2016 will go down as an unforgettable year in the electoral sphere for a lot of people and countries. It has been a year of change and surprises. In 2015, Donald Trump came on to the scene as an outsider with little or no political experience, but after dislodging 16 other republican candidates, he pulled the surprise of the year to emerge the 45th president of the United States of America.

It is in the same year that that Africa’s second longest serving president announced his will to step down just after legendary President indicated he might be retiring in a couple of years. Gambia’s president also accepted defeat in what would have gone down as the biggest surprise of the continent before he made an awkward u-turn. As the year drew to an end, the wind of change blew in Ghana as opposition candidate Nana Akudo defeated president JD Mahama at the polls to become the president-elect of fast-paced developing west African nation.

As some other nations get ready for general elections in 2017, it however remains to be seen if the trend of change will have a place in those countries or they will stick to status quo. Below are five nation-defining elections to look out for in 2017.



Oil rich southern African country Angola will head to the polls next year in a general election to elect parliamentarians who will in turn elect the president.

Angola’s Africa’s second longest serving president, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos announced earlier in the year he won’t be contesting for election after 37 years in power. He will, however, be under intense spotlight to ensure a smooth transition of power for the first time in 37 years. Dos Santos’ political party, the MPLA, have announced current prime minister, Joao Lourenco as the presidential candidate for the party. The 2017 elections will only be the third time the country will be heading to the poll after the civil war ended in 2002.

Under Angolan electoral rules, the parties submit presidential candidates to the electoral bodies, but the candidate of the party with majority in the parliament automatically becomes the president.


President Paul Kagame of Rwanda

The 2017 Rwandan presidential election will be one of the few elections that will hold to fulfil the constitution of the land. Rwandan president Paul Kagame has been in power since 1994 serving in various positions before becoming the president in 2003 in the first multiparty election in the east African country after incumbent president Pasteu Bizimungu steppped down over a perceived power tussle with Kagame. The president has indicated his intention to run again for his third five-year term. Kagame is widely expected to record a landslide victory as other parties have refused to name teir presidential candidates barely 8 months to the election. Kagame in 2014 was overwhelmingly voted to remain in power until 2034 in a national consensus. About 6.6 million Kenyans are expected to vote in the upcoming elections, and barring any seismic change, we will be seeing the face of the reportedly much loved Kagame at the helms of affairs of one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.


Outgoing Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Outgoing Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

President Sirleaf Johnson who has been in power since 2005 announced earlier in the year that she would be stepping down at the end of her term, having served the maximum 2-year term allowed by the constitution. The announcement, much expected, has now left former Ballon d’ór winner, George Weah who lost to Sirleaf in 2005 as the favourite to win the election.

The election is a significant one as it remains to be seen who will fill the void that will be left by the iron woman, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.


Kenya’s main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, 71.
Kenya’s main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, 71.

Kenyans will head to the poll in 2017 to elect a new president in a two-round voting system. The eventual winner of the election will be required to attain at least 50% of the votes in the first round, then at least 25 percent of the total votes in the second round. In the same month, elections will also be held for parliamentarians. About 22 million voters are expected partake in the election that could become one of the most expensive on the continent.

President Uhuru Kenyatta who will be contesting for reelection is widely tipped to remain in power even though he faces a stiff competition from popular politician, Raila Odinga, who is taken to be the most qualified for the position. Former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga is the oldest among the candidates at 71, a loss for him at the polls could spell an end to his political ambitions, as he could be too old to run again in 2022.

A loss for Kenyatta would make him the first one-term Kenyan president, a potential reality that see him drop out of politics.


President Ahmed Mohammed of Somaliland
President Ahmed Mohammed of Somaliland

The tiny eastern African country of Somaliland will head to the poll to elect a president in March 2017 for only the third time in the history. In a trend that has permeated the electoral sphere of Africa in 2016, incumbent Somaliland president, Ahmed Mohammed Sillanyo, who became president in 2010, has announced he would be stepping down at the end of his term in 2017. His announcement has now opened the floor for Musa Behi, who has been chosen as the presidential candidate of the ruling party, Peace, Unity and Development, to slug it out with Jamal Al Hussein of the Justice and Development party.

In a Facebook poll earlier in the year, Musa Behi of the Peace, Unity, and Development party led with 37 percent of votes, with 15 percent of voters registering their fears that elections might not hold come next year. Parliamentary election was first scheduled to hold in September 2010, but has since been postponed twice due to unpreparedness of the National Electoral commission.

Somaliland, a country of about 4 million people, broke away from Somalia in 1991 after the Siyad Barre regime led a crackdown on the Somali National movement group in 1988. The group declared an independent Somaliland in 1991, and the country has since been governed by democratically elected governments.



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