Africans recently went to the polls in Benin, Cape Verde, the Republic of Congo, Niger and Zanzibar.
The outcome was decidedly mixed.
- In Congo, riot police used tear gas in the capital to disperse dozens of opposition supporters who alleged vote irregularities. But incumbent President Denis Sassou Nguesso won reelection after eliminating the two-term constitutional limit.
- The opposition in Niger called for a boycott of the election, alleging fraud. Militants from al-Qaeda and Boko Haram staged attacksduring the campaign. In the end, however, President Issoufou crushed his opponent with 93 percent of the vote.
- On the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania, the opposition Civic United Front urged its supporters to boycott the election and violent protests broke out. USAID has now cancelled US$472 million in aid.
These mixed results deserve our attention because elections are a barometer of how well a democracy is functioning. The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), which I direct, was founded four years ago to provide an independent evaluation of the quality of elections worldwide. The EIP’s results have been published in several books, including my own, Why Elections Fail.