An African Lesson for Trump – Of Acknowledging Electoral Results

On October 19, 2016, Donald Trump at the third and last debate before the USA presidential election, refused to com
mit to acknowledge and respect the official results of these elections. When asked about it by the moderator, the Republican nominee said “I will look at it at the time”. Trump’s statement is extraordinary in the US context and sound sore-losingish. One needs good reasons and strong arguments to demonstrate that an electoral process is flawed.

It is a tradition to accept the result of the election in the USA among the major parties’ candidates. It has become obvious to the point that many political observers and actors have been shocked by Donald Trump’s statement. Extremely interesting, as on December 13, 2000, Al Gore, the then Democrat candidate, eventually conceded presidential election. Article here and video statement there.

code-of-conduct_17319287_baa5f2c7d2f4ae7de458ed4efcd1c780479472edOn another side of the Earth, one can read and hear often news about disputed elections with candidates refusing to acknowledge defeat. The aim of this site is also to talk about all the elections and the other things that work well on that continent and not just the “bad” things. Many African countries have been creative regarding how to best deal with this issue and make the electoral processes more acceptable and credible.

In 1998, the newly-freed-from-Apartheid South Africa adopted an electoral act that included an “Electoral Code of Conduct” aiming at creating conditions that are conducive to free and fair elections. This code is legally binding. It puts candidates at risk of being condemned by a tribunal if they do not accept the results or refuse to challenge them in court.

Among the pillar of this code, here is the key part for today’s talk: “Registered parties and candidates must publicly condemn any action that may undermine the free and fair conduct of elections (Code 1998, 9(1)(b)). Parties and candidates must accept the results of an election or challenge those results in court (Code 1998, 4(2))”.

The African Union has then developed a Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. It was adopted in 2007 – the year of the terrible electoral crisis in Kenya. By October 2016, 10 states have ratified it. In its article 17, it states that:

Ensure that there is a binding code of conduct governing legally recognized political stakeholders, government and other political actors prior, during and after elections. The code shall include a commitment by political stakeholders to accept the results of the election or challenge them in through exclusively legal channels”.

Adopting a code does not guarantee to get peaceful elections but it helps especially if this is done through a general a credible and transparent process and where courts can be trusted.

We will keep on looking at shortcomings of the US electoral system and other lessons to learn from African examples.


Focus on African national elections in 2016

4 elections took place in August-October. 4 more are to take place before 2017 and 1 has been postponed.elections-2016-_13262802_943132f83ce4fb6b75b36ae65ab14ba4986aa860


 For a full infographic experience click here.

  • Zambia

zambia-electoral-results-2016Zambian voted to elect their president on August 11. The incumbent Edgar Lungu was officially re-elected with 50.35% in the first round. His challenger, Hakainde Hichilema (47.63%) contested the results. Both the Constitutional and the Supreme courts rejected his application. Sources reported that he was arrested on October 5 and charged with “seditious practices” and “unlawful assembly”. He was released the day after. The electoral results show an almost perfect geographical divide.  

Source : a well documented wikipedia page, based on the Zambian electoral commission.

  • Gabon

The Presidential election took place on August 27. The announcement of the results was delayed and eventually took place on August 31. The official results were contested in the streets and then in court. On September 24, the Constitutional Court validated the victory of incumbent President, Ali Bongo, by less than 6000 votes. International observers could not observe the compilation of results. 

  • Seychelles

The opposition coalition, LDS, won the Parliamentary elections organised early September. As a consequence of these results, James Michel, who was re-elected President in December 2015 with less than 200 votes, said he would stand down by October 16, 2016. In Seychelles, the President is both Head of State and Government. He appoints Cabinet members but they have to be approved by majority in Parliament. His Vice-President is to replace him and to remain President for the rest of the term, until 2020.

  • Cape Verde

President Jorge Carlos Fonseca won a second term on October 2nd. The preliminary results gave him nearly 75% of the votes.

Elections left to happen in 2016

  • Morocco

The parliamentary elections are due on October 7, 2016. The electoral lists were completed in August and the official campaign is on.

  • Ghana

Ghanaians are expected to vote on December 7, 2016 to elect their MPs and their President. A second round is planned for the Presidential election on December 28, 2016.

  • Gambia

The Presidential election is due on December 1st, 2016.

  • Côte d’Ivoire

The Parliamentary elections are due in December 2016.


  • Democratic Republic of Congo

The parliamentary and presidential elections were due in November this year. Different sources report that the President of the National Independent Electoral Commission, Mr Corneille Nangaa, announced on October 1st at a meeting of the “National Dialogue” in Kinshasa, that it would take 504 days to organize the presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections from July 31st, 2017, pushing the elections to November 2018. There is political tension around the dates.