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Algeria

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Restrictions on freedom of assembly and association as well as restrictions on political party activities inhibited the activity of opposition groups.

Elections and Political Participation

The law states that members of local, provincial, and national assemblies are elected for five-year mandates and that presidential elections occur within 30 days prior to the expiration of the presidential mandate. Presidential term limits, which were eliminated in 2008, were reintroduced in a 2016 revision of the constitution and limit the president to two terms. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for organizing the election and voting processes. In 2016 the government created a High Independent Election Monitoring Body (HIISE), charged with monitoring elections and investigating allegations of irregularities. The head of the HIISE, Abdelwahab Derbal, said after the May legislative elections that the mandate of the HIISE should be strengthened and the electoral law revised, based on deficiencies identified on election day.

Recent Elections: Presidential elections took place in 2014, and voters re-elected President Bouteflika for a fourth term. Bouteflika won approximately 81 percent of the votes, while his main rival and former prime minister, Ali Benflis, placed second with slightly more than 12 percent.

Several hundred international election observers from the United Nations, Arab League, African Union, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation monitored voting. Foreign observers characterized the elections as largely peaceful but pointed to low voter turnout and a high rate of ballot invalidity. El Watan, an independent daily newspaper, reported that almost 10 percent of ballots cast were invalid. The Ministry of Interior did not provide domestic or foreign observers with voter registration lists. President of the Constitutional Council Mourad Medelci announced voter participation in the elections was just under 51 percent, a sharp drop from the slightly more than 74 percent turnout during the previous presidential election in 2009.

Benflis rejected the results and claimed that fraud marred the elections. He appealed to the Constitutional Council without result. A coalition of Islamic and secular opposition parties boycotted the election, describing it as a masquerade and asserting that President Bouteflika was unfit to run due to his health. Several candidates withdrew from the race, claiming that the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

Elections for the lower chamber of parliament were held in May and did not result in significant changes in the composition of the government. The government allowed international observation of the elections but did not permit local civil society organizations to do the same. Most major opposition parties lost seats in the elections, and several parties claimed the results were significantly altered by fraud. Foreign observers from the African Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Arab League characterized the elections as largely well organized and conducted without significant problems on election day. Local media outlets reported that a team of European Union elections experts provided the government a report noting a lack of transparency in vote counting procedures, but the report was not made public. In September, Algerian National Front party leader Moussa Touati stated that his party paid bribes in order to secure its single seat in parliament. Several opposition political parties claimed voter turnout figures were inflated and that the results were fraudulent.

After local elections in November, governing parties maintained control of the vast majority of provincial and municipal councils. There were no international observers for the local elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The Ministry of Interior must approve political parties before they may operate legally.

The government maintained undue media influence and opposition political parties claimed they did not have access to public television and radio. Security forces dispersed political opposition rallies and interfered with the right to organize.

Pursuant to the constitution, all parties must have a “national base.” The electoral law adopted by parliament in July 2016 requires parties to have received 4 percent of the vote in the preceding election or to collect 250 signatures in the electoral district in order to appear on the ballot. Opposition parties from across the political spectrum criticized the new law for creating a more complex process for qualifying for the ballot, as well as for establishing an electoral monitoring body whose members would be appointed by the president and parliament, which is controlled by a coalition headed by the president’s party.

The law prohibits parties based on religion, ethnicity, gender, language, or region, but there were various political parties commonly known to be Islamist, notably members of the Green Alliance. According to the Ministry of Interior, in September there were 70 registered political parties.

The law does not place significant restrictions on voter registration, but implementation of voter registration and identification laws proved inconsistent and confusing during past elections.

Membership in the Islamic Salvation Front, a political party banned since 1992, remained illegal. The law also bans political party ties to nonpolitical associations and regulates party financing and reporting requirements. According to the law, political parties may not receive direct or indirect financial or material support from any foreign parties. The law also stipulates the collection of resources from contributions by the party’s members, donations, and revenue from its activities, in addition to possible state funding.

Opposition party leaders complained that the government did not provide timely authorizations to hold rallies or party congresses.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities did participate. The law requires parties to ensure that at least 30 percent of the candidates on their electoral lists are women.

Botswana

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2014 the ruling BDP won a majority of National Assembly seats in a general election deemed by international and domestic observers to be generally free and fair. President Ian Khama retained the presidency, which he had held since 2008.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There are no laws limiting the participation of women and minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Nevertheless, observers suggested cultural constraints limited the number of women in government. There were six women in the 65-seat National Assembly, one of whom was the speaker and four of whom served in the 24-member cabinet. There were also two women in the 34-seat House of Chiefs.

While the constitution formally recognizes eight principal tribes of the Tswana nation, amendments to the constitution also allow minority tribes to be represented in the House of Chiefs. The law provides that members from all groups enjoy equal rights, and minority tribes have representation in the House of Chiefs in equal standing to that of the eight principal tribes.

Cameroon

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. President Biya and the majority Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM), however, controlled key elements of the political process, including the judiciary.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In the three elections held in 2013, the CPDM was the most popular party except in the Northwest, where it faced strong competition from the Social Democratic Front. The CPDM remained dominant in state institutions, partially due to strategic redrawing of voter districts, use of government resources for CPDM campaigning, interference with the right of opposition parties to organize and publicize views during electoral campaigns, and privileges associated with belonging to the ruling party.

In September 2013 the country held simultaneous legislative and municipal elections, with 29 parties participating in the legislative elections and 35 in the municipal elections. The CPDM won 148 of 180 parliamentary seats and 305 of 360 municipal council positions, representing slight gains for opposition parties, compared with the parliament elected in 2007. In preparation for the 2013 legislative and municipal polls, Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), whose members the president appointed, compiled new voter rolls using biometric technology and issued biometric voter identification cards that were required at polling booths. Despite irregularities, such as the inconsistent use of identification cards due to a lack of expertise among local polling officials, opposition parties generally accepted the results. The high voter turnout (70 percent of registered voters) and ELECAM’s administration of the election were viewed as major improvements over previous elections.

In April 2013 the country held its first Senate elections. The ruling CPDM won 54 of the 70 elected seats; the president, in accordance with the constitution, appointed an additional 30 senators. The elections were peaceful and generally free and fair.

In 2011 President Biya was re-elected in a poll marked by irregularities, but one that most observers believed reflected popular sentiment.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The country had 300 registered political parties. Membership in the ruling political party conferred significant advantages, including in the allocation of key jobs in state-owned entities and the civil service. The president appoints all ministers, including the prime minister; the governors of each of the 10 regions, who generally represented CPDM interests; and important lower-level members of the 58 regional administrative structures. The government pays the salaries of (primarily nonelected) traditional leaders, which supports a system of patronage.

Authorities sometimes refused to grant opposition parties permission to hold rallies and meetings.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There are no laws preventing women or members of minority groups from voting, running for office, and serving as electoral monitors, or otherwise participating in political life on the same basis as men or nonminority citizens. The law provides that lists of candidates for legislative and municipal elections should take into account the sociological components of the constituency, including gender. Cultural and traditional factors, however, reduced women’s political participation compared to that of men. Women remained underrepresented at all levels of government, but their political participation continued to improve. For the 2013-18 electoral period, women occupied 26 of 374 council mayor positions, in comparison with 23 in 2007-13 and 10 in 2002-07. Women occupied 10 of 62 cabinet positions, 76 of 280 parliamentary seats, and senior government offices, including territorial command and security/defense positions.

The minority Baka people took part as candidates in municipal and legislative elections but were not represented in the Senate, National Assembly, or higher offices of government.

Chad

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens with the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but the government limited this right. The executive branch dominated the other branches of government.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In the April 2016 presidential election, voters re-elected President Deby to a fifth term with 59.92 percent of the vote; Saleh Kebzabo placed second with 12.8 percent. While the election was orderly and had a high voter turnout, it was neither free nor fair, and there were numerous irregularities. According to the African Union, staff at polling stations was not adequately trained, 81 percent of ballot boxes observed had not been checked to see if they were empty at the start of polling, and 10 percent of polling stations did not provide secrecy in voting. Runner-up Kebzabo refused to accept the outcome of the vote, stating that it was an “electoral stickup.” Other opposition politicians cited alleged ballot stuffing and the disappearance of ballot boxes.

Some military personnel were required to vote in the open, in front of colleagues and superiors. According to pan-African television channel Africa 24, more than two dozen military members were reportedly jailed and beaten for refusing to vote for the president. FM Liberte coverage included opposition calls for the Independent National Electoral Commission to discount the results of military voting pending investigation.

Security forces detained, tortured, and held incommunicado opposition members.

On April 8, 2016, the first day of voting, the government shut down all access to the internet and SMS/text messaging. Many foreign television operators could not cover the postelection events because the government had not renewed their filming licenses. Authorities confiscated the equipment of French broadcaster TV5Monde and detained its crew for several hours for filming at a polling station.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were 139 registered political parties, of which more than 100 were associated with the dominant MPS party.

Opposition leaders accused the government of denying them funds and equal broadcast time on state-run media.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and/or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural factors, however, limited women’s political participation. Ethnicity influenced government appointments and political alliances. Political parties and groups generally had readily identifiable regional or ethnic bases. Northerners, particularly members of the Zaghawa ethnic group, were overrepresented in key institutions, including the military officer corps, elite military units, and the presidential staff.

Ghana

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Parties and independent candidates campaigned openly and without undue restrictions in the period preceding the most recent elections in 2016. The Electoral Commission took steps to ensure the elections were free and fair, including a voter registration verification exercise. The campaigns were largely peaceful, although there were reports of isolated instances of violence. For example, attackers ransacked Electoral Commission offices in Suhum and Asunafo South. There were also reports of violence between NPP and NDC supporters and party-affiliated vigilante groups. Presidential and parliamentary elections conducted in December 2016 were peaceful. Domestic and international observers, such as the European Union Election Observation Mission and the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, assessed the election to be transparent, inclusive, and credible. Seven candidates vied for the presidency, including one independent candidate. NPP candidate Nana Akufo-Addo secured more than 53 percent of votes cast, defeating NDC candidate and incumbent President John Mahama by more than 9 percent. NPP candidates won 169 parliamentary seats, with the NDC securing the remaining 106 seats. The Ghana Integrity Initiative, Ghana Center for Democratic Development, Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, Citizen’s Movement against Corruption, and European Union Election Observation Mission noted concerns over the misuse of incumbency and unequal access granted to state-owned media during the campaign. Reports also noted a regional bias in elections coverage, with Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions receiving significantly more attention than other regions. There were reports of postelection violence, including takeovers of government institutions by vigilante groups associated with the victorious NPP.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women and/or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Women, however, held fewer leadership positions than men, and female political figures faced sexism, harassment, and threats of violence. Cultural and traditional factors limited women’s participation in political life. For example, the government-recognized National and Regional Houses of Chiefs inducted no women as members, although some regional chieftaincy bodies recognized affiliated queen mothers. Women’s participation in the 275-member parliament increased by 2.5 percent in 2016, with 37 women winning parliamentary seats. Presidential candidates included one woman and one person with a disability. Reports indicated female candidates received substantially less media coverage than their male counterparts.

Kenya

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In August citizens voted in the second general election under the 2010 constitution, electing executive leadership and parliamentarians, county governors, and members of county assemblies. International and domestic observers, such as the Kenya Elections Observation Group, African Union Observer Mission, and the Carter Center, judged the elections generally credible, although some civil society groups raised concerns about irregularities. In the presidential election, Jubilee Party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta won with a margin significantly above that of runner-up candidate Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA). NASA challenged the results in a petition to the Supreme Court. On September 1, the court ruled in NASA’s favor, annulling the presidential elections and citing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for irregularities in voter registration and technical problems with vote tallying and transmission. The court ordered a new election for president and deputy president, which was held on October 26.

On October 10, Odinga announced his withdrawal from the election, saying the IEBC had not taken sufficient steps to ensure a free and fair election. The October 26 vote was marred by low voter turnout in some areas and protests in some opposition strongholds. On October 30, the IEBC declared Kenyatta the winner of the election. On November 20, the Supreme Court rejected petitions challenging the October 26 elections and upheld Kenyatta’s victory. Odinga refused to accept Kenyatta’s re-election and repeated his call for people’s assemblies across the country to discuss constitutional revisions to restructure the government and the elections process.

To reduce voter fraud, the government used a biometric voter registration system, first used in 2013. Possession of a national identity card or passport was a prerequisite for voter registration. According to media reports, political parties were concerned about hundreds of thousands of national identity cards produced but never collected from National Registration Bureau offices around the country, fearing that their supporters would not be able to vote. Ethnic Somalis and Muslims in the coast region and ethnic Nubians in Nairobi complained of discriminatory treatment in the issuance of registration cards, noting that authorities sometimes asked them to produce documentation proving their parents were citizens.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Voting rates and measures of other types of participation in the political process by women and members of minorities remained lower than those of men.

The constitution provides for parliamentary representation by women, youth, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and marginalized communities. The constitution specifically states no gender should encumber more than two-thirds of elective and appointed offices (the Two-Third Gender Rule). The Supreme Court set an initial August 2016 deadline for implementation of this provision, but that passed without action and the National Assembly failed to meet a second deadline in May. On August 15, two NGOs filed a petition for the High Court to declare the composition of the National Assembly and Senate unconstitutional for failure to meet the Two-Third Gender rule. The petition had not yet been heard as of November. The cabinet also did not conform to the two-thirds rule.

A September forum on Violence Against Women in Elections (VAWIE) that included the Elections Observation Group and the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA) identified significant barriers to women’s participation in the political process. The chief concerns were violence and insecurity stemming from economic and financial intimidation, harassment based on perceived levels of sexual or moral purity, threats of divorce, and other familial or social sanctions. The 2013 study by FIDA and the National Democratic Institute, A Gender Audit of Kenya’s 2013 Election Process, highlighted challenges particular to female candidates, including irregularities in political party primaries that prevented women from competing in elections and the consistent failure of political parties to adhere to their own stated procedures for choosing candidates. FIDA reported a drop in verifiable VAWIE cases from 5,000 in 2013 to 300 during the year, but identified serious political backlash for reporting abuses, harassment, or discrimination within the political parties.

The overall success rate of women candidates who ran for positions in the 2017 national elections was 16 percent, with 47 women elected to the National Assembly and three to the Senate. Women were elected to three of the 47 governorships. The constitution provides for the representation in government of ethnic minorities, but implementation was incomplete. The constitution also calls for persons with disabilities to hold a minimum of 5 percent of seats in the Senate and National Assembly. According to an October report by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), persons with disabilities comprised only 2.8 percent of the Senate and National Assembly.

Morocco

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy under which ultimate authority rests with King Mohammed VI, who presides over the Council of Ministers. The king shares executive authority with the head of government (prime minister). According to the constitution, the king appoints the head of government from the political party with the most seats in parliament and approves members of the government nominated by the head of government.

The law provides for, and citizens participated in, free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage for parliament’s Chamber of Representatives and municipal and regional councils. Regional and professional bodies indirectly elected members of parliament’s less powerful Chamber of Counselors.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October 2016 the country held direct elections for the Chamber of Representatives (the more powerful lower house of parliament). The major political parties and domestic observers considered the elections free, fair, and transparent. International observers considered the elections credible; noting voters were able to choose freely and the process was free of systemic irregularities. As stipulated by the constitution, the king tasked the Party of Justice and Development, which won the most seats in the newly elected chamber, to form a governing coalition and nominate new ministers. The new government was seated on April 6.

Political Parties and Political Participation: A political party may not legally challenge Islam as the state religion, the institution of the monarchy, or the country’s territorial integrity. The law prohibits basing a party on a religious, ethnic, or regional identity.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Voters elected a record number of women in the October 2016 elections, although very few subsequently won leadership positions as ministers or parliamentary committee presidents.

Namibia

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In the 2015 regional and local council elections, the ruling Swapo party won 112 of 121 regional council seats and gained control of 54 of 57 local districts. Voting proceeded in an orderly and effective manner with no reports of politically motivated violence or voter intimidation. In the 2014 presidential and parliamentary elections, voters elected Swapo candidate Hage Geingob president with 87 percent of the vote. Swapo candidates won 77 of the 96 elected seats (there are also eight appointed seats) in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. International observers characterized the elections in 2014 and 2015 as generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Ruling party policy–the Zebra system–provides for 50 percent of Swapo candidates for parliament to be women. Virtually all of the country’s ethnic minorities had representatives in parliament and in senior positions in the cabinet. The president is from the minority Damara ethnic group. Historic economic and educational disadvantages, however, limited the participation in politics of some ethnic groups, such as the San and Himba.

South Africa

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In August 2016 the country held municipal elections to elect councils for all district, metropolitan, and local municipalities in each of the nine provinces. The ANC won 54 percent of the vote, the leading opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party 27 percent, and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) 8 percent. According to the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, voter turnout was 58 percent–the highest local election turnout since the fall of apartheid. The institute said the elections were transparent, fair, credible, and in line with the constitutional and legal framework for elections.

Nevertheless, violent protests occurred prior to the election in Pretoria after some ANC members rejected the party’s choice of mayoral candidate. Protests marked by intermittent violence and looting lasted for three days. Five persons died and approximately 200 were arrested and charged with public violence, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, possession of stolen property, and malicious damage to property.

In the 2014 national election, the ruling ANC won 62 percent of the vote and 249 of 400 seats in the National Assembly, the dominant lower chamber of parliament. Election observers, including the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, characterized the election as generally free and fair. The government, however, for the first time restricted diplomatic election observers to chiefs of mission only, effectively prohibiting diplomatic missions from observing elections. Following the general election, parliament re-elected Jacob Zuma as the country’s president. The DA won 89 parliamentary seats, the EFF won 25, and the IFP won 10. The remaining 27 seats in parliament were allocated to nine other political parties based on a proportional vote-count formula. In the National Council of Provinces, the upper house of parliament, the ANC held 33 seats, the DA 13, and the EFF six. The remaining two seats were allocated to two other parties.

Although violence occurred in the May 2014 election, the Independent Electoral Commission called the election the most peaceful on record. The election coincided, however, with a record number of protests over poor government services and other local grievances. The government preemptively deployed a record 20,000 police and army personnel to potential trouble spots to maintain order. There were reports of electoral irregularities, including attempted vote rigging, but the commission responded quickly to the incidents, and political parties had an opportunity to challenge results in wards where incidents occurred.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Opposition parties accused the SABC, the state-owned public broadcaster, of favoring the ruling party in its news coverage and advertising policies. Prior to the municipal elections, smaller political parties criticized the SABC for not covering their events. SABC regulations, however, dictate coverage should be proportional to the percentage of votes won in the previous election, and independent observers did not find the SABC violated this regulation.

Opposition parties claimed the ANC and DA used state resources for political purposes in the provinces under their control. Commonly prior to the municipal and national elections, the ANC had reportedly handed out government food parcels to potential voters at political rallies, tied social grants to voting for the ANC, begun (but did not complete) infrastructure projects, and created temporary government jobs for the election period for ANC voters. Through a cadre deployment system, the ruling party controls and appoints party members to thousands of civil service positions in government ministries, and provincial and municipal governments. During the year the ANC requested political contributions from all civil servants.

Opposition parties accused ANC members of interference in or interruption of opposition party meetings, assaults and threats of assault, and punishing opposition party members by denying them jobs, contracts, and services. Intimidation allegedly included aggressive taunting chants and dances (toyi-toying) outside opposition party meetings to disrupt proceedings. This sometimes devolved into threats against persons entering and exiting meetings, mock charges, and, in rare cases, assault or murder. In some cases local ruling party leaders denied opposition parties permission to rent public facilities for political meetings. Opposition parties that won previously ANC-governed municipalities in the 2016 local elections accused the ANC of disruption and blocking government efforts and service delivery to municipal residents.

During the State of the Nation Address, which marks the opening of parliament, parliamentary security physically removed EFF members of parliament after the party’s interjections delayed proceedings for more than an hour. The forced removal resulted in a physical altercation between the EFF and security personnel. DA members of parliament walked out of parliament in protest over the heavy-handed security presence. Opposition parties filed legal action against the ANC speaker of the assembly for militarizing parliamentary proceedings; the case was still pending in court.

There were reports government officials publicly threatened to boycott private businesses that criticized government policy.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and/or members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities participated. Cultural factors, however, limited women’s political participation. There were an estimated 77 minority (nonblack) members in the 400-seat National Assembly. There were nine minority members among the 54 permanent members of the National Council of Provinces and five minority members in the 72-member cabinet.

South Sudan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The transitional constitution provides that every citizen has the right to participate in elections in accordance with the constitution and the law. While the 2010 Sudan-wide elections did not wholly meet international standards, international observers believed Kiir’s election reflected the will of a large majority of Southern Sudanese. International observers considered the 2011 referendum on South Sudanese self-determination, in which 98 percent of voters chose to separate from Sudan, to be free and fair.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The transitional constitution required an election be held by July 2015, the date on which the first postindependence presidential term ended. The peace agreement, which calls for elections at the end of a transitional period, superseded the transitional constitution. Intense violence and insecurity due to the conflict were additional factors in the government’s decision to postpone elections. In March 2015 the TNLA passed amendments to the transitional constitution extending the terms of the president, the national legislature, and the state assemblies for three years until July 2018.

Under the terms of the peace agreement signed in August 2015, elections are to be held 30 months following the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity. Interim objectives include the drafting and approval of a new constitution, completing a national census, improving the capacity of the National Elections Commission, and implementing an extensive outreach campaign to educate voters and bring them into the political process. Multiple institutions, ranging from the United Nations to NGOs, were against holding the July 2018 elections until a ceasefire and safer, credible, inclusive conditions could be implemented for a fair election process.

An unfavorable environment for media and citizen expression hampered participation in political processes.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The SPLM enjoyed a near monopoly of power in the government and continued to be the most broadly recognized political entity since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. SPLM membership conferred political and financial advantages, and there was great reluctance by opposition parties to shed the SPLM name. For example, the main opposition party was referred to as the SPLM-IO, and most other political parties were either offshoots of the SPLM or affiliated with it.

Under the terms of the 2015 peace agreement, President Kiir’s SPLM faction was allocated a 53 percent share of the executive branch. A 33-percent share was assigned to the SPLM-IO, led by Riek Machar Teny, who returned to Juba in April to serve as first vice president. After fighting between the SPLA and SPLA-IO broke out in Juba in July 2016, however, Machar fled the country. His SPLM-IO fractured into two factions, and, after the July 2016 violence, the government recognized only the faction led by current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai.

Under the terms of the peace agreement, opposition parties head 14 of 30 ministries. They also held a small minority of seats in the TNLA and the Council of States. Many opposition members who were supporters of Machar argued the current SPLM-IO led by Taban Deng Gai was no longer “the true opposition,” characterizing its membership to consist of opposition figures who had defected to the government.

Opposition parties complained that at times the government harassed party members. The Political Parties Act, passed in 2012, mandated specific requirements for those political parties that existed in a unified Sudan prior to South Sudan’s independence in 2011. Representatives of the Political Parties Council (an independent body created by the law and created in early February to manage political party matters) estimated the requirements affected approximately 25 parties. In October 2016 the Political Parties Council issued a call for preindependence parties to register within 90 days, stating no party had officially registered since independence; 11 political parties were registered in April. Parties formed after independence are not subject to the 90-day deadline. Registration (for both pre-and postindependence parties) included strict requirements that a party show a minimum number of supporters in eight of the country’s 10 states (to avoid ethnically based parties) and adopt a party constitution and manifesto before the deadline.

Participation of Women and Minorities: The transitional constitution requires at least 25 percent female participation in the legislative and executive branches of government at the national and state levels. The Local Government Act requires at least 25 percent of county commissioners and 25 percent of county councilors be women. The Council of Traditional Authority Leaders Act requires at least two of nine members of the council be women.

These laws were inconsistently implemented at both the state and national levels. While women made gains in both the TNLA and in the executive branch (see below), they remained marginalized in the judiciary, local governments, and among traditional leaders. Representation was particularly poor at the local level, where implementation of the 2009 act’s provisions was particularly wanting. The current system also devolved substantial candidate selection power to political party leaders, very few of whom were women.

Women held 87 of the 296 filled seats in the TNLA but occupied only six of the 50 seats in the Council of States. That number increased with appointment of more women to the TNLA (no exact figure was available). The government did not meet the 25 percent representation requirement for women at the state level. No women were selected for posts during the president’s December round of caretaker governor appointments. The governor of Warrap State, the only female governor, was relieved of her duties. Six women served in the 30-member cabinet, and one of eight deputy ministers was a woman.

Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors limited women’s participation in government. Women tended to be discouraged from assuming leadership positions because of the belief such activities conflicted with their domestic duties.

Several ethnic groups remained underrepresented or unrepresented in government, and the conflict exacerbated ethnic tensions and the imbalance in national and state level political institutions.

The absence of translations of the constitution in Arabic or local languages limited the ability of minority populations to engage meaningfully in political dialogue and contributed to low turnout for several consultations on a permanent constitution that took place around the country.

Sudan

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The country continued to operate under the Interim National Constitution of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage. Citizens were unable to exercise this right in practice. Post-CPA provisions provide for a referendum on the status of Abyei and popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. In Abyei the Ngok Dinka held a unilateral referendum in 2013, which the international community did not recognize. No popular consultations took place during the year in either Southern Kordofan or Blue Nile.

Several parts of the CPA, designed to clarify the status of southern-aligned groups remaining in the north following South Sudan’s secession continued to be the subject of negotiations between the governments of Sudan, South Sudan, and rebel groups. Peace negotiations for the Two Areas and Darfur continued to stall. Neither Sudan nor South Sudan progressed toward a resolution on the final status of Abyei.

The Darfur Referendum, which took place in April 2016, was conducted to determine whether Darfur would be administered via the current system of five states or as one regional administration. Observers from the African Union (AU) and the League of Arab States monitored the referendum. The Darfur Referendum Commission announced that more than 97 percent of voters had opted to keep Darfur’s current administrative configuration. Human rights observers said the government believed a unified Darfur would give rebels a platform to push for independence just as South Sudan did successfully in 2011.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The national-level executive and legislative elections, held in April 2015, did not meet international standards. The government failed to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment. Restrictions on political rights and freedoms, lack of a credible national dialogue, and the continuation of armed conflict on the country’s peripheries contributed to a very low voter turnout. Observers noted numerous problems with the pre-election environment. The legal framework did not protect basic freedoms of assembly, speech, and press. Security forces restricted the actions of opposition parties and arrested opposition members and supporters. Additionally, there were reported acts of violence during the election period (see section 1.c.).

The main opposition parties–Umma National Party, National Consensus Forces, Sudanese Congress Party, Sudanese Communist Party, and the Popular Congress Party–boycotted the election; only the ruling NCP party and National Unity parties participated.

According to the chair of the National Election Commission, 5,584,863 votes were counted in the election, representing approximately a 46-percent participation rate. According to the AU and other observers, however, turnout was considerably lower. Following the elections the National Assembly consisted of 426 seats (Upper House). The NCP held 323 seats, Democratic Unionist Party 25, and independents 19 seats; other minor political parties won the remaining seats. The independents, many of whom were previously ejected from the ruling NCP, were prevented by the government from forming a parliamentary group. The States Council (Lower House) consisted of 54 members, with each state represented by three members. The NCP had 36 members in the Lower House.

General elections for president and the National Assembly are scheduled to be held every five years. The next general election is scheduled for April 2020. The previous (nationwide excluding conflict areas) gubernatorial election was held in April 2010. The National Assembly changed the constitution in January 2015 to authorize the president to appoint the governors instead of voters selecting them. Under this amendment President Bashir appointed 18 state governors.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The NCP dominated the political landscape, controlling all of the regional governorships and holding a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. The Original Democratic Unionist Party, the Registered Faction Democratic Unionist Party, and independents held the remaining seats.

The Political Parties Affairs Council oversees the registration of political parties. The ruling party controls the council; it is not an independent body. The council continued to refuse to register the Republican (Jamhori) Party, which opposes violent extremism and promotes secularism. The party leader condemned the decision and filed a complaint in the Constitutional Court, which remained pending at year’s end.

The Political Parties Affairs Council listed 92 registered political parties. The Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party have never registered with the government. The government continued to harass some opposition leaders who spoke with representatives of foreign organizations or embassies or travelled abroad (see section 2.d.).

Authorities monitored and impeded political party meetings and activities, restricted political party demonstrations, used excessive force to break them up, and arrested opposition party members.

In December 2016 the National Legislature ratified constitutional amendments recommended by the National Dialogue, which concluded in October 2015. The amendments included allowing the creation of a position of prime minister, the appointment of additional representatives to the parliament, and the separation of the Office of the Attorney General from the Ministry of Justice. On March 1, President Bashir appointed First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh as the first prime minister since 1989, following the parliamentary decision to reinstate that position. In May the new prime minister announced the creation of the National Consensus Government. The High Committee established to monitor National Dialogue outcomes implementation agreed to establish five commissions: the Anti-Corruption Commission; Election Commission; Constitution Commission; the Higher Council for Peace, and the Political Parties Commission. By year’s end it remained unclear what direct impact these amendments had on respect for rule of law and protection of human rights in the country.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Women have the right to vote and hold public office. Since the 2015 elections, women have held 30 percent of the National Assembly seats and 35 percent of the Senate seats. Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors limited the participation of women in political life. A few religious minorities participated in government. There were prominent Coptic Christian politicians within the National Assembly, Khartoum city government, and Khartoum state assembly. A member of the national election commission was Coptic. A female Anglican served as the state minister of water resources and electricity.

Tunisia

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. On February 2, parliament passed an electoral law that codified regulations regarding municipal and local elections, as well as granting members of the armed forces and security services the right to vote. Security forces had historically been denied suffrage on the grounds that the security forces must be “completely impartial.”

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Citizens exercised their ability to vote in free, fair, and transparent elections in 2014 for legislative and two rounds of presidential elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Of the approximately 200 registered parties, 70 ran electoral lists in the 2014 parliamentary elections. Authorities rejected parties that did not receive accreditation due to incomplete applications or because their programs were inconsistent with laws prohibiting discrimination and parties based on religion.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women and/or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Women continued to be politically active but faced societal barriers to their political participation.

Western Sahara

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Moroccan law and practice apply. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October 2016 Morocco held direct elections for the Chamber of Representatives (the lower house of parliament). Registered voters in Western Sahara elected representatives to fill 13 regionally designated seats and for parties’ candidates to fill the nationally allocated quotas for women and youth representatives. The major political parties and domestic observers considered the elections free, fair, and transparent. International observers considered the elections credible, noting voters were able to choose freely, and deemed the process relatively free of irregularities.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Moroccan law and practice apply. No Moroccan laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and participation of women and minorities was substantively similar to that in internationally recognized Morocco. A substantial number of candidates for elected offices self-identified as Sahrawi. For more information, see the Department of State’s 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights for Morocco.

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