JAE Volume 20 Number 1 June 2021

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Editor: Denis Kadima
Managing Editor: Heather Acott

Contributors: Ronesh Dhawraj, Danie du Plessis, Charmaine du Plessis, Harrison Adewale Idowu, Joseph Hanlon, Hangala Siachiwena, Chris Saunders, Rekai Rusinga, Michael Kpessa-Whyte, Maurice Taonezvi Vambe, Christopher Simeon Awinia

Key terms: South Africa, electoral politics, grounded theory, digital issue ownership, political communication, social media, Twitter, urban electioneering, Mozambique, elections, transparency, secrecy, fraud, elections commission, elections, legitimacy, democratic consolidation, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, southern Africa, voters’ choice; harmonised elections; credibility; Zanu-PF; militarisation; swing voters, elections, realignment, Ghana, electorates, political parties, Zimbabwean citizens, diaspora, voting, Constitution of Zimbabwe, disenfranchising, national elections, social media, political parties, election campaigns, cybersecurity laws.

South Africa's 2016 Municipal Elections: How the ANC and DA leveraged Twitter to Capture the Urban Vote

Ronesh Dhawraj, Danie du Plessis and Charmaine du Plessis

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Ronesh Dhawraj is a specialist researcher in politics at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Danie du Plessis is a professor, Department of Communication Science, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Charmaine du Plessis is a professor, Department of Communication Science, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

ABSTRACT: This paper focuses on how South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), and main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), leveraged microblogging site Twitter. This was part of their urban election campaign arsenal in the 2016 local government elections (LGE) to promote party-political digital issue ownership within an urban context. Using each party’s corpus of 2016 election-related tweets and election manifestos, this three-phased grounded theory study found that each party used Twitter as a digital political communication platform to communicate their election campaigns. The DA notably leveraged the social networking site more for intense focused messaging of its negative campaign against the ANC while simultaneously promoting positive electoral messages around its own core issues and metro (urban) mayoral candidates. Furthermore, battleground metros were identified, narrow-cast and subsequently audience.segmented by the party in Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Tshwane (in Gauteng) and Nelson Mandela Bay (in the Eastern Cape). This led to an emphasised campaign to either activate the party’s own urban support base and/or to suppress the ANC’s turnout in these highly-contested areas. The results of this study further indicate that the ANC and DA both used Twitter to claim explicit and implicit digital party-political issue ownership in the 2016 LGE.

Biometric Technologies and the Prospect of Sustainable Democracy in Africa

Harrison Adewale Idowu

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Harrison Adewale Idowu is an assistant lecturer in the Department of Public Administration and Political Science, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, and a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

ABSTRACT: The paper interrogates the prospect of attaining sustainable democracy in Africa using biometric technology (BT) for elections. Technology has become relevant in virtually every aspect of human endeavour, including election management and democratic development. In Africa, BT has also been deployed to improve the quality of elections and democracy. Using document analysis and review of relevant literature, findings indicate that to a large extent, BT is charting the path for sustainable democracy in Africa. However, the deployment of BT for African elections still faces serious challenges such as its high cost, inability to address some forms of electoral fraud, and lack of technical know-how. The paper concludes that the cultivation of political will to improve the quality of elections is important in order to address the current challenges of using BT in African elections and increase the prospect of attaining sustainable democracy.

Collapsing Electoral Integrity in Mozambique

Joseph Hanlon

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Joseph Hanlon is a visiting senior fellow in the Department of International Development, London School of Economics (LSE), London, and a visiting senior fellow in the Development Policy and Practice Group, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK. He has been writing about Mozambique since 1978 and has been editor of the Mozambique Political Process Bulletin since 1992, covering all the Mozambican multiparty elections

ABSTRACT: Excessive secrecy has always compromised the integrity of Mozambique’s elections. The National Elections Commission secretly changes results with no records kept nor any public notice that changes have been made. The official final results of the 2019 elections were changed three times by the Constitutional Council with no comment and identical document numbers. The political parties want a politicised electoral machine with party nominees to all electoral bodies, and integrity has steadily declined. By 2018-9 elections had become dominated by the ruling party, Frelimo, which was able to openly change the outcome of municipal elections and create 329 430 ghost voters in the national elections. Civil society observers had become an important check on elections; but in 2019, independent observation was blocked in several provinces and the head of civil society observation in one province was assassinated by a police hit squad. The judiciary, which ordered a rerun in one town in the 2013 municipal elections, has become politicised and will no longer intervene. This paper is an empirical account of those events.

Elections, Legitimacy and Democratic Consilidation in Southern Africa

Hangala Siachiwena and Chris Saunders

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Hangala Siachiwena is a post-doctoral researcher in the Institute for Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa at the University of Cape Town
Chris Saunders is an emeritus professor and researcher in the Institute for Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa at the University of Cape Town

ABSTRACT: Regular elections are now the norm across most of sub-Saharan Africa, but repeated elections have not guaranteed the consolidation of democracy. Election legitimacy is crucial for democratisation. When losing political actors and their supporters are not satisfied with the electoral process, there is potential for growing political tensions. Fraudulent or controversial elections fail to confer legitimacy on the winners, and undermine the integrity of elections and democracy. Drawing on Afrobarometer data and media accounts, this paper focuses on the most recent elections held in three southern African countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. We show that when citizens believe that elections were not free and fair, there is a decline in their satisfaction with democracy and the trust they have in institutions such as electoral commissions and courts of law. The absence of political reforms to address disputed election outcomes increases the likelihood that future elections will not be contested fairly. This sets countries on a path of democratic decline rather than consolidation.

Zimbabwe’s 2018 Harmised Elections: An Assessment of Credibility

Rekai Rusinga

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Rekai Rusinga is Elections Monitoring and Observation Officer with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network

ABSTRACT: This paper assesses the credibility of Zimbabwe’s 2018 harmonised elections using an electoral cycle approach, arguing that the free expression of voters’ choice is a sine qua non for credibility. A study of Election Observer Missions’ reports (EOMs), media reports, and observation in relation to the 2018 elections, points to inadequate legal reforms; questionable independence and impartiality of the Elections Management Body (EMB); media bias; partisan distribution of aid; abuse of state resources; vote buying; partisan involvement of traditional leaders and of the military; intimidation; and suspicious results management. The paper concludes that the 2018 harmonised elections did not pass the credibility test owing to the cumulative effect of structural inadequacies. There is thus a need to comprehensively reform Zimbabwe’s electoral laws, improve elections administration, and ensure a level playing field for contestants by addressing the political environment within which elections are held.

Exploring the Socio-Demographic Distribution of Independent Swing Voters in Ghana

Michael Kpessa-Whyte

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Michael Kpessa-Whyte is a senior research fellow in the History and Politics Section at the Institute of African Studies (IAS), University of Ghana, Legon

ABSTRACT: Ghana has become a two-party state by default, with the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) emerging as the only political parties with sufficient national appeal to win elections and form governments. Through the power of the ballot, each of them has had the chance of being in government as well as serving as the official opposition. Notwithstanding their dominance in Ghana’s democratic politics, neither party has the support of more than forty percent of the country’s electoral population. This leaves a significant proportion of the electorate unaligned to any political party. Given that candidates in presidential elections in Ghana can only win with more than 50% of valid votes cast, swing voters undoubtedly hold the balance of power. Yet, scholarly attention to this category of voters in emerging democracies has been marginal. Using a Ghana national opinion poll survey conducted in 2019 in which 27% of respondents self-identified as independent voters, this paper explores the social and demographic characteristics of these voters. The result is surprising and indicates that the regions and ethnic categories considered as strongholds of the two major parties also hold the highest proportion of independent swing voters.

Voting Rights of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora

Maurice Taonezvi Vambe

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Maurice Taonezvi Vambe is a professor in the Department of English Studies at the University of South Africa, Pretoria

ABSTRACT: The Constitution of Zimbabwe states that citizens who have reached the age of 18 years may vote in local and national elections. However, the Electoral Act states that only Zimbabwean citizens who are on diplomatic missions, civil servants and members of the armed forces on external missions may vote from abroad. This legal requirement effectively disenfranchises millions of Zimbabwean citizens who live and work in other countries. Why the current Zimbabwean authorities do not allow or enable their citizens to vote from abroad in Zimbabwe’s national elections is contentious, especially ahead of the 2023 general elections. This article uses the desktop approach to argue that the right to vote in one’s country of origin by citizens working and living abroad is a barometer of a nation’s deepening democratic practices, of which elections are a lynchpin. This study hopes to contribute to international human rights law. A study of voting from abroad contributes to discussions regarding the evolving and multifaceted relationship between sending states and their diaspora communities.

Social Media penetration, Party Politics and Elections in Tanzania: Emerging Pratices and Challenges

Christopher Simeon Awinia

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Christopher Awinia lectures in the Centre of Economics and Community Economic Development at the Open University of Tanzania. His main area of research interest is the nexus between good governance and human development

ABSTRACT: Tanzania has witnessed an increased use of social media in political party campaigning over the last decade. Use of social media was nonetheless curtailed by a changing techno-political framework regulated by acts relating to cybersecurity and statistics. This study was guided by two hypotheses: firstly, that despite restrictive cybersecurity laws, social media in recent years has been effectively institutionalised as a new civic cyberspace for political party campaigns during elections. Secondly, increasing use of social media in elections has had a transformative effect on the way party structure was organised to conduct political mobilisation, promote party ideology and both inter- and intra-party interaction, and for fundraising. The study interviewed party members and leaders from five political parties which participated in the 2015 and 2020 general elections and concluded that social media had a transformative effect on core political party campaign activities.