March 12, 2012 / 2:58 PM / 7 years ago

FACTBOX-Term limit tweaks erode democracy in Africa

March 12 (Reuters) - Senegal’s presidential election is heading for a nail-biting March 25 run-off between two-term President Abdoulaye Wade and his former Prime Minister Macky Sall.

(For ANALYSIS story, see [ID: nL2E8E1799])

The vote is being widely watched as a test for democracy in Africa. Many observers fear the general positive shift towards multi-party politics in recent decades has been eroded by “sit tight” incumbent presidents who seek, often successfully, to manipulate elections and constitutions to stay longer in office.

Opponents of Wade, 85, say his bid for a third term flouts constitutional rules.

Here are details of African presidents who have benefited from constitutional amendments to extend their time in power:

* ALGERIA - Abdelaziz Bouteflika - In Nov. 2008, Algerian lawmakers approved the lifting of presidential term limits, a move seen by opposition parties in the OPEC member state as aimed at letting Bouteflika stay in office for life. He won a presidential election in April 2009.

* BURKINA FASO - Blaise Compaore - Compaore seized power in a 1987 coup. A new law from 2005 prohibited presidents from standing for more than two terms but the Constitutional Court ruled the law could not be applied retroactively, clearing the way for Compaore’s re-election in Nov. 2010 when he again won, with 80 percent of the vote.

* CAMEROON - Paul Biya - Biya took over in 1982 from President Ahmadou Ahidjo. Oil producer Cameroon’s national assembly adopted a constitutional bill in April 2006 removing a two-term presidential limit to allow Biya to extend his rule past 2011. Biya won re-election by a widely expected landslide in Oct. 2011 allowing him to stay on for another 7-year term.

* CHAD - Idriss Deby - Deby, who took power in a coup in 1990, won a third term in 2006 after a referendum the year before removed a two-term limit. Deby won a new presidential election by a landslide in May 2011, starting a new five-year mandate, although the outcome was rejected by the opposition as illegitimate.

* DJIBOUTI - Ismail Omar Guelleh - Lawmakers in Djibouti in 2010 approved a constitutional amendment that paved the way for the president of the Horn of Africa nation to run for a third term. Guelleh, with two terms completed, won re-election for a third term in April that year, although the constitutional reform cut the presidential mandate to five years from six.

* TUNISIA - Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali - Ben Ali, who took office in 1987, won nearly 100 percent approval for 2002 reforms that let him keep standing for re-election. He was forced out by protesters in January 2011, the first of the Arab leaders to fall in the so-called Arab Spring uprisings.

* UGANDA - Yoweri Museveni - Museveni, in power since 1986, won re-election in February 2006 after he changed the constitution in 2005 to let him stand for a third term. Museveni was re-elected in 2011, again defeating long time opponent, Kizza Besigye.

* SENEGAL - Abdoulaye Wade - Senegal’s Constitutional Council in Jan. 2012 endorsed incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade’s bid to seek a third term in this year’s election. The council’s decision triggered violent protests from opponents who said it violated a 2001 constitutional amendment that set a two-term presidential limit. But Wade, who came to power in 2000 elections and was re-elected in 2007, argues his first term pre-dated the 2001 reform. (Editing by Pascal Fletcher)

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