AU commission without a chairperson

The African Union Commission, the continent organisation’s secretarial and executive body, is currently without a chairperson.

At the election of the chair by the AU heads of state summit, in a closed door session on Monday morning at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, neither of the two candidates for the post was able to secure the required two thirds majority. Since there are 53 AU member states in good standing, a candidate needed at least 36 votes in order to win.

Jean Ping, former foreign minister of Gabon, was standing for a second four year term of office. He was challenged by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, currently South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, who enjoyed the support of the regioinal bloc, SADC (Southern African Development Community).

Sources close to the election told AIM that on the first round of voting, Ping won 28 votes and Dlamini-Zuma 25. One of Ping’s supporters switched his vote on the second round so that the result was almost a tie – 27 votes to Ping and 26 to his challenger.

On the third round, Ping’s total rose to 29 votes, while Dlamini-Zuma’s fell to 23. At this stage, under AU rules, Dlamini-Zujma had to pull out.

But this did not mean that Ping was automatically elected – he still had to secure a two thirds majority, and was unable to do so. On the fourth round, despite the fact that he was now unopposed, Ping proved unable to persuade 36 heads of state or government to vote for him (AIM’s sources, however, were not sure exactly how many votes he won).

This situation is unprecedented – but the AU statutes do envisage the possibility. What should now happen is that the Deputy Chairperson acts as interim Chair until the next AU, summit, due to be held in the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, in July.

But the Deputy Chairperson himself must also be elected by a two thirds majority. The current Deputy Chair, Erasus Mwencha of Kenya, is standing for a second term and is unopposed. Nonetheless, the election is not a mere formality – and if Mwencha too fails to secure a two thirds majority, then the AU Commission will be in serious trouble.

Tomas Salomao, Executive Secretary of SADC, told the Mozambican journalists in Addis Ababa, that failure to elect the two top posts in the Commission also has implications for the other eight commissioners, all of whom were also supposed to be elected on Monday morning.

For the Commission operates a strict gender and regional balance. Thus whether the chairperson is a man or a woman has an impact on how many other men or women there can be on the commission.

The summit continued the closed session much longer than expected, apparently seeking some kind of procedural solution. Morning faded into afternoon, and the fate of the Commission was still not clear.

Post published in: Africa News

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