6 African countries vote today


Elections are being held in five African countries, while Senegal is holding a referendum on reducing presidential terms.

A presidential run-off is going ahead in Niger even though the opposition candidate is in a French hospital.

Congo-Brazzaville has cut all telecommunications for two days to prevent “illegal publication of results” of its presidential election.

Elections are also being held in Benin, Cape Verde and Zanzibar.

Congo-Brazzaville cuts phones

Congolese Interior Minister Raymond Mboulou has ordered telephone operators to cut all communications – telephone, text messages and the internet.

Only a few official numbers have been excluded from the ban.

The government also outlawed the use of motor vehicles nationwide during the vote, except for those with special permits, reports the Reuters news agency.

The opposition has condemned the communications blackout, saying it will prevent election monitors from doing their job, and warned of rigging.

General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko is seen as the strongest challenger to President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Mr Sassou Nguesso has been in power since 1979, except for a five-year period after losing elections in 1992.

The constitution was changed after an October referendum to remove term and age limits which would have prevented the 72-year-old from standing again.

Niger’s absent candidate

The opposition in Niger has called for a boycott, alleging fraud, and the BBC’s Ishaq Khalid says he has not seen many voters in the capital, Niamey.

President Muhamadou Issoufou is expected to win a second term in the vote against former prime minister and parliamentary speaker Hama Amadou.

Mr Amadou was jailed in November on baby-trafficking charges, which he denies. He was flown to Paris last week for medical treatment.

His medical condition is unclear, but his health reportedly deteriorated in prison.
One of the world’s poorest countries, Niger faces a growing jihadist threat and was attacked by militants from al-Qaeda and Boko Haram on Thursday.

In February’s first round, Mr Issoufou got 48% of the vote while Mr Amadou came second with 17%.

Zanzibar boycott

Security is tight in Zanzibar after violent protests over recent elections.

The BBC’s Tulanana Bohela reports that there are not many voters in the polling stations she has visited.

The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) has urged its supporters to boycott the poll.

October’s election was cancelled after CUF candidate Seif Sharif Hamad declared himself the winner before results were officially announced.

CUF says the annulment was because it had won, while the electoral commission said there had been widespread fraud.

With the CUF boycotting, President Ali Mohamed Shein of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi, which is in power across Tanzania, looks set to be re-elected.

Senegal’s presidential term limits

The new constitution being voted on in Senegal would cut presidential mandates from seven to five years and would not allow a president to run for more than two consecutive terms in office.

The BBC’s Maud Jullien in Dakar says it is an unusual move on a continent where many leaders are trying to extend their time in office as much as possible.

It may serve to boost Senegal’s image abroad as a strong democracy, but, locally, the referendum has prompted some criticism, she says.

President Macky Sall’s critics say he had promised to reduce his current term but is not doing so and the new constitution, if passed, would only affect future presidential terms.

Analysts say the referendum has become a popularity test for the president rather than a debate on the issues at stake.

The new constitution proposes 14 other changes, including:

 The opposition leader will have a status recognised by the constitution and will enjoy official benefits

 Local councils get more powers

 New rights for citizens – to a healthy environment and over natural resources and land ownership

Source: BBC

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