Election support declines - survey

Ellanie Smit
Support for elections has weakened among Africans, including Namibians, with many viewing the process as ineffective in holding leaders accountable, a recent Afrobarometer report states.

In Namibia, 53% of the population believe that elections do not work well to enable voters to remove leaders from office who do not do what people want.

While 72% of Namibians still agree that their leaders should be chosen through regular, open and honest elections, there has been a 6% decline from 2013 to 2021 in support for elections.

The Afrobarometer report found that while elections are institutionalised in a majority of African countries, analysts have argued that a change in leadership does not necessarily mean systemic change or greater democratic consolidation.

“Moreover, there has been concern that African elections are becoming increasingly contentious and marked by fear. In some cases, elections have been little more than springboards for leaders who in office subvert democratic institutions to consolidate their position,” the report, compiled by Fredline M’Cormack-Hale and Mavis Zupork Dome, stated.

Popular support slumps

Data from 34 African countries shows that while most Africans believe in elections as the best way to select their leaders, popular support for elections has weakened.

On average, 75% of Africans say they want to choose their leaders through regular, open and honest elections, including 51% who feel very strongly about this issue.

Fewer than half (44%) of Africans say elections work well to enable voters to remove leaders who do not do what the people want.

About the same proportion (42%) believe that elections work well to ensure that representatives in parliament reflect the views of voters.

Only a minority think elections help produce a representative and accountable leadership.

Boost faith

According to Afrobarometer, the findings indicate that voting and popular faith in elections are boosted when citizens believe that their elections are high-quality and effective tools for holding leaders accountable.

Support for elections is highest among citizens with no formal education (79%) and older citizens (78%) aged 56 and above.

Furthermore, 63% of Africans endorse multiparty competition as necessary to give voters real choices, while 35% say the presence of many parties just creates division and confusion. In Namibia, 71% are in support of the multiparty competition.

Meanwhile, 71% of Africans say they voted in their country's most recent national election, while the percentage in Namibia stands at 74%.

Men (74%) and rural residents (76%) are more likely to vote than women (69%) and urbanites (66%).

Free and fair

The survey showed that 87% of Africans - and 92% of Namibians - say they feel somewhat or completely free to vote for candidates of their choice without feeling pressured, including clear majorities in every country.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of Africans say their country’s most recent national election was free and fair, either completely or with minor problems.

Overall, one in four Africans (26%) believe that the officially announced results of their most recent elections were not very accurate, with major discrepancies or inaccurate.

A total of 79% of Namibians feel that the most recent election was free and fair, with 9% saying that election results were inaccurate.