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African court rulings will prompt push on poll quality

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Subject

African electoral standards.

Significance

Since 2017, higher courts in Kenya and Malawi have nullified presidential elections, making history and setting important legal precedents. Such judgements also embarrassed election observers, as many groups had not spoken out to challenge the results. More broadly, developments in Kenya and Malawi reflect the judicialisation of politics in Africa, with a growing number of sensitive issues being decided by the courts rather than parliament.

Impacts

  • International election observation is unlikely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will struggle for funds as states rebuild thereafter.
  • Popular criticism of international election observers may undermine funding streams, leaving future elections more vulnerable to rigging.
  • Efforts by authoritarian leaders to control courts may have a knock-on effect on their willingness to operate independently in other areas.
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