Online resources for upcoming 2011 African elections
Nigeria’s elections earlier this year garnered substantial media attention for their interaction with social media. So did 2008 post-election violence in Kenya. And, the world watched as Sudan voted on a referendum to divide the North and South. Over the next nine months (through April 2012), sixteen additional African nations will hold democratic elections, but how much information will be exchanged using the Internet?
Any type of election should be of international interest, but it is the coveted African Presidential Election that leaves the most at stake. In many nations, a change of president means a change in personal freedoms and the ability for greater self-expression. Of course, a transfer of power is only possible if:
- the current government allows an election in the first place
- the election is deemed fair
- peace and order prevail
What a better way to monitor election logistics and real-time reports than over the Internet? Crowd-sourcing and social media are power tools for informing citizens, rallying voters, deterring violence, and keeping the international community in the loop. Across Africa, more politicians are turning to social media to propagate their ideology. At the same time, electoral commissions are using the Internet to promote transparency and confidence.
That said, nations with low levels of Internet adoption cannot rely on social media to get the word out to vote or to calm fears of post-election violence. Just this year, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, and Niger held national elections to the tune of minimal online fanfare. Perhaps the elections went smoothly and fairly, but most likely, low Internet penetration prevented the candidates, parties, and even local newspapers from ever having an Internet presence. (For more, read Caldwell Bishop’s recent post on how social media is not an option for the DRCs’ elections.)
Calendar of African Elections:
A couple of great African election resources exist. The National Democratic Institute maintains a chronological list of global elections by year through 2012. A strictly African calendar sorted by nation is frequently updated by the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa (EISA). The color-coded image used in this post comes from EISA.
Local media is perhaps the best source for pertinent news and opinion, and citizens of African nations are most likely aware of what is available. In the interest of time, there are a few general sources that capture an unbiased picture of each African election.
General Online Resources:
- African Elections Project: Coverage of all elections, but especially West Africa and Southern Africa. The next upcoming AEP election is Liberia, but plenty of information is available on Guinea‘s last election. @Africanelection (759 followers)
- ACE Project: The Electoral Project Network. Holds comparative data and multiple link to information on each nation. @aceproject_org (316 followers)
- NDI: Nonprofit organization working to support democratic institutions worldwide. Supplies democracy updates. @NDI (2,578 followers)
- Election Guide: Region profile pages explain current government structure and roles for all nations. Has records of previous elections, in addition to an upcoming timeline. @electionguide (532 followers)
- Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA): An institution committed to deepening democracy, protecting human rights, and enhancing good governance in the region. Posts the occasional editorial on African politics. @OSI_SA (107 followers )
- African Elections: A database of Sub-Saharan African election results run by Albert Nunley. The chronology page includes all elections from 1990-2011.
Current Online Presence:
Unsurprisingly, there is much more interest around upcoming presidential elections than there is toward legislative elections. Moreover, there is a loose correlation between population size and number of recent Tweets.
- Although a handful of nations have Twitter accounts set up to monitor election news, they are almost always run by the African Elections Project. And, few of these exist for upcoming elections. Liberia seems to be the only African nation with an upcoming election with an active account posting updates. Zimbabwe and Guinea election accounts appear idle at the moment.
- Ushahidi Liberia will use the platform to monitor the election.
- Impressively, The Zambian Peoples PACT, a Facebook group devoted to encouraging political discussion, has over 5,500 members.
- Liberia, Zambia, and The Gambia have websites for national elections commissions
- Global Voices will undoubtedly report on the elections. Articles already exist on Zambia and Tunisia.
- NDI has produced bulletins on the political situation in Guinea and Mauritania.
- Blogger Alex Engwete has top-notch analysis and updates on DRC election news.
Country Election Date Election Type # Tweets (past 5 days) Social Media to Follow Link 1 Link 2
Cape Verde 8/6/2011 Presidential 2 Tweets @KapVert News Sao Tome 8/7/2011 Presidential 4 Tweets Liberia 8/23/2011 Referendum 25 Tweets @liberiaelection, @ushahidiliberia African Electoral Project National Election Commission
Zambia 9/20/2011 General 27 Tweets Electoral Commission of Zambia Global Voices
Madagascar Sep-11 General 5 Tweets News Zimbabwe Sep-11 Referendum 36 Tweets @zimbabwelection? Mauritania 10/1/2011 Legislative/Local 2 Tweets NDI Morocco 10/7/2011 Parliamentary 6 Tweets News Liberia 10/11/2011 General 25 Tweets @liberiaelection, @ushahidiliberia African Electoral Project National Election Commission
Tunisia 10/23/2011 Legislative 60 Tweets @Tunisia_Live IFES Global Voices
Cameroon Oct-11 Presidential 30 Tweets Cote d'Ivoire Oct-11 Legislative Many from previous The Gambia 11/24/2011 Presidential 2 Tweets Independent Electoral Commission Guinea 11/27/2011 Legislative 1 Tweet @guineaelections? African Electoral Project NDI
DR Congo 11/28/2011 General 60 Tweets @alexengwete Blog Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa
Egypt Nov-11 Presidential/Par. 100 Tweets @AJELive Reuters Mali Apr-11 Presidential 11 Tweets
Let us know of additional sources in the comments, and here’s to safe elections!