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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 based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the people. Citizens exercised this ability at the national level, but did not have that ability at the provincial or municipal levels.

According to the 2010 constitution, presidential and legislative elections should be held every five years. In 2012 citizens elected legislative representatives and the president. The constitution calls for the first-ever local elections; however, the right to elect local leaders remained restricted, and local elections did not occur.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2012 the government held legislative elections and the country’s first postwar presidential election. The ruling MPLA won 71.8 percent of the vote in the legislative elections. Domestic and international observers reported polling throughout the country was peaceful and generally credible, although the ruling party enjoyed advantages due to state control of major media and other resources. Opposition parties contested aspects of the electoral process and the results but accepted their seats in the National Assembly. In 2012 the constitutional court rejected opposition appeals and certified the election results as free and fair.

The central government appoints the provincial governors, and the constitution does not specify a timeline for implementing municipal-level elections. By year’s end, government and ruling party officials had not announced a target date for the municipal elections postponed in 2015. Opposition parties and some members of civil society were dissatisfied with the slow pace and claimed the ruling party lacked the political will to organize municipal elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The ruling MPLA party dominated all political institutions. Political power was concentrated in the presidency and the Council of Ministers, through which the president exercised executive power. The council can enact laws, decrees, and resolutions, assuming most functions normally associated with the legislative branch. The National Assembly consists of 220 deputies elected under a party list proportional representation system. This body has the authority to draft, debate, and pass legislation, but the executive branch often proposed and drafted legislation for the assembly’s approval. After the 2012 legislative elections, opposition deputies held 20 percent of parliamentary seats, up from 13 percent in 2008.

Political parties must be represented in all 18 provinces, but only the MPLA, UNITA, and the Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola, to a lesser extent, had truly national constituencies. By law no political party could limit party membership based on ethnicity, race, or gender.

Several altercations between MPLA and opposition parties’ supporters reportedly occurred during the year. On May 25, a delegation comprising UNITA parliamentarians and local party representatives was attacked in Benguela Province, allegedly by MPLA supporters and local residents, resulting in the deaths of four individuals, including two MPLA supporters and one UNITA supporter. UNITA initiated a parliamentary inquiry into the incident. The Ministry of the Interior referred the case to the PGR, which launched an investigation. On July 1-2, a UNITA party office in the Ramiros neighborhood of Luanda was vandalized and the party flag burned. UNITA party officials and several press reports alleged the vandals responsible were MPLA supporters. On July 1, President dos Santos publicly called on political parties, citizens, and associations to avoid engaging in political intolerance and report incidents of intolerance to appropriate authorities. Opposition politicians alleged a lack of interest by the national police, especially in the provinces, to investigate alleged violence against opposition political parties. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights stated many of the complaints by opposition parties were under investigation.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There are no laws limiting the participation of women and minorities in the political process and women and minorities did participate. Of the 220 deputies in the national assembly, 79 were women. Two women served as governors (out of 18 nationwide), and five women were cabinet ministers (out of 35). The country has multiple linguistic groups, many of which were represented in government.

Burkina Faso

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.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Presidential and legislative elections were held in November 2015. On May 22, elections to replace municipal and regional councils dissolved by the transitional government in 2014 were held. Voter turnout was lower than usual. Voting did not occur in three of the 368 communes. In several areas of the country, the postelectoral selection process of mayors by municipal councils was marred by clashes among political party activists, resulting in at least three deaths and dozens of injuries in Karangasso and Kantchari. The government condemned the violence and promised swift judicial action. By year’s end no legal action was taken against anyone involved in the violence.

The April 2015 electoral code approved by the National Transitional Council (CNT) stipulates the exclusion of certain members of the former political majority. The code states that persons who “supported a constitutional change that led to a popular uprising” are ineligible to be candidates in future elections. In addition to exclusion from the 2015 legislative and presidential elections, a number of candidates were also excluded from the municipal elections in May. In April administrative courts rejected appeals filed by political opponents of the former ruling party against a number of its candidates.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There are no laws limiting the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and members of minorities did participate. Although the gender quota law requires political parties to name women to fill at least 30 percent of the positions on their candidate lists in legislative and municipal elections, no political party met this requirement during the municipal elections. Parties that did not comply with the law received only a portion of their electoral grants from the Ministry of Territorial Administration, Decentralization, and Internal Security. In contrast 39 of the 99 parties that participated in the November 2015 legislative elections adhered to the gender quota law.


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. The country held legislative, communal, and presidential elections during 2015, but the international community and independent domestic organizations widely condemned the process as deeply flawed. Several progovernment CSOs observed and validated the elections. The UN Electoral Mission in Burundi was the sole international observer of the voting; the AU and the EU declined to participate in the process. Intimidation, threats, and bureaucratic hurdles colored the campaigning and voting period, resulting in low voter turnout and a boycott by most opposition parties.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: During 2015 the government held four separate elections, including for communal councils and the National Assembly (June), president (July), the Senate (July), and village councils (August). Citing their inability to campaign fairly and freely, most major opposition parties called on their adherents to boycott the elections. The CNDD-FDD won absolute majorities in the National Assembly and Senate.

The EU’s election observation mission departed in May 2015 after judging that sufficient conditions for credible elections were not met. The AU also declined to send observers. According to the International Crisis Group, the National Independent Electoral Commission and the Ministry of Interior created bureaucratic obstacles to opposition parties, including failing to recognize party leadership, refusing to permit legal party meetings, and favoring CNDD-FDD loyalists for positions on provincial and communal election committees.

Political Parties and Political Participation: According to the law, to qualify for public campaign funding and compete in the legislative and presidential elections, parties needed to be “nationally based” (ethnically and regionally diverse) and demonstrate in writing they were organized and had membership in all provinces. The Ministry of Interior recognized 38 political parties. Two other parties–FNL (Forces for National Liberation)-Rwasa and UPRONA-Nditije–were officially unrecognized. Other parties, such as MSD and Union for Peace and Development, were recognized by the Ministry of Interior but were nevertheless unable to operate due to the government’s intimidation and suppression.

Ministry of Interior interference in opposition party leadership and management kept opposition political parties weak and fractured. The government stated the law allows only legally constituted political parties, coalitions of political parties, and independent candidates to run for office and that unrecognized leaders of parties and political actors not associated with a party could play no role in the political process. This stance effectively disenfranchised parties not recognized by the government and prevented their leaders from developing platforms and running campaigns in the months before the 2015 elections.

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 constitution provides for 30 percent of seats in government for women, and government institutions hired persons after the elections to meet gender, as well as ethnic, quota requirements. Women were not well represented in political parties and held very few leadership positions.

The constitution provides for representation in all elected and appointed government positions for the two largest ethnic groups. The Hutu majority is entitled to no more than 60 percent of government positions and the Tutsi minority to no less than 40 percent. The law designates three seats in each chamber of parliament for the Twa ethnic group, which makes up approximately 1 percent of the population.


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. President Biya and CPDM members, however, controlled key elements of the political process, including the judiciary.

Elections and Political Participation

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

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 were appointed by the president, recompiled 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 lack of expertise of local polling officials, opposition parties generally accepted the results. The high voter turnout (70 percent) and ELECAM’s administration of the election were viewed as major improvements over previous elections.

In October 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, and directly appoints the governors of each of the 10 regions, who generally represented CPDM interests. The president has the power to appoint 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.

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 unfair drawing of voter districts, use of government resources for campaign purposes, interference with the right to organize and publicize views during electoral campaigns, and privileges associated with belonging to the ruling party.

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. Cultural and traditional factors, however, reduced women’s political participation compared to that of men. The law provides that lists of candidates for legislative and municipal elections should consider the sociological components of the constituency, including gender. Women remained underrepresented at all levels of government, but their political participation continued to improve. For the 2013-18 electoral period, women occupied 26 council mayor positions, in comparison with 23 in 2007-13, 10 in 2002-07, two in 1992-97, and one in 1987-92. Women occupied 10 cabinet positions, 76 of 280 parliamentary seats, and other senior level offices, including territorial command and security/defense positions. The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family and civil society organizations such as More Women in Politics continued to promote women’s political participation.

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.

Central African Republic

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.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: After several postponements, the country held a constitutional referendum in December 2015 followed by the first round of presidential and legislative elections. None of the 30 presidential candidates obtained more than 50 percent of the votes required to avoid a second round, which was held on February 14. On January 25, the Transitional Constitutional Court annulled the December 30 legislative elections–due to widespread irregularities and voter intimidation and fraud–and ordered new elections. The rescheduled first-round legislative elections also took place on February 14, with a second round held on March 31. The National Assembly was seated on May 3; elections for the Senate were not held, and no date for them was announced. Central African refugees and members of the diaspora in some neighboring states were able to participate in the elections.

The December 2015 constitutional referendum led to the adoption of a new constitution, with 93 percent of the votes cast in favor; voter turnout was 38 percent.

The first round of presidential and legislative elections took place in December 2015 with a turnout of 62 percent. Refugees located in Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, and Chad were able to vote. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, however, did not allow the estimated 112,000 Central African refugees on its territory to vote.

A total of 415 appeals were lodged contesting the results of the legislative elections, leading the Transitional Constitutional Court to invalidate the ballot and to require a new first round of elections. The appeals were based primarily on allegations of irregularities and fraud, corruption, and intimidation of voters and candidates. The second round of the presidential election and the new first round of the legislative elections took place on February 14. Observers noted a marked improvement in the conduct of the ballot, as the majority of polling stations opened on time and were properly equipped. The Transitional Constitutional Court announced the final results of the presidential election on March 1, confirming the victory of independent candidate Faustin-Archange Touadera with 62.7 percent of the vote over Anicet-George Dologuele, who had 37.3 percent of the vote. The turnout was 58.9 percent. Dologuele quickly conceded defeat and called upon his supporters to accept the results of the ballot. The inauguration of President Touadera took place on March 30.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Four of the 23 cabinet members were women, as were the senior presidential advisors for agriculture and national reconciliation. On April 23, the Constitutional Court announced the provisional results of the second round of the legislative elections and confirmed the election of 128 members of parliament, including 11 women. Some observers believed traditional attitudes and cultural practices limited the ability of women to participate in political life on the same basis as men.

There were four Muslim members, including one Fulani member, of the cabinet.


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 presidential election held from April 8 to 10, President Deby was reelected to a fifth term with 59.92 percent of the vote; Saleh Kebzabo placed second with 12.80 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 were 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.

As originally planned, members of the military were scheduled to vote on April 8, nomads on April 9, and both nomads and “sedentary” civilians on April 10. The plan was modified, and a significant portion of the military voted on April 9. Some military personnel were required to vote in the open, in front of colleagues and superiors. According to 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 (see sections 1.b. and 1.c.).

For example, on November 17, security forces arrested 11 opposition members in N’Djamena during a march called by the National Opposition Front for Alternation and Change. The government charged the 11 with “participating in an unauthorized gathering.” On December 7, the N’Djamena Court of First Instance released all 11 for “unestablished offense.”

On April 8, the first day of voting, the government shut down all access to the internet and SMS/text messaging (see section 2.a.). Many foreign television operators could not cover the post-election 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.

International observers of the 2011 legislative elections, including the EU, African Union, Organization Internationale de la Francophonie, and government and opposition-affiliated civil society actors, deemed the 2011 elections legitimate and credible. There was no election-related violence or evidence of a systematic effort to deny voters their right to choose freely. Security and government officials generally maintained a neutral posture during the election campaign. The presidential vote in 2011 occurred without violence or incident. Local groups, however, criticized the lack of participation by the three opposition candidates and low voter turnout.

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

February 29 was the deadline for candidates to deposit their credentials for the April 10 election with the Constitutional Council, which was charged with validating each candidate’s eligibility to run. Of the 23 candidates who deposited their credentials before the deadline, only 14 were allowed to continue with their campaigns. Nine candidates were disqualified for incomplete files, failure to show proof of payment of the required deposit of 10 million CFA francs ($17,036) to the treasury, or the use of state emblems and colors in their printed materials. Two women registered as candidates, one as an independent, but both reportedly were disqualified.

On February 24, opposition parties led a nationwide shutdown to protest the president’s decision to run for a fifth term. The campaign was run under the slogan Ca Suffit (see section 1.d.). The nationwide strike brought many of the country’s towns and the capital to a halt with markets, schools, transport, district centers, and various operations shut down. It was the sixth major protest against the president since the beginning of the year.

Opposition leaders accused the government of denying them funds and equal broadcast time on state-run media. Despite the ban on opposition rallies imposed by the minister of public security and immigration (see section 2.b.), opposition leaders conducted rallies and marches to protest the results of the election and the inauguration.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process, and women and minorities did so. 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.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

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, but the right was restricted.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The government was constitutionally mandated to hold the presidential election in November, 30 days prior to the end of the president’s second and final term in office on December 19. The government failed to organize the presidential and national legislative elections in accordance with the constitution.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) held indirect gubernatorial elections in March. Incidents of corruption and intimidation during the period preceding the elections, alleged by civil society groups and disqualified candidates, were widely seen as contributing to an unfair process that resulted in the near total control of all governorships by the presidential majority.

CENI last held presidential and parliamentary elections in 2011 and declared Joseph Kabila the winner of the presidential election. Several international observer missions stated the results of the elections were “seriously flawed” and “lacked credibility” due largely to irregularities and a lack of transparency in the vote tabulation process. NGOs reported security forces killed or arbitrarily detained dozens of citizens prior to the voting. The United Nations confirmed at least 41 persons had died at the hands of the SSF throughout the electoral period and security forces physically harmed hundreds. Losing candidates contested at the Supreme Court the election results for approximately 340 of the 500 parliamentary seats. Many of the cases reportedly had little merit. In 2012 the Supreme Court certified the results of 482 parliamentary electoral contests. Denis Engunda of the Christian Democratic Party won election to the National Assembly from Equateur Province in 2012, marking the resolution of the last contested result for the 2011 parliamentary elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Although President Kabila was nominally independent, the president’s political alliance–which includes his former party (the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy), the Alliance of Democratic Forces for Congo, and other parties–enjoyed majority representation in government, parliament, and judicial bodies, including on the Constitutional Court and CENI. State-run media, including television and radio stations, remained the largest source of information for the public and government (see section 2.a.). There were reports of government intimidation of opposition members, such as denying opposition groups the right to assemble peaceably (see section 2.b.), limiting travel within or outside the country, and political influence in the distribution of media content.

The law recognizes opposition parties and provides them with “sacred” rights and obligations. While political parties were generally able to operate without restriction or outside interference, government authorities–sometimes through violent surrogate groups or the SSF–arbitrarily arrested, harassed, attacked, and prevented opposition members from holding public rallies.

On May 4, the day opposition leader Moise Katumbi announced his candidacy for president, the minister of justice launched an investigation and later leveled charges against the former Katanga governor for recruitment of mercenaries. According to Human Rights Watch, SSF arrested at least 27 Katumbi associates between April 22 and May 7 in relation to the trial, which was underway at year’s end.

On September 19-20, protests erupted in Kinshasa over the government’s failure to organize presidential elections in accordance with the constitution. Originally intended as peaceful protests authorized by the government, the demonstrations devolved into violence and looting. According to UNJHRO, at least 53 persons were killed in clashes between protesters and SSF, including seven women, two children, and four police agents. The SSF were responsible for 48 of these deaths. UNJHRO in Kinshasa reported that many of those killed or wounded suffered gunshot wounds to the head and torso, suggesting “shoot-to-kill” orders within the SSF. The government prevented UNJHRO from investigating additional reports of casualties by denying UNJHRO access to morgues, hospitals, and detention centers. The violence also included attacks on numerous ruling and opposition party offices. For instance, a satellite office of the ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) was attacked and damaged along with two PPRD youth offices in Kinshasa. Three offices of parties in the Presidential Majority coalition were also looted, and some banks and government buildings were looted and burned. During the night of September 19-20, SSF attacked the New Forces for Union and Solidarity and Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party headquarters in Kinshasa with RPGs and grenades. They killed as many as 11 civilians in the attack on UDPS headquarters, including seven burned to death, possibly after being tortured and hacked with machetes. Eyewitnesses reported SSF blocked efforts to extinguish the fires and prevented civilians burned during the attack on UDPS headquarters from seeking medical attention.

In a number of districts, known as “chefferies,” traditional chiefs perform the role of a local government administrator. Unelected, they are selected based on local tribal customs (generally based on family inheritance) and then are approved and paid by the government.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Women held 10 percent of the seats in the National Assembly (50 of 500) and 6 percent in the provincial assemblies (43 of 690). Four of 108 senators were women. Among the 37 government ministers and vice ministers, six were women, an increase from that of the government formed in 2012 (from 9 percent to 16 percent). Some observers believed cultural and traditional factors prevented women from participating in political life to the same extent as men.

Some groups, including indigenous people, claimed they had no representation in the Senate, the National Assembly, or provincial assemblies. Discrimination against indigenous groups continued in some areas, such as Equateur, Orientale, and Katanga provinces, and contributed to their lack of political participation (see section 5).

The national electoral law prohibits certain groups of citizens from voting in elections, in particular members of the armed forces and the national police.


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. The government, however, deprived many citizens of this ability by suppressing the opposition and refusing to allow several opposition groups to form legally recognized political parties. The formal structures of representative government and electoral processes had little relevance to the real distribution and exercise of power.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On April 19, the Constitutional Council proclaimed the official and final results of the April 8 presidential election and confirmed the reelection of President Ismail Omar Guelleh for a fourth term in the first round of voting. The Constitutional Council certified that Guelleh was reelected president with 111,389 of 127,933 votes cast, giving him 87.7 percent of the vote. Two opposition and three independent candidates shared the rest of the votes. One opposition group boycotted the election, stating the process was fraudulent. After the election opposition members noted irregularities, including alleging authorities unfairly ejected opposition delegates from polling stations, precluding them from observing the vote tallying. Most opposition leaders called the election results illegitimate.

International observers from the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the Arab League characterized the presidential election as “peaceful,” “calm,” and “sufficiently free and transparent,” but noted irregularities. For example, international observers stated the Union for a Presidential Majority (UMP) coalition continued to provide campaign paraphernalia after the campaign period closed and on the day of the election. Some polling station workers also wore shirts and paraphernalia supporting the UMP. The African Union made a list of 13 recommendations, including the need for an independent electoral commission in charge of overseeing the election process and the counting of votes. The executive branch selected the members of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI).

In contrast to the presidential election, the 2013 legislative elections resulted in a narrow victory for the ruling UMP coalition. According to official results, the USN opposition coalition received 10 seats in the 65-member National Assembly. International observers from the African Union, IGAD, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League characterized the election as free and fair, an assessment that domestic and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) criticized.

There was limited progress on implementing the 2014 framework agreement prior to the presidential election. Nevertheless, following the presidential election, National Assembly opposition leaders and UMP leaders resumed their discussions, as reflected in an October 20 open debate on government policies.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government beat, harassed, and excluded some opposition leaders (see section 1.c.). The government also restricted the operations of opposition parties. According to Freedom House, opposition parties were also “disadvantaged by electoral rules and the government’s abuse of the administrative apparatus.”

For example, on March 28, one of the opposition presidential candidates organized a meeting for supporters in Dikhil and Ali Sabieh. According to human rights groups and opposition officials, security officials held the opposition presidential candidate and his group on the highway going from Djibouti to Dikhil for eight hours, preventing him from attending the rally. Gendarmes seized the phones of the presidential candidate and all other persons present. The gendarmes released the candidate after eight hours.

As in previous years, the Ministry of Interior refused to recognize three opposition political parties, although the political parties continued to operate: the Movement for Development and Liberty, the Movement for Democratic Renewal, and the Rally for Democratic Action and Ecological Development.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Women held eight of 65 seats in the National Assembly, and there were three women in the 23-member cabinet. The president of the Supreme Court, who by law acts as the country’s president in case of the latter’s death or incapacitation, was a woman. Custom and traditional societal discrimination resulted in a secondary role for women in public life.

For the presidential election, CENI had no female members. According to the African Union’s observation mission, women represented 12 percent of personnel working at polling stations and on average 10 percent of delegates for each candidate.

Equatorial Guinea

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the right to choose their government through free and fair elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but the government severely limited this right.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On April 24, President Obiang won a claimed 93.7 percent of the vote in presidential elections that were marred by reports of capricious application of election laws, nontransparent political funding, polling station irregularities, voter fraud, intimidation, and violence. Military personnel and PDGE representatives were present at all voting stations, while opposition representatives were present only at some. Procedures to protect ballot secrecy were disregarded. Photographs of the president remained on public buildings being used as polling stations. Some polling stations closed early with less than 100 percent voter turnout. In violation of the constitution–which requires that presidential elections be held no more than 45 days before or 60 days after the end of the prior presidential term–the election was held 136 days before the end of the president’s term.

In March the government denied the presidential candidacy of CI leader Gabriel Nse Obiang, claiming Nse Obiang had not met the five-year residency requirement mandated by law, although it approved the candidacy of Benedicto Obiang Mangue, leader of the PND, who had Spanish citizenship and resided in Spain. None of the three opposition candidates were from parties represented in the legislature, and critics claimed the three independent candidates (nonparty affiliated) were dummy candidates to provide legitimacy to the election. Some opposition political parties, including one represented in the legislature, chose to boycott the elections in protest.

In the months leading up to the presidential election, security forces violently dispersed opposition rallies and arrested demonstrators and opposition leaders.

In February, for example, police detained Wenceslao Mansogo, deputy head of the CPDS party, and authorities repeatedly detained presidential candidate Avelino Mocache, leader of the Union of Law Center. On April 22, military officials arrested, beat, and tortured CI activists and family members of CI party leader Gabriel Nse Obiang.

The government and the PDGE had an absolute monopoly of national media, leaving opposition political parties with no means to disseminate their message. The PDGE received hourly radio and television coverage before and during the campaign period while opposition parties received none. The PDGE was also able to cover the city in campaign posters and to give away smart phones, promotional cloth, and even cars at campaign events. Opposition events, by contrast, were shut down, and only two opposition billboards were allowed.

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) was stacked in favor of the ruling party. By law the NEC is composed of six judges appointed by the head of the Supreme Court, six government representatives and a secretary appointed by the president; and one representative from each registered political party. Since the president had ultimate authority over the judiciary, all key government employees were required to swear allegiance to the PDGE, and 12 of the 15 political parties–the PDGE and 11 coalition parties–voted as a bloc; only three of the NEC’s members represented the opposition.

The most recent legislative and municipal elections were held in 2013. The PDGE won 98.7 percent of seats in the House of Deputies and the newly created Senate. The opposition CPDS won a single seat in each chamber. The PDGE also won 98.1 percent of city council seats throughout the country. The lopsided results and weak independent monitoring of the electoral process raised suspicions of systematic fraud. The CPDS disputed the results publicly and filed a formal complaint with the NEC, but the government did not address its objections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The PDGE ruled through a complex network of family, clan, and ethnic relationships. Public sector employees were pressured to join the PDGE and even to agree to have their salaries garnished to fund PDGE activities. The party’s near monopoly on power, funding, and access to national media hampered the country’s opposition parties–the CPDS, UP, Popular Action for Equatorial Guinea, and CI parties.

For example, during the year the PDGE conducted a national campaign with extensive media coverage in preparation for the 2016 elections. Opposition parties, however, had no access to media during this period, contravening the National Pact of 1993, the regulating framework for political parties that stipulates access to media and political financing and that provides for opposition political parties to have free weekly national radio and TV spots.

Political parties could receive both private and public funding but were not required to disclose the amount of private funding. In advance of the 2016 presidential elections, only the PDGE received public funding, and the amount was not publicly disclosed, as required by law.

The government subjected opposition members to arbitrary arrest and harassment.

Opposition members reported discrimination in hiring, job retention, and obtaining scholarships and business licenses. They also claimed the government pressured foreign companies not to hire opposition members. Businesses that employed citizens with ties to families, individuals, parties, or groups out of favor with the government reportedly were forced to dismiss those employees or face reprisals.

Registered opposition parties faced restrictions on freedom of speech, association, and assembly. For example, supporters who attended opposition political party campaign rallies were singled out for police interrogation and harassment. Some political parties that existed before the 1992 law establishing procedures to register political parties remained banned, allegedly for “supporting terrorism.”

Civil servants were removed for political reasons and without due process. In June both the executive and judicial branches were restructured, with party affiliation a key factor in obtaining government employment. The ruling party conducted a nationwide campaign, and government employees were required to support it to keep their positions.

The president exercised strong powers as head of state, commander of the armed forces, head of the judiciary, and founder and head of the ruling party. The government generally restricted leadership positions in government to select PDGE members or members of a coalition of loyal parties that campaigned and voted with the PDGE.

In 2011 the government conducted and won a referendum to alter the constitution significantly. The amended constitution concentrates power in the hands of the president and allows President Obiang, who has ruled since 1979, to serve two more seven-year terms. (One of the amendments cancels the presidential age limit of 75 and institutes presidential term limits of two consecutive seven-year mandates, which became effective with the 2016 presidential election, when Obiang was almost 74.) Other amendments establish a senate, an Anticorruption Tribunal (all of whose members are appointed by the president), and a human rights ombudsman, nominated by parliament and ratified by the president. Neither the tribunal nor the human rights ombudsman was operational by year’s end, although the ombudsman had been sworn in. The amendments also create the post of vice president. In a move seen by many as an attempt to consolidate his power, the president appointed his son, Teodoro Obiang, as vice president after the April 24 election.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There are no laws limiting the participation of women in the political process, and women participated. Cultural factors, however, limited women’s political participation, especially in rural areas. Women occupied 10 of 75 Senate seats (including that of the Senate president) and 18 of 100 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Three of the 25 cabinet members were women, one of the 13 delegate ministers was a woman, three of eight vice-ministers were women, and six of 37 secretaries of state were women. In May 2015 the president dissolved the entire judicial branch. The newly appointed Supreme Court continued to be an all-male institution.

The government did not overtly limit minority participation in politics, but members of the Fang ethnic group occupied the top ranks. The group, estimated to constitute 80 percent of the population, continued to exercise dominant political and economic power.


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. Secrecy of the ballot box is provided for by law and observed in practice. Citizens participated in regular presidential, legislative, and municipal elections. Members of the opposition questioned the fairness of the electoral process. The governing party has dominated all levels of government for nearly five decades. Members of the opposition urged the government to reinstate presidential term limits, replace the first-past-the-post system with a two-round voting system, reform the Constitutional Court, and create a more effective biometric voting program–measures opposition members believed would increase the fairness of the electoral system. These demands were a major theme in opposition demonstrations throughout the year.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On August 31, National Electoral Commission (CENAP) announced the reelection of incumbent President and PDG candidate Ali Bongo Ondimba; the president won 50.7 percent of the vote, and leading opposition candidate Jean Ping received 47.2 percent. Voter turnout in the process, which was marred by irregularities, was 59.5 percent. Ali Bongo Ondimba was first elected in 2009, following the death of his father, president Omar Bongo, who died that year after a 41-year rule. International observers questioned the fairness of the vote, noting the president was credited with 95.5 percent of the vote in his home province on a turnout of 99.9 percent. Postelection violence (including the burning of the National Assembly building), significant lapses in respect for human rights, numerous arrests, and accusations of political tampering with the electoral process marred the election. Irregularities included problems with voter lists and registration, polls that opened late, improperly secured ballot boxes, organized proxy voting for members of the military, inconsistent application of rules regarding acceptable identification, and poorly trained poll workers. Authorities censored news coverage and harassed the press. Numerous candidates contested the election results, which the Constitutional Court nevertheless validated on September 23.

In the 2011 National Assembly elections, the PDG won 114 of 120 seats. Regional and local observers deemed the election generally free and fair despite minor irregularities. Observers estimated voter turnout at 34 percent. Opposition and civil society leaders had called for a boycott of these elections. The average turnout in legislative elections was approximately 40 percent.

In 2011 the minister of interior announced changes to the electoral code and the law governing political parties. Key changes included a reduction in the time permitted for revising the electoral list from 60 to 30 days and a decrease in the campaigning periods for legislative elections from 15 to 10 days. The reforms also give CENAP the authority to make decisions with a quorum of only four of the eight board members. Opposition leaders criticized these changes as limits on political participation, since the opposition selects only three of eight CENAP members; government officials or the PDG select the remaining five. They also stated that governing party politicians paid for votes and transported voters from other electoral districts to vote in their electoral districts.

The government introduced and employed biometric identification in voter registration in 2013. Opposition and civil society activists criticized the implementation process as inadequate to prevent fraud.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The PDG has dominated the government since its creation by former president Omar Bongo in 1968. PDG membership conferred advantage in obtaining government positions. Opposition members complained of unfair drawing of voter districts, alleging the president’s home province received disproportionately more parliamentary seats than other provinces. They also stated that the PDG had greater access to government resources for campaign purposes than other parties.

In 2011 the government modified the law pertaining to political parties to prohibit leaders of dissolved political parties from forming new ones or serving on the board of an already existing party for five years after the party’s dissolution. This modification occurred one month after the State Council upheld a court decision to dissolve the National Union Party (NUP) after party president and former interior minister Andre Mba Obame proclaimed himself the country’s president in 2011.

In January 2015 the government reinstituted the NUP after significant lobbying by the international community and reversed the changes to the law prohibiting leaders of dissolved political parties from forming new ones. In August 2015 a NUP candidate won a special election to replace a national assembly member from the PDG who had resigned. During the year the NUP was active in an opposition coalition preparing to compete in presidential and legislative elections.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws prevent women or minorities from voting, running for office, or participating in politics. Some observers believed cultural and traditional factors prevented women from participating in political life to the same extent as men, however. Women held only four of 29 cabinet positions, 18 of 120 National Assembly seats, and only 18 of 102 Senate seats.

Members of all major ethnic groups occupied prominent government civilian and security force positions. Indigenous populations, however, rarely participated in the political process.


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, but citizens were restricted in the exercise of that ability.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: On October 11, 2015, President Alpha Conde won reelection with 58 percent of the vote.

The constitution calls for local elections within six months of the installation of the National Assembly; the latter occurred on January 13, 2013. Local elections were again delayed three times during the year and most recently rescheduled for 2017.

Political Parties and Political Participation: There were no official restrictions on political party formation beyond registration requirements, but parties may not represent a single region or ethnicity.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Observers noted there were cultural constraints on women’s political participation. Five of 34 cabinet ministers were women, as were 25 of the 114 National Assembly deputies. The electoral code requires at least 30 percent of candidates for any party competing for seats in the National Assembly to be women. Not every party adhered to this rule, which was not enforced.

During the October presidential election, one of the eight candidates was a woman from the Green Party.

Minority ethnic groups had representation in the National Assembly, the courts, and the cabinet.


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 based on universal and equal suffrage, and conducted by secret ballot.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In June 2014 President Aziz won reelection to a second and final five-year term with approximately 82 percent of the vote. Although some opposition groups alleged procedural irregularities and inconsistent application of vote counting policies, the Constitutional Council and international observers endorsed the results of the election.

In 2013 the president’s party, the UPR, won 76 of 147 seats in the National Assembly in direct legislative elections, which some opposition parties boycotted.

Voters last elected members of the Senate in 2006. New elections to choose two thirds of the Senate were to have occurred in 2011 but were indefinitely postponed.

On February 11, the Constitutional Council invalidated a government decree calling for renewal of two-thirds of the Senate as unconstitutional. Instead, the council ordered the government to hold elections for the entire senate.

In a May 3 speech, President Aziz announced his intent to dissolve the Senate and replace it with regional councils to focus on development. Such action would require constitutional amendment to abolish the senate and replace it with an indirectly elected body.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government often favored individuals based on political ties.

The Beydane (Arabs) account for at most 30 percent of the population but occupied about 80 percent of top leadership positions. Haratines (Arab slave descendants) constitute at least 45 percent of the population but held less than 10 percent of the positions. The sub-Saharan ethnic groups (Halpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) make up about 25 percent of the population and account for less than 10 percent of top leadership positions.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and minorities in the political process, and women and minorities did so. The law reserves at least 20 seats in the National Assembly for women. Following the 2013 legislative elections, 31 women held seats in the 147-member National Assembly. Of the country’s 29 ministers, eight were women, three were Haratines, and six were from non-Arab, sub-Saharan ethnic groups.


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: Domestic and international observers noted voting-day procedures during the most recent presidential and national legislative elections in October 2014 were generally orderly but lacked transparency during vote tabulation. Some domestic and foreign observers and local civil society organizations criticized irregularities, including delays in observer credentialing, excessive numbers of invalid votes, and inordinately high voter turnout in some districts, which they alleged indicated ballot box stuffing. Renamo did not recognize the election results as legitimate, and Renamo officials initially refused to take their seats in parliament and the provincial assemblies but ended their boycott in February 2015. Frelimo and the Mozambican Democratic Movement (MDM) accepted the results.

During the campaign period, representatives of opposition parties and civil society complained of increased acts of bias and intimidation by the government and Frelimo. For example, in June 2014 election officials in Cabo Delgado Province held local meetings excluding the newly designated Renamo members, alleging a lack of meeting space. Independent reporting corroborated opposition parties’ accusations that Frelimo used state funds and resources for campaign purposes in violation of electoral law. Renamo sought to justify its use of violence by citing alleged fraud in the 2014 elections.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Frelimo continued to dominate the political process as it had throughout the 41 years since independence. Opposition political parties could operate, yet there continued to be occasional restrictions on meetings, unlawful arrests, and other forms of interference and harassment by the government. MDM, the second largest opposition party, won four key mayoral seats in the 2013 municipal elections and seven seats in the 2014 parliamentary elections, but it won only 7 percent of the popular vote in the 2014 presidential contest. Media bias in state-owned outlets in favor of Frelimo continued. The EU election observation mission criticized state-owned or affiliated media bias in its 2014 election report.

Security forces and private citizens continued to harass opposition party members. In one instance Renamo told local media the PRM prevented its members from holding a meeting at a Maputo hotel. According to Renamo, the PRM ordered the hotel to cancel the event, and there was a large police presence when Renamo members arrived. Inacio Dina, PRM general command spokesperson, said the PRM officers were there to ensure safety. There were also reports of three arson attacks against Renamo provincial headquarters in Chimoio, capital of Manica Province.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws, cultural practices, or traditions prevent women or members of minorities from voting, running for office, serving as electoral monitors, or otherwise participating in political life. Women and members of many ethnic groups held key political positions.

Republic of the Congo

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 elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Nevertheless, irregularities restricting this ability occurred in the 2009 presidential, 2012 legislative and 2014 local elections, October 2015 referendum, and the March 2016 presidential elections.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Long-serving incumbent President Denis Sassou N’Guesso was declared winner of the March 20 presidential election in the first round with 60.29 percent of the vote, according to official figures published by the Constitutional Court on April 4. The court cited a 68.92 percent voter turnout among the more than two million eligible voters, with a 100 percent voter turnout in at least three regions. The Constitutional Court rejected a challenge filed by second-place candidate Parfait Kolelas on technical grounds. Throughout the election period, local and international observer groups and diplomatic missions reported widespread fraud and irregularities. Some observer groups deemed the elections free and fair, but observers from these groups later admitted the government underwrote their work.

On February 1, the interior minister issued a decree scheduling the official presidential campaign period to run from March 4 to March 18. Candidates were able to submit applications to run as president from February 5 to 25. Applicants were required to submit a medical certificate, and prospective candidates were required to pay a nonrefundable deposit of 25,000 CFA francs ($43).

The government enacted a few electoral reforms, such as an electoral commission with an independent budget and the use of a single ballot. On March 4, candidate Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko called for a delay of the vote, complaining that the electoral register was inadequate and the new electoral commission was not truly independent.

In advance of the election, the government limited international observation credentials for diplomatic mission to three staff per mission, in stark contrast to previous elections.

On March 20, election day, authorities banned the use of motor vehicles and cut internet, SMS, and cell phone service for 48 hours, with few exceptions. While authorities restored some services, a partial communication blackout lasted until March 26.

Also on election day, international observers witnessed a number of irregularities including: incorrect voter lists; inconsistency in ballot boxes; prefilled voting tally sheets for voter stations in Brazzaville; polling officials allowing and encouraging underage and multiple voting, and instructing voters to vote only for the incumbent; polling stations opening late, and without adequate supplies; polling officials refusing entry to accredited international observers; payments provided to voters to vote for certain candidates; lack of uniform enforcement of voter ID requirements; polling officials, at separate locations, loyal to either the incumbent president or opposition candidates, blocking entry to voters supporting opposing candidates; ruling party loyalists impersonating representatives of other candidates; not posting final vote tally sheets on the exterior wall of polling stations as required; burning ballots after the polling station count; and prohibiting observation at regional and national vote compilation centers.

The electoral law specified the deadline for filing any challenge as five days after the date of the announcement of provisional results. The legal texts did not specify calendar days or working days for filing challenges, resulting in confusion among opposition candidates over the actual deadline, particularly during a period when some communications means were still blocked, making it difficult to relay results outside the capital.

Thousands of persons were paid to attend and transported to propresidential rallies and voting stations using government resources, while opposition supporters faced intimidation and security restrictions on attending their rallies or in trying to vote, according to numerous eyewitness and media accounts.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Many of the opposition parties aligned with two major coalitions during the year, FROCAD and the IDC, to create a unified IDC-FROCAD coalition. Remaining parties allied with the presidential majority.

There were attempts to impede criticism of the government through arrests and routine disruption of political meetings. For example, on March 8, police used tear gas to disperse a crowd supporting presidential candidate Claudine Munari in Pointe-Noire. On March 10, police blocked presidential candidate Andre Okombi Salissa and opposition platform president Charles Zacharie Bowao from leaving Brazzaville to travel to the northern city of Impfondo for campaign purposes. On the same day, police used tear gas to disperse a crowd that had gathered to see presidential candidate Parfait Kolelas in the St. Paul Parish in Dolisie. On March 17, police blocked Kolelas supporters in Brazzaville from attending a large campaign rally, despite the law not requiring permits for rallies during official political campaign seasons.

In the weeks leading up to, and after the March 20 election, police and other internal security service personnel arrested dozens of opposition candidates, their campaign officials, and supporters. For example, from March 25 to 31, police arrested several campaign officials of presidential candidates Mokoko and Okombi Salissa.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit women’s or minorities’ political participation as voters or candidates. Observers suggested cultural constraints might limit the number of women in government. Sexual harassment discouraged women’s participation in political activities. There were 10 women in the 72-seat senate and 13 women in the 139-seat national assembly. There were eight women in the 38-member cabinet appointed on April 30.

In 2014 the president signed a law requiring that women make up 30 percent of each party’s slate of candidates for local or legislative elections. The 2015 constitution granted parity for women in political positions and mandated the creation of a national advisory council for women, but it did not specify whether the promotion of parity related to pay, benefits, appointment to political positions, or other issues.

The political process excludes many indigenous persons. Reasons included their isolation in remote areas, lack of registration, cultural barriers, and stigmatization by the majority Bantu population (see section 6). For example, a local government official reported that during the October 2015 referendum, the voting booth in Sibiti, a rural city with many indigenous persons, was open for only 30 minutes, from 7:30-8:00 a.m. Because indigenous communities in outer villages must travel several hours to reach Sibiti, no one reportedly voted.

The Gambia

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide the ability of citizens to choose their government in free and fair elections; however, citizens were unable to exercise this ability fully in the 2011 presidential election due to government intimidation of voters and ruling party control of the media. The country held generally peaceful national assembly elections in 2012 and local government elections in 2013. The country has an independent electoral commission (IEC), but the president appoints members in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and the Public Service Commission. The current members of the commission have all exceeded their terms in office.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2012 voters elected members of the National Assembly. Six of the seven opposition parties boycotted the voting after the IEC refused to accept demands they had submitted, including for a postponement of the election. President Jammeh’s party, the APRC, won 43 seats, the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) one seat, and independent candidates four seats. In August 2015 the NRP won another seat in a by-election in the Lower Saloum constituency, following the president’s dismissal of the APRC incumbent, Pa Malick Ceesay.

During local elections in 2013, independent candidates won 10 of the 45 wards in which they competed. The ruling APRC party and the NRP were the only parties that participated. Incumbent mayor of Banjul Samba Faal (APRC) lost to independent candidate Abdoulie Bah by a wide margin. In April 2013, before the election, the APRC expelled Bah from the party, citing “manners incompatible with the Party’s code of conduct.” Bah then decided to run as an independent and focused on the poor state of roads in Banjul.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The APRC held 42 of 48 elected seats in the National Assembly and continued to maintain tight control over the political landscape. An additional five seats were filled by presidential appointees. APRC membership conferred advantages, such as expediting government transactions, facilitating access to certain documents, and securing employment contracts. There were eight opposition political parties. In May 2015, six opposition political parties jointly presented a set of 13 proposals and demands for electoral and constitutional reforms before the commencement of a new electoral cycle in 2016. Neither the IEC nor the government met with opposition parties to address the proposals before the elections were held. IEC chairman Alieu Momarr Njai addressed one of the 13 concerns when he revitalized the Interparty Committee to serve as a forum for dialogue and cooperation. President Jammeh’s statement against members of the Mandinka ethnic group limited their rights for political participation. For example, during a June 3 political rally in Talinding, Kanifing Municipal Council, the president reportedly threatened to kill members of the Mandinka tribe, the country’s largest ethnic group (constituting 42 percent of the population). He reportedly said, “I will wipe you out and nothing will come out of it,” and “Anybody who dares to demonstrate, go ahead and see what will happen.”

Participation of Women and Minorities: Observers noted there were cultural constraints on women’s political participation. There were four women in the 53-seat national assembly: three elected and one nominated by the president. At year’s end there were five women in the 21-member cabinet, including the vice president. Of 1,873 village heads, only five were women.

No statistics were available on the percentage of ethnic minority members in the legislature or the cabinet. The president and many members of his administration are from the minority Jola ethnic group.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future