Senegal, Republic of Congo, Kenya, Angola: The key elections of 2022

By Estelle Maussion, Mehdi Ba, Olivier Caslin, Romain Gras
Posted on Tuesday, 4 January 2022 18:43

João Lourenço at the École Polytechnique, 28 May 2018. © École polytechnique - J. Barande/Licence CC

Although at least four African countries have confirmed that they will be holding elections in 2022, but a number of others have yet to give an answer.

Senegal will be the first country to hold elections in 2022. The campaign is already in full swing for the municipal elections, which will be a full-scale rehearsal for the 2024 presidential elections.

Three other countries are also preparing for important elections:

Kenya will choose a new president;

Angola will also choose a new president, likely a re-election of João Lourenço;

And the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) will vote in new members of parliament.

We have decided to focus on those four countries (Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Kenya, and Senegal) as the situation remains unclear elsewhere.

Will Chad hold a presidential election, one year after Idriss Déby Itno’s death and his son Mahamat’s accession to power? How long will Mali’s transition period last, given that Assimi Goïta’s Assises Nationales de la Refondation has recommended that it be extended? This means that the presidential election, which was theoretically planned for next February, would take place in five years.

And in Conakry, what are the intentions of Mamadi Doumbouya, who pushed Alpha Condé’s from power? The soldier promised not to linger, but also to “make love to Guinea.”

Then there’s Sudan, where the military has completely taken over, Somalia, where elections are constantly being postponed, and Libya – where the December 2021 presidential election, which was supposed to see Khalifa Haftar and Seif el-Islam face-off –  has been delayed. The country remains in a constant state of uncertainty.

In Senegal, a full-scale test

Municipal and departmental elections: 23 January

In Senegal, for the majority and opposition, 2022 will be a year of double or nothing. Initially scheduled for 2019, the local elections (both municipal and departmental) will finally be held on 23 January, eight years after the previous ones.

For the presidential majority, winning the mayor’s office in Dakar will be the most important challenge. Held from 2009 to 2018 by Khalifa Sall, a rebel mayor from the Socialist Party who was removed in December 2016, and then by his first deputy, Soham El Wardini, after Sall was convicted in the case of the town hall’s cash advance, the capital has escaped the presidential camp since Macky Sall’s first election.

In 2014, during the last local elections, Prime Minister Aminata Touré lost to the outgoing mayor. Will the new champion designated by the presidential coalition Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY), health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, be more successful? Running against him are two opposition coalitions led, respectively, by former socialist Barthélémy Dias (Yewwi Askan Wi) and Doudou Wade (nephew of the former president, head of the coalition Wallu Senegal), candidate of the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais (PDS).

In all the country’s major strongholds, from the North (Saint-Louis, Dagana, Podor, Matam…) to the South (Ziguinchor, Tambacounda…) through the Centre-West (Diourbel, Thiès, Kaolack, Fatick…) and the suburbs of Dakar (Pikine, Guédiawaye, Rufisque …), this local election will serve as a test-run for the legislative, which is due to be held in either June or July, just before parliament members’ term in office ends on 31 July. In particular in Ziguinchor, where oppositionist Ousmane Sonko (Pastef-Les Patriotes), who is very well-established in Casamance, intends to continue his electoral rise, which began in 2014.

These legislative elections, due to take place less than two years before the next presidential poll, will be an opportunity for the opposition to assess itself. Will they be able to unite for the first time since Sall got elected in 2012 and lay the groundwork for 2024? Or will they remain divided, just like in 2017 against Benno Bokk Yakaar? In this regard, the scenario that occurred at the beginning of the local campaign in September is a bad omen. Unable to form a single coalition, the main parties split into two on the very first day. During the 2017 legislative elections, a similar chain of events allowed BBY to win 125 seats out of 165, relegating the opposition parties to the role of extras.

In the Republic of Congo, no suspense or upheaval

Legislative elections: end of the first semester

Not much is known about the Republic of Congo’s upcoming legislative elections. The only certainty at this stage is that “they should be held by the end of the first half of the year,” said a Congolese official, i.e. between June and August.

Given the absence of a more precise timetable, only a few political parties, all of which are within the presidential camp, have officially entered the race so far. They are all grouped around the Parti Congolais du Travail (PCT), which, since the 2017 elections, holds an absolute majority with 90 of the 151 parliament members in the National Assembly. The challenge for the head of state’s party is to maintain this absolute majority, amid a tense social context, made worse by the economic and health crises. It is up to 80-year-old Pierre Moussa, the PCT’s secretary-general since 2019, to take up what could well be his last political challenge.

Faced with the PCT, the opposition seems too disorganised and penniless to hope for anything more than a token role. As febrile as its leader, Pascal Tsaty Mabiala, the Union Panafricaine pour la Démocratie Sociale (UPADS) intends to rely on its strongholds in Bouenza and Niari in order to keep its eight parliament members and maintain its status as the first opposition party. The only challenger for this role, the Union des Démocrates Humanistes (UDH-Yuki), is still in mourning as its leader, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, died on the evening of 21 March, when the presidential results were announced.

The orphaned party is now hoping to limit the damage in the Pool, especially since it is going up against Landry Euloge Kolélas’s Mouvement Congolais pour la Démocratie et le Développement Intégral (MCDDI), which dreams of making the department switch to the presidential camp. No one knows what the rate of participation in this election will be. However, even if there is a high abstention rate, the PCT is still expected to win.

In Kenya, a duel of foals

Presidential elections: 9 August

It all started with a handshake. On 9 March 2018, after months of political tension, abuse and threats, Uhuru Kenyatta received his great rival, Raila Odinga, at State House. The unsuccessful candidate during the last presidential election, who had even held a symbolic swearing-in ceremony in January, agreed to a reconciliation that day, which was both surprising and pragmatic.

The episode marked the (very premature) launch of the campaign to succeed Kenyatta. It also jeopardised the marriage of convenience with his Vice-President, William Ruto. By making peace with Odinga, Kenyatta has pulled off a masterstroke. He has given himself a less tumultuous start to his term, installed an interesting trio at the top of the state – Ruto, Odinga and himself – which has a deliberately unclear role and given himself more freedom to take control of his own succession.

After supporting Kenyatta in the last two elections, Ruto is now aiming for the top job. The Rift Valley’s strongman, a Kalenjin leader and product of the Daniel Arap Moi regime expected support for 2022 but quickly realised that he would not receive it. Breaking up too soon brought more problems than solutions to both men. As such, they have been waging a palace war since the last election.

Ruto has used his position as the state’s number two to campaign early and meet with the region’s leaders, including Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, with whom he has connections. Kenyatta, for his part, has dismissed several executives close to his “VP”, weakened the latter by launching corruption investigations and put his political and financial resources at the service of Raila Odinga, “his” candidate and former rival.

In a sign that the campaign is entering its home stretch, Kenyatta even challenged Ruto for the first time in August, inviting him to step down: “If you are not satisfied, the honourable thing to do would be to step down and allow those who want to move forward, to move forward.”

In Angola, Lourenço will most likely get re-elected 

General elections: August

Barring any surprises, the line-up for Angola’s 2022 general elections has already been established. The election, which is due to be held in August, will pit João Lourenço, the incumbent president and candidate of the Mouvement Populaire de Libération de l’Angola (MPLA), against a new challenger: Adalberto Costa Júnior, leader of Unita, Angola’s historic opposition party.

Discounting any bombshells, Lourenço – successor to Dos Santos (1979-2017) and head of a party that has been in power since the country became independent in 1975 – has every chance of winning. The country’s former ruling family, the Dos Santos, appears to be out of the running as the father has retired from politics, the eldest daughter, Isabel, remains abroad, and the Angolan courts recently upheld his son José Filomeno’s corruption conviction.

Lourenço, who pledged to be the “the man of the Angolan economic miracle” in 2017, would then have another five years to deliver this promise. In other words, to reform a country that is still heavily dependent on oil, struggling to break out of the vicious circle of corruption and aspires to end poverty.

However, the election – a general poll in which the leader of the winning party becomes president of the Republic – will be interesting in many ways.

Although the MPLA has mastered mobilising its troops and the head of state has some control over the process, President Lourenço will have to defend his record. This will not be an easy task given his disappointing fight against corruption and the socio-economic difficulties arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MPLA, which remains divided over a series of reforms undertaken, will have to find the right balance between old recipes (cult of personality, fear of chaos, propaganda) and new approaches, in particular when it comes to using social media as a way to convince people to continue to trust it.

On the other hand, the opposition has a real card to play for the first time. After all, this party led by a charismatic leader in his fifties could make a real breakthrough if it leans in on general discontent, social media, which helps facilitate the concept of free speech, and manages to unite forces.

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