, doubts remain over the integrity of the election, mainly linked to allegations of irregularities after polling stations closed.

Guinea’s troubled electoral history is rooted in the decades of autocratic single-party rule, marked by political violence and military coups, which stunted the development of a political culture striving for consensus over confrontation. Guinea began engaging in democratic reforms nearly 20 years after many other African countries. The first round of the 2010 elections resulted in a runoff between former opposition leaders Alpha Condé, briefly jailed by then-president Lansana Conté in 2001, and Cellou Diallo Dalein, Conté’s prime minister from 2004 to 2006.  The second round was postponed for months because of deadly violence between supporters of the two finalists. Condé won the second round with 52.52 percent in October 2010, which surprised many as Dalein had led after the first round with nearly 44 percent, trailed by Condé with 18.25 percent. To this day, many of Dalein’s supporters feel that the election was stolen from them. These resentments flared up violently in the lead up to parliamentary elections in September 2013 and led to over 100 dead. The elections were postponed several times until the United Nations brokered an agreement between government and opposition. The international community supported a large international and domestic contingent of election observers to enhance trust in the electoral process and prevent violence. Domestic and international non-partisan observers as well as Guinea’s courts deemed the elections legitimate, but the opposition alleged that the government had manipulated voter lists and misused government resources to fuel its campaign.

President Condé was re-elected for his second term in October 2015 in the first round with 58 percent of the vote. Observers deployed again in large numbers.  Despite serious deficiencies noted during the electoral campaign and shortcomings on election day, domestic observation groups and the European Union, in its post-election report, concluded that the process was overall valid.

Local elections were to be held shortly afterwards, but were postponed several times due to controversies over the CENI’s impartiality, the integrity of the voter registry, lack of resources, and because of the Ebola epidemic that ravaged the country from 2014 to 2016. Guineans had elected their local leaders for the last time in 2005. That year, to quell any political opposition, and risks of instability seeping in from Guinea’s war-torn neighbors, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Lansana Conté organized local elections to consolidate his party’s control of local government, which it won handily with over 80 percent of the votes. In the years prior, his regime had violently cracked down on Guinea’s historically powerful traditional and ethnic local leaders, often stoking ethnic tensions to its advantage.  To this day, many Guinean families harbor deep-rooted suspicions against the central government in Conakry; ethnic divisions remain prevalent across the country.

In the absence of local elections, Guinea’s local governments were run by central government appointees (Délégations spéciales) from 2010 to 2016 after their mandate had expired in 2010. Rejected by the opposition as illegitimate, they were a source of recurring political tensions. In October 2016, government and opposition reached an agreement to replace them with interim delegates appointed proportionally according to the votes obtained by each party in the legislative elections, while preparing for local elections.

The local election campaign opened in early January, 2018. Many described the atmosphere in the capital Conakry as muted, whereas the regions reported an unusually high influx of political personalities, mainly belonging to the ruling coalition. Violent incidents remained rare in the lead up to February 4. Election day was also largely calm. Domestic observer groups commended the Guinean people on a peaceful election, whilst deploring organizational shortcomings such as a lack of voting materials and late openings of polling stations. However, as the votes were still being counted, opposition parties alleged widespread fraud, including the stuffing of ballot boxes. Violence in the days following the elections cost ten lives. Unclear procedural instructions have since resulted in a number of contradictory decisions by local courts on election-related complaints.

The CENI’s provisional results indicate that President Conde’s RPG took 1.35 million votes, electing some 3,284 councilors (47 percent).  Cellou Dalein Diallo’s Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) won 893,000 votes to gain 2,156 councilors (31 percent). Former Prime Minister Sidya Touré’s Union of Republican Forces (UFR) won 190,000 votes, resulting in 447 council seats (6 percent). The remaining 1,125 seats – or 16 percent of the total, a significant minority – were won by candidates from small parties or independents. Over the coming weeks, Guinea’s communes will choose their mayors and deputy mayors. The mayors will then proceed to elect eight regional councils and, at the local level, designate ‘neighborhood leaders’ (chefs de quartiers).

Although the ruling party obtained a relative majority at the polls, it lost the capital Conakry, where over a quarter of Guinea’s population live, to the opposition and independent candidates. Pending the availability of additional data on voter turnout, the results could be an indication that voters are tired of campaign promises that remain empty and the political elite’s disconnect from their daily struggles.  Especially in the larger communes, campaign themes focused on high unemployment, poor public health care, education, widespread corruption, and Conakry’s ever-growing mountains of garbage. They resonated well with voters, prompting them to elect independent or small party candidates, for example in Beyla (N’Zérékore), Coyah (Kindia), Kaloum (Conakry), Faranah and Siguiri (Kankan).

Guinea’s governing and main opposition parties may be well advised to start listening up to citizens’ concerns as they start preparing for legislative elections later this year, and presidential polls in 2020. Moreover, the lack of trust in the local elections’ results, mainly linked to allegations of fraud after the closing of polling stations and a lack of transparent communication by the CENI, has cast renewed doubts on Guinea’s capacities to organize transparent elections in the future without substantial international oversight. The anticipated coalition negotiations could provide a sneak preview on potential future political alliances ahead of the next legislative and presidential polls.

Burkina Faso – Analysis of local election results

Burkina Faso held local elections on May 22 for more than 19,000 councilor positions. The councilors subsequently choose the mayors for 386 towns.  Preliminary results to be confirmed by the highest administrative court (Conseil d’Etat) indicate that the ruling party MPP (Mouvement du Peuple pour le Progrès) may win control of as many as 75 percent of the mayor’s offices across the country.

The elections marked the end of the transition following the ouster of former President Blaise Compaoré in a popular uprising in October 2014, with new institutions now in place at all administrative levels. A total of 85 political parties and groupings fielded candidates. The elections were peaceful overall, but had to be postponed in three districts due to acts of vandalism and tensions. According to the independent election commission (CENI), voter turn-out among the 5.5 million registered voters was 48 percent; this is well below the 60 percent turnout for the November 2015 presidential and legislative polls and significantly lower than the 75 percent turnout for the last local elections in 2012.

A total of 43 political parties and groupings won representation, some securing seats only in a single commune.  The winner by far was the ruling MPP of President Roch Marc Kaboré (59 percent of seats), followed by the UPC (Union pour le Progrès et le Changement) of Zephirin Diabré (16 percent) and the CDP (Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès), the former ruling party under Compaoré (11 percent). The top 10 are [with scores in brackets reflecting results in the 2012 local polls]:

  • MPP – 11,217 seats [did not exist in 2012]
  • UPC – 3,091 seats [up from 1,615]
  • CDP – 2,144 seats [down from 12,340]
  • NTD – 605 seats [did not exist in 2012]
  • NAFA – 454 seats [did not exist in 2012]
  • ADF/RDA – 317 seats [down from 1,746]
  • UNIR/PS – 290 seats [down from 396]
  • PDS/METBA – 282 seats [down from 506]
  • RDS – 163 seats [up from 109]
  • PAREN – 126 seats [up from 27]

The order of the top three political parties mirrors the order in which parties won seats in the November 2015 legislative polls. Among the top five scoring parties, three (names bolded in black) did not exist in 2012, illustrating that the reconfiguration of the political scene following the ouster of Compaoré is also reflected at the local level. The NTD is allied with the ruling MPP, while the NAFA is part of the opposition, with many members formerly belonging to the CDP or the ADF/RDA. The NAFA’s leader, Djibrill Bassolé, is currently under arrest, under suspicion of having supported a coup attempt against the transition government. The big losers in these local elections, compared to 2012, were not surprisingly the former ruling CDP as well as the ADF/RDA which stood with Compaoré in his bid to remove presidential term limits from the constitution.

Mayors in Burkina Faso are indirectly elected, by the councilors. In 253 out of the 363 communes for which results have been published, the MPP reportedly has enough seats to directly elect its candidate for mayor. Adding 25 communes more where the MPP can count on support from councilors from allied parties such as the NTD and UNIR/PS, the presidential majority should be able to control 278 (or 75 percent) of the mayor’s offices in the country according to Salif Diallo, interim MPP chairman. Only two out of 13 provincial capitals, Ziniaré (birthplace of Blaise Compaoré) and Dori (hometown of now defunct party leader Arba Diallo of the PDS/METBA) went to other parties, the CDP and PDS/METBA respectively. The position as city mayor of the capital Ouagadougou is likely to go to Armand Béouindé of the MPP, with the support of councilors from allied parties, while the UPC in alliance with the CDP could win control of four arrondissements (boroughs) of Ouagadougou.

With the electoral cycle now complete, Burkina Faso’s newly elected representatives at all levels face the challenge of delivering on the significant expectations of improved governance raised by the success of the 2014 popular uprising. The MPP, with the likely control of 75 percent of local governments, will be under particularly close scrutiny as to its ability to deliver on those expectations.

Local Elections in Ukraine – Results

The party of the President, Petro Poroshenko Bloc “Solidarity,” won the largest number of seats in the local elections in Ukraine. It was followed by Fatherland, Our Land, Opposition Bloc and Radical party of Oleh Liashko. The People’s Front, party of the current Prime Minister Arsenij Yatsenyuk, did not take part in the elections.

The first round of elections was held on 25 October 2015. The second round of mayoral elections took place on 15 November. The second round was held in 29 out of 35 cities in Ukraine with over 9,000 registered voters, where none of the candidates secured majority of the vote in the first round. Based on the results of the second round, some have been re-elected, including the mayor of the capital Kyiv, Vitaly Klitschko and mayor of L’viv, Andriy Sadovy.

International observers noted a number of shortcomings in the elections, including protracted tabulation of the results of the first round. Although the results of the mayoral elections were scheduled to be announced on 30 October and local elections on 4 November, neither were released on time. The observers also criticised high turnover and frequent replacement of the members of precinct and territorial election commissions, noting the negative impact of these changes on the electoral process.

Overall, the results of the elections did not change the political balance in the country. The president’s party retained its dominant position in the West and centre of the country. At the same time, the Opposition Bloc retained its influenced in the East, winning the majority of the vote in the major cities in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Even though the elections were for local representatives, the parties and the candidates were criticised for focusing mostly on the national-level issues such as security, military reform, and gas prices. These issues did manifest themselves during the elections. The polls were cancelled in some territories in the East and not held at all in Crimea. Crimea declared a state of emergency shortly after the elections, when power lines connecting the peninsula to Ukraine were cut, leaving it without power. This intensified the standoff between Ukraine and Russia and was followed by the announcement that Gazprom would be cutting all gas supplies to Ukraine.

The local elections were largely viewed as a test of popularity for the policies of the ruling coalition. Although the coalition parties managed to hold on to their bases, major challenges remain. Public opinion survey conducted by the International Republican Institute before the elections showed widespread dissatisfaction with the pace of reforms and low support for the ruling coalition – only 13% of the respondents approved of the cabinet and 11% of the parliament. The president received a slightly higher approval rating with 24% of respondents supporting his actions. However, this figure is one of the lowest for President Poroshenko, who enjoyed approval rating of 63% in March 2015. These low figures are not surprising, as Ukrainians remain concerned with national security, poor economic performance, and the slow pace of integration with Europe.

Local Elections in Ukraine

On October 26, 2015 Ukraine held regional and local elections. This is Ukraine’s third election in the last 18 months. The turnout was 46.6%, just slightly lower than the showing in the parliamentary elections a year ago (52.42%), which is to be expected in the case of local elections. Over a week after the vote, the counting still continues. The final results are expected on November 4.

Due to the on-going conflict, the elections were not held in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts as well as Crimea. But the most controversial election-related events took place in Mariupol, where elections failed to take place due to claims that the ballot papers were improperly handled as well as printed with errors. However, overall the elections were declared competitive, well organised, and respectful of the democratic process by the OSCE. The organisation deployed a long-term observer mission to the country just days after the start of the election campaign in September. Even though the observers endorsed the election, they did note the need for continued reform and further enhancement of the integrity of the electoral process.

A total of 132 parties participated in the election for over 10,000 mayors and 1,600 council seats in 22 regional parliaments or local councils with at least $82 million spent on the election campaign nationwide. However, one party was noticeably absent from the list. People’s Front, party of the current Prime Minister of Ukraine, decided not to take part in the contest generating speculation that the party was trying to avoid a poor electoral result.

If the speculations are true, these concerns were not unfounded. The opinion poll conducted in September 2015 showed that 56% of Ukrainians thought that the country was headed in the wrong direction. Only 20% of those polled expressed confidence in the Prime Minister, a sharp decline from 60% exactly a year ago. If parliamentary elections were held today, only 1% of respondents would vote for the party.

This is the first election to be conducted under the new electoral rules adopted just over three months ago on July 14. The law introduced a number of changes. First, the election took place under new electoral rules and the voters had to cast votes for a particular party and its candidate. Second, the law raised electoral threshold to 5%. Third, the law introduced gender quotas, requiring every party to include at least 30% of women on the list. Finally, in every city with population of over 90,000 inhabitants, a runoff election should be held if no candidate secures over 50% of the vote in the first round. As a result, runoffs for the mayoral elections will be held in a number of major cities including the capital, Lviv and Dnipropetrovsk. All runoff elections are expected to take place on November 15.

The new law has been criticised both on the grounds of a speedy adoption and limited public consultation during the process as well as due to its content. For instance, despite introducing the gender quotas, the law failed to provide any punishment for their violation, essentially making the provision optional rather than compulsory. This led experts to conclude that the gender quotas were not working so far. The law also failed to accommodate about 1.5 million internally displace Ukrainian citizens, who were unable to cast their votes during this election.

The 2015 regional and local elections in Ukraine will serve as a barometer for the performance of the ruling coalition as well as bring the attention to the issues where the reforms are still urgently needed. Please watch this space for the report on the final results as well as updates on the constitutional reform in Ukraine.

Madagascar – Local elections, national politics

On 31 July Madagascar headed to the polls to elect local councils. The elections were one of last pieces of the transition roadmap that was designed to return the country to democracy after the coup in January 2009. Since it was finalised, the transition process has been implemented relatively successfully, but the situation remains fragile.

In the coup President Marc Ravalomanana was ousted from power. He sought exile in South Africa and was threatened with immediate arrest if he returned to Madagascar. In the end, he returned in October 2014 and was indeed arrested on his arrival. He was released only in May 2015 following an intervention by President Hery Rajaonarimampianina.

These events encapsulate the difficult return to democracy in Madagascar. In 2010 a new Constitution was approved in a referendum. In January 2014 Rajaonarimampianina was elected in a presidential election that was considered to be generally fair by international observers, even though some forces within the country contested the result. In part, this was due to what happened in the lead up to the vote. As part of the transition deal both former President Marc Ravalomanana and the coup leader and new president, Andry Rajoelina, declared that they would not stand for election. However, Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao Ravalomanana, announced her candidacy, to which Rajoelina responded by presenting himself for election too, seeing her as a proxy for her husband. In the end, the Election Commission ruled against the candidacy of both Lalao Ravalomanana and Rajoelina as well as another former president, Didier Ratsiraka. Rajaonarimampianina, who was seen as the anti-Ravalomanana candidate, won the election, despite coming only second at the first ballot. Legislative elections were held at the same time, returning a divided parliament.

President Rajaonarimampianina’s presidency has not been uneventful. He soon distanced himself from Rajoelina and tried to shape the formation of the new government. In May 2015 he was subject to an impeachment attempt by deputies opposed to his governing style, even though the presidency has only limited powers under the 2010 semi-presidential constitution.

The most recent part of the transition process was the local elections in late July where the most important contest was the election of the mayor of the capital, Antananarivo. Here, turnout was low at about 30%. However, Lalao Ravalomanana was easily elected, winning 56% of the vote. Her TIM party, which was the former vehicle of President Ravalomanana himself, also emerged with a majority of seats on the city council. In general, though, TIM did not do so well across the island as a whole. Indeed, even though it lost this contest, President Rajaonarimampianina’s HVM party did relatively well at the elections, including in areas that had formerly been a stronghold of the TIM party. Senate elections are due to be held by the end of the year.

The question is whether Lalao Ravalomanana is merely the stalking horse for her husband. He is now free to come and go in the country, having returned freely from a foreign visit only recently. He is also back in charge of his media outlets, giving him direct access to the airwaves. However, he remains a very divisive figure on the island. Moreover, the parliament is still very divided. The transition has been managed relatively well so far, but stern tests are still ahead.

Guinea Conakry – A contested electoral calendar

Guinea’s Independent Election Commission (CENI) has published its electoral calendar, scheduling the presidential election for October 11, 2015. Local council elections will be delayed – again – to take place during the first quarter of 2016. The opposition disapproves of this calendar and demands that local elections take place before the presidential race.

Why is the timing of the local elections so crucial, in the eyes of the opposition? Last time local polls took place in Guinea was in December 2005, when long-serving autocrat Lansana Conté was still in power. Conté died in December 2008 and a tumultuous two-year transition period followed, concluding with presidential polls in December 2010 in which Alpha Condé of the RPG was elected with 52.5 percent of the votes cast in a run-off against Cellou Dalein Diallo from the UFDG. Though international and domestic observers deemed the presidential election to be credible, the losing candidate and allied parties contested the outcome.

In March and May 2011, newly elected President Condé dismissed a number of municipal and communal councils for poor financial and administrative management. He appointed ‘special delegates’ to replace the elected councilors, appointments which should only have been for a six month-duration according to current legislation, but which have not been rescinded. Councilors who were not removed have remained in place and will complete their tenth year in office by December of this year – two full five-year mandates without reelection.

Opposition parties argue that the special delegates appointed by the government cannot be trusted to act independently in the organization of the upcoming presidential poll. Special delegations are in place in municipalities such as Beyla and Macenta at the heart of Guinée Forestière, the south-eastern and most remote part of Guinea bordering Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire. This is a region that is likely to be particularly hotly contested in the upcoming polls, as it does not identify itself with any of the major political parties. The same is true for the Basse Côte region, by the coast, where municipalities in Boffa, Fria and Coyah are also operating as special delegations.

Election scheduling has been a recurring source of tensions, since the fiercely contested 2010 presidential poll. The second round of that election took place with a four-month delay, in December 2010. Legislative elections which should have been held within six months after the swearing in of the new president only took place in September 2013, following a UN-mediated July 3, 2013 agreement between the opposition and the government. The RPG won 53 of the 114 legislative seats and secured a slight majority with smaller allied parties. The UFDG is the largest opposition party with 37 elected representatives in the National Assembly.

Local elections should have taken place during the first quarter of 2014, according to the July 3, 2013 agreement. However, on March 2, 2014 the CENI suspended these polls until further notice, citing a lack of funding. When it announced its most recent electoral calendar, the CENI justified the shifting of the local polls till next year by delays in election preparations which mean it would take one more year for the elections to be organized.

Following the recent announcement of the new electoral calendar, the opposition has declared its intention to resume street demonstrations which have given rise to violence, loss of life and property destruction in the past. The government has called for dialogue, which has yet to happen. Tensions rose further over the week-end following an armed attack against opposition spokesperson Aboubacar Sylla. Opposition representatives have called for a march on April 13 to denounce increasing insecurity. In the absence of consensus on the electoral calendar and pending electoral reform, the next six months promise to be tense as the count-down to the presidential poll continues.

Senegal – What do the local election results mean for President Macky Sall and the ruling coalition?

President Macky Sall went into the June 29, 2014 local polls determined to make a score for his alliance Bennoo Bokk Yaakaar (BBY – “together for the same hope,” in Wolof) in general, and for his party, the Alliance for the Republic (APR), in particular – even if it meant going against other candidates from BBY in localities where the alliance could not agree on a list. Preliminary results indicate that while BBY may have won a majority of the electoral districts (70% or more), it lost most of the big cities to the opposition or to dissidents within the ruling coalition.

Up for grabs were 2,700 councilors seats, to be filled through a mixed majoritarian-proportional electoral system. Newly elected councilors will in turn elect mayors and heads of provinces. Final, consolidated results are not yet available, but results published at the departmental level indicate that BBY has lost in Dakar and several cities, including Thiès, Touba, M’Bour, Dagana and Ziguinchor. In Saint Louis, Mansour Faye, a brother-in-law of President Sall, managed to win with 800 hundred votes ahead of Ahmet Fall Braya of the Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS) of former President Wade. Voter turn-out appears to have been low, below 40%, similar to the 37% voter turn-out for the legislative elections in 2012 (International IDEA).

In Dakar, the chief electoral prize due to its large body of voters, BBY lost big to incumbent mayor Khalifa Sall. Khalifa Sall ran with his own coalition after failing to get the backing of BBY, though he belongs to the Socialist Party (PS), a member of the BBY coalition that supported Macky Sall in the presidential run-off in 2012. The PS is the party of former President Abdou Diouf and of founding father Léopold Sédar Senghor, in power from 1960 to 2000.

Prime Minister Aminata Touré (APR) was the biggest loser in Dakar – where she stood against Khalifa Sall in the commune of Grand Yoff, one of the 19 communes that form the district of Dakar. Khalifa Sall won in 15 of those communes, including Grand Yoff. The PM was swiftly dismissed from her position on July 4th after serving 10 months in office. President Sall appointed Mohamed Dionne to replace her on July 6th, the third prime minister in less than three years. Dionne is a close aid of Macky Sall, and a former employee of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

What do the local election results mean for Macky Sall and BBY? The BBY coalition appears to have been weakened by the polls due to the lack of internal consensus on party lists in key constituencies. Analysts point out that when former President Wade lost the major cities in the 2009 local elections, it was a harbinger of things to come in the 2012 presidential race. With Khalifa Sall as a potentially significant adversary in the 2017 presidential poll, Macky Sall may decide that the APR and PS are no longer “together for the same hope.”

Senegal – Local elections: a test for President Macky Sall

Senegal’s 5.3 million voters went to the polls on Sunday, June 29th, to elect their representatives at the local and departmental levels, in a vote largely seen as a confidence vote in the government of President Macky Sall. Overall, the elections were peaceful without major organizational issues, despite a record number of party lists. Voters were presented with a choice among 2,700 party lists or independents, up from 1,600 in the last local elections held in 2009, for 602 local offices. Initial results from the polls that closed at 18h00, Dakar time on Sunday are already trickling in, and complete results are expected by the end of the week. The Senegalese Radio Television Station RTS is streaming results by polling station as they become available: http://www.rts.sn/.

The high number of party lists in competition for Sunday’s poll is a result of the fragmentation of the alliance Bennoo Bokk Yaakaar (BBY) that brought President Sall to power in March 2012. In a number of cities even the president’s own party, the Alliance for the Republic (APR), presented competing lists. The APR is a relatively newly created party, in existence only since 2008. It is accused by its coalition partners of having an exaggerate appetite for power. In 2009, the APR only won control of a few local governments, a situation it was clearly intent on changing.

Dakar was a key battleground for these elections. The mayorship of the capital of Senegal is generally seen as a natural launching pad for a bid for the presidency. Facing off were the incumbent mayor Khalifa Sall of the Socialist Party (PS) – a member of the BBY alliance – and current Prime Minister Aminata Touré (APR), among others. They both stood for election in Grand Yoff, one of the 19 communes that form the district of Dakar. Following decentralization reform in 2013, mayors are now indirectly elected by the councilors of the communes that make up the district, a process that increases the challenges of securing reelection for the incumbent.

According to preliminary results, it would appear that Khalifa Sall won the vote in Grand Yoff. In the lead-up to the polls, Sall created a new coalition, Taxawu Ndakaru, with the participation of civil society and even opposition parties, in an effort at securing reelection. With the 2013 decentralization reform, the mayor of Dakar has lost some control over the resources of the individual communes that form the capital district, but the position remains highly coveted given the visibility it provides and the size of the electorate in Dakar.

Other hotly contested cities include St. Louis and Fatick. In St. Louis, Mansour Faye, a brother-in-law of President Sall, seeks to wrestle the mayorship from incumbent Cheick Bambia Dièye – although Dièye (like Khalifa Sall) is a member of the BBY alliance that supported Macky Sall in the presidential run-off in 2012.

Taiwan – Party-nomination, Local Elections, and the Presidency

With a highly unpopular President at the helm of the country, the prospects for the opposition pan-Green camp led by the opposition DPP party to recapture the presidency with a concurrent a legislative majority – the latter has proven elusive so far for the pan-Green camp – appear probable. The KMT captured the Presidency and a significant majority in the legislature in 2008, raising concerns that the formidable largesse of the party may pave the way to a one-party dominant system. Fortunately for the country’s political development, those concerns proved unfounded: there has been a steady move back to viable competitive elections, although the KMT managed to retain the presidency and the legislative majority in the 2012 elections. But the progressive erosion of popular support for the KMT and President Ma has not ebbed, as evident in the low points of 2014 captured by the 24-day student-led occupation of the legislature and campaigns initiated to recall legislative members supportive of President Ma’s agenda.

Under these conditions, it is probably not surprising that many see – or hope to see – the 2014 November local elections as the bellwether for the 2016 national elections. In this context, the DPP and pan-Green camp has sought to identify and field viable candidates for the local elections to capture a victory-sprint towards the presidential and national races. In a recent development, physician Ko Wen-je bettered DPP-candidate Pasuya Yao in the second stage of the pan-Green primary process for the Taipei city mayoral race and will likely be supported by the DPP for the election.

Interesting or competitive or controversial cases tend to draw attention, and a highly-watched race such as the Taipei mayoral elections is no exception. Unfortunately, problems are particularly evident under scrutiny, and the usual suspects of strategic voting or weak-party identification pepper the two-stage nomination process in the pan-Green camp. As a result, it may be useful to point out a larger picture of transparency or accountability in the party nomination process.

Since the late 1990s, the DPP has implemented a two-stage primary process that pitches DPP-aspirants who win in telephone polls in the first-stage against independent pan-Green candidates in the second-stage. While that process has been criticized – most recently, former Vice-President Annette Lu withdrew from the primary, citing failure of DPP “integrity” and raising the prospects that she may run as an independent for the mayoral race of Taipei City – it has, at a minimum, brought greater transparency to the nomination process in the pan-Green camp.

Transparency is important: party-candidate nominations have come under significant criticism in several East and Southeast Asian emergent democracies, including South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, with many viewing the process as the root of corruption in politics. Given the tepid party-identification in these emergent democracies, party-institutionalization needs to balance candidate-centered campaigns that bring popular support – but which are liable to become personality-oriented rather than party-oriented – with party-building efforts that focus on broadening the party-base. Having a clean nomination process is an important step in this process, and should be emphasized as one of these party-building efforts.

South Korea – Local elections and the President

The results of the June 4, 2014, mayoral and gubernatorial elections for South Korea show the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy with a slight edge of nine of 17 races, with the ruling Saenuri Party taking the remaining eight. Attention has turned to the interpretation of the results: do they constitute a win or lose, and for whom or which party? Without partaking in the horse-race evaluation of the outcomes, I underline two considerations related to Korea’s local elections that are useful for further examination: first, the significance of local elections for term-limited executives; second, what the outcomes indicate of party-building in South Korea.

One important consideration regarding local elections is the significance of local elections for term-limited presidents. Local elections are often used as barometers of public support for the ruling government, notwithstanding the generally low turnout for these elections that may dent interpretation of how the election outcomes relate to public support. For term-limited presidents – such as in South Korea – these mid-term, off-year elections may take on added significance. On the one hand, they may be useful for rallying legislative support for the remainder of the presidential term to complete the presidential- or party-agenda. On the other, they may also open the door for disenchanted party-members to consider full revolt: witness former President Lee Myung-bak’s difficulties particularly in the latter part of his term, when the president’s declining public support reopened the door for current President Park Geun-hye to return to party leadership and reconstitute the Grand National Party into the Saenuri Party. To the extent that public support affects the legislative success of a president – studies show that presidents’ legislative success is highly tied to public satisfaction1 – a low public approval may lead a legislature to be more willing to challenge the president’s policy agenda. Given this consideration, term-limited executives may need to do more to incorporate public demands onto the presidential agenda to fend off such battles.

Another relevant consideration regarding the local elections is: what do the outcomes reveal about party-building in South Korea? A previous blog post discussed the roles for political parties, and those should certainly be used towards understanding the outcomes. In this post, a narrower question is raised: do the local election results signify a role of political parties as vehicles to mobilize support for elections? The answer, it seems, is: No. Instead, the unexpected turn in the outcome – six weeks ago, the ruling party was expected to make a sweep in the local elections because of the then-high popularity of the president – suggests that political parties remain embryonic. That may be the bigger problem and tougher issue to resolve: almost 27 years since embarking on the democratization process, political parties continue to face challenges in their institutionalization.

____

NOTES

[1] Wrone and De Marchi 2003 

Calvo (2007)