Elections in Africa go on amid COVID-19

Despite the pandemic, most countries stuck to their polling schedules in 2020.

Despite a fragile security situation, Central Africans overwhelmingly exercised their civic duty by going to polling centers and casting their votes


Franck Kuwonu


Despite a fragile security situation, Central Africans overwhelmingly exercised their civic duty by going to polling centers and casting their votes.

Central African Republic and in Niger held their presidential and parliamentary elections on 27 December 2020 to round up a challenging year where despite fears of disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries in Africa managed to stick to their scheduled elections.

However, in two of the most keenly watched countries, the polls did not proceed as initially planned.  In Ethiopia, parliamentary elections slated for 29 August were pushed to mid-2021, while in Somalia the deadline for December 2020 parliamentary elections was missed, although the scheduled February 2021 date for the presidential polls still remains on the calendar.

Elections of members of the House of People’s Representatives and of regional State Councils across Ethiopia was to be held in the new political environment ushered in by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reforms. He won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for ending a two-decade conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

In Somalia, the 2020 polls were to be the first in 50 years and voters were to elect the president and their representatives through direct ballots. The last universal suffrage polls in the country were held in 1969. Subsequent presidential elections held in 2009, 2012 and 2017 involved a system of thousands of clan delegates voting for parliamentary representatives, who in turn elected the president.

In Chad, legislative elections, originally scheduled for 13 December, are now slated for the last quarter of 2021.

Despite a fragile security situation, Central Africans overwhelmingly exercised their civic duty by going to polling centers and casting their votes. Photo: UN

Despite COVID-19

In February, the Togolese went to the polls to elect their president, just a few weeks before the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Then in March, Cameroon re-ran parliamentary elections in about a dozen constituencies, while on 22 March, Guineans took part in a hotly-contested constitutional referendum and general elections.

A week later, Malians held their general elections.

In May, voters in Benin elected their local representatives, while Burundians elected their president.

In June, Malawians were called again to the polls for a re-run of the presidential election after the courts invalidated the results of an earlier poll in 2019.

Egyptians chose their senators in August, while in October, Côte d’Ivoire, Seychelles, and Tanzania held their presidential elections and Cape Verdeans elected their city council representatives.

The month of November started with a constitutional referendum in Algeria held on 1 November, followed by general elections in Burkina Faso on 22 November.

Then 7 December, Ghanaians held their parliamentary and presidential elections, while Liberians were called for a constitutional referendum and for a mid-term Senatorial election.

On 27 December, the Central African Republic and Niger rounded up the year on elections in Africa in 2020. Central Africans cast their ballots despite attempts by some rebel groups to disrupt the polls. In Niger, the process is reported to have been largely peaceful.

In both countries, run-offs are scheduled in the New Year, starting a new 2021 calendar cycle on the continent.

Elections slated for 2021

Country Election Date
Angola Local elections  Apr 2021
Benin Presidential & Local elections Apr 2021
Burkina Faso Local May 2021
Cape Verde Presidential & National Assembly Mar 2021
Central African Republic National Assembly (second round) 8 Feb 2021
Chad National Assembly & Local Elections 24 Oct 2021
Presidential 4 Apr 2021
Côte d’Ivoire National Assembly Oct 2021
Djibouti Presidential 8 Feb 2021
Ethiopia House of Representatives 31 Aug 2021
Gabon Senate Early 2021
The Gambia Presidential 4 Dec 2021
Libya Presidential and Parliamentary 24 Dec 2021
Madagascar Local & Senate (indirect)   2021
Mauritius Local  2021
Morocco House of Representatives, local Assembly of Councillors (indirect, after local) Sep 2021
Niger Presidential (second round) 21 Feb 2021
Republic of Congo Presidential 31 Mar 2021
Rwanda Local Feb 2021
Senegal Regional & Local 28 Mar 2021
São Tomé & Príncipe Presidential Jul 2021
Somalia Presidential (indirect) 8 Feb 2021
Somaliland House of Representatives & Senate May 2021
South Africa District & Municipal Aug 2021
South Sudan Presidential, National Assembly, local Aug 2021
Uganda Presidential, National Assembly (first round) 10 Jan 2021
Presidential, National Assembly (second round) 8 Feb 2021
Zambia Presidential, National Assembly, local 12 Aug 2021

Source: Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA)

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