US Polls: Any hard lessons, takeaways for democracies in Africa

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Joe Biden and Donald Trump

Despite America’s political jigsaw, the striking lesson for Africa appears to be the role strong institutions play in that democracy as against strong individuals and politicians, who most often. change the constitution to serve their personal interest of remaining in office against the will of the people

By Goddy Ikeh

As the turmoil in the 2020 United States presidential elections persists, many Africans, especially Nigerian scholars and experts on international affairs have been watching and analyzing the developments, especially the takeaways for African countries which are known to struggle with succession challenges and seat tight leaders.

In his analysis of the current, though predictable US political experience, a Nigerian media and communications strategist, Paul Ejime, told Realnews in an interview from the UK that most elections create divisions, but even by American standards, the 2020 presidential election between incumbent President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden has proved most divisive in the country that prides itself as an old democracy and a land of equal opportunities.

“At play were several factors, from the character of the candidates to racism, gender, minority rights, economic decline and the poor management of the deadly Covid-19 global pandemic with America leading the rest of the world in the rates of fatalities and infections.

“Surprisingly, while Democratic party candidate Biden could be coasting to victory, the margin of success is slim, indicating that Trump of the Republican party, with his perceived unpopularity did not do badly among his strong support base.

“But as expected, he will go down fighting and has already launched legal challenges in several states contesting the results of the polls,” he said.

According to him, like African leaders and very unusual for an American politician, Trump has alleged fraud in the electoral process, but without evidence. This means that the official result of the result of the election could be determined by the court.

“Even so, unlike in Africa, where strong personalities matter in politics, the American system, which thrives on strong institutions is expected to prevail at the end of the day. The Biden presidency has its job cut out for it in healing the polarized American polity,” Ejime said.

Speaking on what the election portends for Africa, Ejime said: “But one lesson for Africa is that while there might not be a perfect political system, democracy is dynamic and thrives in an environment of strong, effective institutions, not personalities.

“The other lesson could be that governance might not be about age (Trump is 74 and Biden 77), but about mindset, the capacity and ability to make a difference and bring about positive changes in governance.

“Trump has played his part as America’s 45th president, it is now virtually all set for Biden to show what he is capable of as the 46th U.S. leader,” he added.

In his comments, another Nigerian based in New York, Bunmi Makinwa, told Realnews that the US President Donald Trump is acting true to type in his statements and positioning on the US elections. “He has made accusations of fraud and vote rigging. No supporting evidence. He has asked for votes not to be counted in some states. He has no such powers. He has said that he would fight legal battles until he wins and stays on as president. The chances of having long-drawn legal battles are limited because a president will be proclaimed and sworn in on January 20, 2021 anyway,” he said.

Makinwa, who is the Chief Executive Officer, AUNIQUEI Communications for Leadership, New York, noted that Trump’s opponent and most-likely next president, Mr. Joe Biden, has urged for calm. “He wanted the ongoing process of election to be completed and all legally cast votes should be counted. He would not engage in strong language against anyone. There is no doubt that his party and himself are preparing seriously for the legal battles and will make sure that no hurdles can stand in the way of having a president known and officially declared,” he explained.

According to Makinwa, the US elections has never been this contentious or just “noisy”. “I do remember several past elections for president when people would go about their usual business in the country, knowing that a president would emerge.

He recalled that before the election, Trump had refused to state that he would accept the results of the 2020 contest. “During the 2016 contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump had also waxed strong on winning whilst, as we gathered later from books and information from his then close associates, he had no clue that victory was within reach until much later as results started to come in. He was as surprised as most people, including pollsters and the media that he became president.

“It is no surprise. In his business deals, Trump would go for the highest stakes even when he had no path in mind on getting anything at all. He would radiate confidence even when he knew that failure was around the corner. He would talk tough when he suspected that brashness could get him through.

“As a president he has told thousands of lies and many thousands of misleading statements. He mastered the art of repeating statements that are false until people who initially doubted him turned round to accept the claims.

“Trump’s life of lies will stay with him as he fights for his future trying to prove that he did not lose the election even when all the world see the facts. He will leave the White House and continue to carry along some 70 millions of Americans who voted for him – they fail to see that their once revered “Emperor America” has no clothes. The ideal that USA represented for some centuries has crumbled and it may never become whole again, thanks to Trump’s four-year presidency,” he said.

In the same vein, Tunde Oseni, lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Relations, Lead City University, Ibadan, says that it is better for Trump to allow the process to run through in the interest of the American people.

Oseni believes that there are strong institutional measures that will help him seek redress if he thinks otherwise over the outcome of the election.

“Politics largely is about power struggle and nobody wants to lose power. Nevertheless, the ability of an individual to determine what happens in a society depends on the capacity of the institutions.

“Even if President Trump does not want to leave office or does not want the votes to be counted, there are institutional measures that will control his interest.

“I think United States have institutions that can actually regulate Trump’s appetite for misinformation and by extension being in power by all means,” he said.

At the global level, many countries in the world have matured democratically, so people will not respect a government that is headed by an illegitimate occupier.  I think that in the best interest of both the domestic politics in US and the continued relevance of US as a democracy in the world,

It is better for Trump to allow the process to run through and also allow the rule of law to take place.“Rule of law is not one-sided. It is not only Trump that can go to court, Biden too, can go to court and I also learnt that a judge in Philadelphia has denied Trump ruling on recounting of the votes.

Judges in US are guided by institutional principles,” Oseni said in an interview with Realnews.

On the implications of the elections for Africa, Oseni said:  “For Africa, I think the Biden administration is going to be more-friendly because the Democratic government has always been more-friendly with African governments than Republicans.

It doesn’t mean that all Republican government is anti-Africa. But I think from experience that Democratic government is more liberal and more African-friendly than Republican government.”

Speaking in the same vein, John Mahama, former Ghanaian president and the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress, NDC, said that Ghana and other African countries could learn a lot of lessons from the 2020 presidential election of the US.

Mahama told journalists in Accra, Ghana recently that in spite of the fact that President Donald Trump had at a point ordered for the complete halt of the counting of the ballots, the independent state institutions did not comply.

He stressed the need for institutions to be strengthened and operated without political influence and wondered what would have happened if the same thing happened in Ghana.

The former Ghanaian President called for a collective effort to strengthen Ghanaian institutions like the Electoral Commission, the Judiciary, the Legislature and those institutions that anchor Ghana’s democracy to offer the right service and mandate that the people had given them, without any partisan consideration.

He explained that a leader, who becomes divisive, pursues his personal and family interests and abandons his allies, a time will come when the people will rise up and make a decision that protects their interest just like what is happening in the US.

Mahama expressed optimism that the NDC will win the December 7, 2020 general elections and that he would be able to work with the US President-elect, Joe Biden.

Speaking on the election of the first woman as the vice president-elect of the US, he expressed the hope that Ghanaians will make history on December 7 general elections by electing him and his running mate, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang as the first woman to be elected vice president of Ghana.

Despite President Trump’s reluctance to concede defeat in the polls, many World leaders have continued to congratulate president-elect Joe Biden, knowing that come January 2021, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the US.

– Nov. 15, 2020 @ 14:35 GMT |

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