Voters Alienation in Africa: A Trend Toward a Dangerous Direction
The persistent efforts to undermine democracy in Africa are not new. Time and time again, the leaders in almost all countries of the continent have disappointed their voters in one form or another.
However, the year 2021 brought at least some hope for the devastated continent, where the rise of Hakainde Hichilema in Zambia gave hopes to the suppressed opposition parties that their future may not be as bleak as they seem.
Similarly, just recently, South African local elections rejuvenated opposition support where they managed to win over 50 percent of votes for the first time since 1994.
Despite these successes, voters are becoming alienated from the institution of the vote, as violence spreads whenever the election nears in the continent.
Voters in Africa Seem Disinterested in Elections
According to the data, 50 percent of voters in Africa do not think that elections can bring any real change.
In their opinion, ballot boxes do not provide a path for voters to de-seat the troubling politicians from their offices.
The interesting thing is that this division is not even across the continent. For instance, only 15 percent of voters in the Gabonese Republic believe in the efficacy of elections. Similarly, in Zambia, this number went to 56 percent, in South Africa 37 percent, and in the Gambia almost 85 percent.
A big chunk of voters believed that media does not give fair coverage to all the candidates, which ultimately tampers with the playing field to the advantage of the ruling elite.
This was very much expected considering the fact that media restrictions have cornered not only the opposition parties but also the freedom of speech watchdogs and activists.
In Tanzania, for instance, the media has become a mouthpiece of the government, where the newspapers are regularly shut down for voicing their concerns against the government.
Coups are Discouraging and Alienating Voters from the Efficacy of Elections in Africa
The new emerging wave of coups in Africa has also become one of the major concerns in the continent. With the stunted growth of democracy coupled with basic human rights violations, the wrath of voters is understandable.
The trend is likely to soar even further if the persistent wave of military coups does not face public backlash.
Nonetheless, even if the elections are only symbolic in nature, they are better than absolute authoritarianism, which paves the way for suppressing human rights in the long run.
Politicians have a responsibility on their shoulders as well to reinstate people’s belief in democracy if they want to rule over them in a fair manner.
A government formed by violent practices is often short-lived, and the tenure can be marred by violence and dictatorial instead of participatory politics.
Politicians in opposition parties in various countries should also never walk the path of conspiring against the political leadership of the country, as it gives the ruling elite a reason to suppress the fundamental human rights to vote.
The bigger responsibility lies with the global organizations as well, where the United Nations and the USA can play a significant role in upholding democratic practices in the country.
For instance, in Libya, the electoral future of the country looked bleak with no signs of progress, but the UN-led roadmap is likely to help the country conduct its elections in December 2021.
Although the transparency of the elections is still in doubt in the country, having elections in such a tense environment of the country is a significant achievement for the United Nations.
The global leadership should also encourage these countries through fiscal benefits, which invite neutral watchdogs to assess the transparency of the elections and take action on their recommendations.
This will incentivize the poor countries of Africa to allow people to vote freely to be in the good books of the human rights organizations.