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Many Africans Lack Confidence in Election Honesty
World

Many Africans Lack Confidence in Election Honesty

by Magali Rheault and Justin McCarthy
Many Africans Lack Confidence in Election Honesty

Story Highlights

  • As elections near, confidence has diminished in some countries
  • Confidence has dropped most in Guinea, and is lowest in Chad
  • Confidence in judicial system and courts down in most countries

This article is part of a series on well-being and development trends in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on 12 nations that Gallup has surveyed every year since 2007.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ahead of their presidential elections in the coming year, less than half of residents in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger, Tanzania and Uganda say they have confidence in the honesty of elections in their countries. Confidence is lowest in Chad, at 18%.

Confidence in Honesty of Elections in African Countries, 2011-2014

In several of the seven countries, residents' confidence in the honesty of elections in 2014 was lower than what it was in 2011. Confidence dropped the most in Guinea over that period, falling from 70% to 40%. In the June 2015 survey, 42% of Guineans said they have confidence in the honesty of elections, which is roughly on par with 2014 confidence levels. The second-largest drop was in Niger, where two in three adults (66%) said they had confidence in 2011, but 49% said so in 2014.

Chad and Uganda, where confidence is similar to 2011 levels, have consistently had the lowest levels of confidence in election honesty among the seven countries. Because of the civil conflict and the post-election crisis, the survey was not fielded in the Ivory Coast in 2011 and 2012.

These seven countries represent a broad section of political leadership and governance in Africa. In Niger and Guinea, the presidents are completing their first term and can run for a second term in office. Ivory Coast, where the president can also run for a second term, is noteworthy because of the violence that has been associated with previous elections. In May 2015, Ivoirians' confidence in the honesty of elections, at 41%, had hardly budged from the previous year. In Tanzania, however, the president is completing his second term, and according to the country's constitution, he cannot run again.

Meanwhile, in Chad and Uganda, the presidents have been in office for at least 25 years and will likely run again. And in Burkina Faso, a transition government was put in place in November 2014 after a military coup ousted the long-serving ruler. In the April 2015 survey, Burkinabes' confidence in the honesty of elections stood at 44%, virtually unchanged from the previous year. In this context, the Gallup findings paint a challenging post-election environment for all incumbents and their parties.

Trust in the Judiciary Down in All Countries; Niger Sees Biggest Drop

Relative to their confidence in the honesty of elections, residents in most African countries surveyed have more confidence in their judicial systems and courts. But this confidence is also down from 2011 in most countries. In light of their role as final arbiters in disputes, including elections, the importance of residents' confidence in their countries' courts should not be underestimated.

The greatest drop in residents' confidence in their judicial system was in Niger. Despite falling 18 percentage points from 2011 to 2014, the 59% who are confident in Niger is still the highest among the seven countries. In Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, confidence in the country's judicial system has rebounded somewhat in 2015, with 59% and 58%, respectively, saying they have confidence. In Guinea, 47% said they have confidence in the judiciary in the June 2015 survey.

Confidence in Judicial System Down in African Countries With Coming Elections, 2011-2014

In 2014, confidence in judicial systems was lower than 50% in Guinea (42%) and Uganda (36%) -- both of which saw a drop of 11 points versus 2011 -- and was lowest in Chad (30%). It should also be noted that, with the exceptions of Guinea and Uganda, residents' decreased confidence in the honesty of elections corresponds to their decreased confidence in their country's judiciary.

Implications

Electoral transitions in African countries have often been violent. In many ways, the ballot box serves as an evaluation of the incumbent's handling of the country's top issues, namely employment, food and other basic needs. But in case of a dispute, residents must feel their judicial system can give a fair and just decision about the electoral outcome.

These findings underscore the relatively low confidence residents have in such important institutions in countries with a near-term national election. In Nigeria, where residents' confidence in the honesty of elections has also been declining since 2011, the incumbent acknowledged the election results and the country was able to transition peacefully to a new leader and its government earlier this year. Perhaps elections in the countries highlighted here will be free of unrest, and the will of African voters will be respected.

Diana Liu contributed analysis to this article.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted every year between 2011 and 2014 in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger, Tanzania and Uganda. For results based on the total sample of national adults in each country across all years, the median margin of sampling error is ±3.8 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

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