7 African Countries Undergoing Presidential Elections in 2023

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The season is upon us and we observe carefully as 7 countries take to the ballot to decide their respective futures. The state of African politics remains uncertain as underdevelopment, corruption, and weak democratic institutions remain the root cause stifling growth on the continent. On a positive note, Zambia has managed to embark on a positive economic and political trajectory after Hakainde Hichilema beat then-incumbent leader Edgar Lungu to become the new progressive leader in 2021. Among the many positive outcomes that have emanated from Hakainde's Presidency, one of the most impressive developments is the appreciation of the value of the Zambian Kwacha. It became the best-performing currency in the world and strengthened its value against the US dollar.

Apart from providing insights, this article is faced with the question of whether the election outcomes of these 7 countries will usher in a new dawn, or whether they will maintain the gloomy status quo in these countries. Here are the 7 countries heading toward elections in 2023.

1. Nigeria

Image from Unsplash/Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has just delivered the outcome of the highly disputed elections in Nigeria. Bola Tinubu is set to become the new President of Nigeria after an election that was considered a sham and fraud by all opposition leaders. Many progressives and youths were rallying behind Peter Obi and it is clear that this outcome will anger many who feel their democratic right to vote was violated.

2. Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is one of the many African countries cursed with the traditional two-dominant party system. Though a multi-party system is permitted, the struggle for power since the early 2000s has always been between ZANU-PF and MDC, of which the latter has reincarnated itself into what is known as Citizen's Coalition for Change  (CCC) led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa. One of the major concerns at present is regarding the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). In recent years all evidence has pointed to the fact that ZEC is a weapon of the state. Will things be different this time around?

However there is a plot twist, someone new just arrived at the party. Robert Chapman, a Presidential candidate who seems to be capturing the hearts of many social media personnel through his ability to articulate policy through his fine American accent has joined the race for power.

Zimbabwe is set to head to the polls in July/August. The president serves a 5-year term, having been elected through a majoritarian, 2-round system, the second round taking place if no candidate receives a majority in the first round.

3. Democratic Republic of Congo

After 18 years of brutal rule under Joseph Kabila, it was only in 2019 that the Democratic Republic of Congo underwent its first peaceful transition of power even though Joseph Kabila reluctantly let go.  The current president, Felix Tshisekedi has announced that he intends on running for the second term. The question remains if defeated, will he resort to using arbitrary force to remain in power like his predecessor, or continue to build a culture of letting go once defeated?

He runs against  Moise Katumbi who is a businessman and former governor of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Martin Fayulu who claimed victory in the 2023 elections will also be contesting to become President in the upcoming elections. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), the election date set for general elections is 20 December 2023.

REUTERS/Olivia Acland

4. Gabon

Did you know, the incumbent President of Gabon has a punk music album he released in the year, 1977 and the album was produced by Charles Bobbit. Anyway back to politics (lol).

When faced with the reality of existing in a country with a presidency that has only possessed one surname (Ondimba) since 1967, one can only view elections as a futile formality intended to make authoritarian rulers feel legitimate. To worsen the predicament, the president can serve and contest for 7 terms, having been elected under a first-round, plurality voting system. This means Ondimba can win the election regardless of how many votes he receives. Politics seems to be a family matter in Gabon, as the current President Ali Bongo Ondimba took over from his father in 2009. Political opposition leaders are subject to torture and repression in order to maintain the family's reigns of power.

Getty Images: President Ali Bongo Ondimba

5. Liberia

Interesting fact. The incumbent President of Liberia is the only African to be awarded a FIFA Player of the Year award. He received the award along with the Ballon dÓr in the year 1995. It is important to note the President's football credentials because it is these credentials that placed him in the limelight and paved his way to be known as the great humanitarian who was ready to transform Liberia. Sadly, with concerns of corruption and repression towards opponents, George Weah might just be a subtle and discreet version of the predecessors he campaigned against.

Perhaps what this election will reveal is whether the people of Liberia can put up with another term with George Weah, and if not, if he is ready to let go of power as yet. The National Elections Commission has set the election date to 10 October 2023. Liberia uses a two-round system and the President elected to serve a 6-year term

Photograph by John Healey: President George Weah

6. Sierra Leone

Incumbent President Julius Madaaa Bio recently abolished the previous first-past-the-post system and introduced the Proportional Representation system just as the country is gearing toward the election in June (suspicious). Bio will be going against Samura Kamara who has some considerable experience with the public office having served as central bank Governor, Finance Minister, and Foreign Minister. This will be the second time the two political protagonists will face each other at the polls, Bio having won while running as the main opposition leader back in 2018.

President Julius Maada (Left) and Samura Kamara (Right): Sierra Leone (Telegraph)

7. Sudan

Arguably, Sudan might be gearing up for an election that will serve as a defining moment that will determine its future. After the 2019 military coup which saw then-President Omar Al-Bashir being deposed, a military council has presided over the affairs of governance.

However before the elections can be conducted, a constitutional convention is yet to be held where a permanent constitution will be drafted and the convention will also address the electoral system which will be adopted for the election schedule in July 2023. Top Tunnel will keep readers updated on the developments of the convention.