Political rights

Decreased confidence of Africans in the exercise of political rights

In Africa and among Africa’s foreign friends, elections are the cornerstone of democratic progress. Hence the intense focus on the mechanics of elections, rather than on other aspects of democracy, such as the extent to which an African voter is truly independent rather than subject to a myriad of forms of coercion from the electorate. “Great men” or others. Afrobarometer, the highly respected polling organization in Africa, find [PDF] that 68 percent of Africans think they “often” or “always” “need to be careful how they vote”. In other words, a majority of Africans are skeptical about a fundamental element of elections: being free to vote according to one’s conscience. As Afrobarometer points out, this skepticism is surprisingly high in relatively established democracies, such as Senegal (89%), Kenya (80%) and South Africa (68%).

These poll results seem to accurately reflect reality, at least as relayed by anecdotes. All over Africa there are many ways for those who wish to lobby individuals and communities when they vote. Even in South Africa, where the quality of elections is high and voter secrecy is generally maintained, “big men” in various forms can unduly influence voting behavior. Afrobarometer data for South Africa also likely reflects general feelings of marginalization in townships and rural areas.

Safer:

Elections and voting

Sub-Saharan Africa

Democracy

The prestigious South African newspaper, Courier and tutor, place these poll results in the good context: Africans think that “the space for civil and political rights in Africa is shrinking”. The newspaper notes that other poll data shows that 67% of Africans polled, a drop of 7% from the 2012/13 survey, think they are “quite” or “completely” free to say what they want. ‘they think. Such polls are a warning against international optimism regarding developments in Algeria and Sudan, which may be premature, given the negative examples of Egypt and Zimbabwe.

Safer:

Elections and voting

Sub-Saharan Africa

Democracy


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