Africa’s hot election market is here: how politicians target money

Image copyright AFP Image caption There are seven candidates competing to become Libyan prime minister, after Fayez al-Sarraj stepped down

One of Africa’s hottest election markets is the UAE, where Islamic reformers are helping to pave the way for a transition to parliamentary rule.

At least five countries in the region are in the process of electing constitutional or presidential candidates from as far afield as Nepal and Ethiopia.

Have you ever asked yourself: “Why do African countries always let foreign experts design their political systems?”

When they do, those same experts are usually a favoured candidate of the Western-backed governments or friendly business interests.

Read more: Why foreign countries are throwing cash at African politicians.

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An example of this is in Sudan, where a popular democracy project backed by Somalia and Ethiopia is at the forefront of voting to elect a new president.

Although several US-trained tribal and community elder leaders are standing, the favourite, Susumu Otema, a British-educated Catholic entrepreneur from the province of Northern Kordofan, has endorsements from the US and Sudanese opposition parties.

He is also the front-runner in the race to be the next prime minister.

Mr Otema, a former rebel leader, has already conducted the “democratic drill” that the World Bank is promoting to members of the African Union and is now going head-to-head with representatives of two of his enemies: President Omar al-Bashir and his unelected vice-president.

Many voters in Khartoum are however reluctant to opt for someone of Arab origin when the majority of the population are ethnic Arabs and relations are already tense between President Bashir and neighbouring Sudan, which has blocked its oil exports from the African country.

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Even so, Mr Otema remains very popular, with analysts saying he would be a very hard sell to security forces should he be elected.

Although the result is not clear, the military in Khartoum has played a key role in the election, partly to make a point to the US, which has criticised it for human rights abuses.

Mr Otema’s party declared last week that it would give back its seats in parliament, accusing government security forces of attacking its voters.

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