For the last few years the African political landscape has been dominated by high profile changes of leaders and governments. In Angola (2017), Ethiopia (2018), South Africa (2018), Sudan (2019) and Zimbabwe (2018), leadership change promised to bring about not only a new man at the top, but also a new political and economic direction.
But do changes of leaders and governments generate more democratic and responsive governments? The Bertelsmann Transformation Index Africa Report 2020 (BTI), A Changing of the Guards or A Change of Systems?, suggests that we should be cautious about the prospects for rapid political improvements.
Reviewing developments in 44 countries from 2017 to the start of 2019, the report finds that leadership change results in an initial wave of optimism. But ongoing political challenges and constraints mean that it is often a case of “the more things change the more they stay the same”.
Political change occurs gradually in the vast majority of African countries.
More continuity than change
From 2015 to 2019, the general pattern has been for the continent’s more authoritarian states – such as Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea and Rwanda – to make little progress towards democracy. In some cases countries became incrementally more repressive.
At the same time, many of the continent’s more democratic states – including Botswana, Ghana, Mauritius, Senegal and South Africa – have remained “consolidating” or “defective” democracies. Very few of these dropped out of these categories to become “authoritarian” regimes.
A number of countries have seen more significant changes. But in most cases this did not fundamentally change the character of the political system. For example, Cameroon, Chad, Kenya and Tanzania moved further away from lasting political and economic transformation. Meanwhile Angola, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe initially made progress towards it, but these gains were limited – and only lasted for a short period in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
As this brief summary suggests, at a continental level the trajectories of different states have by and large cancelled each other out. Positive trends in some cases were wiped out by negative trends in others.
Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole has thus seen no significant changes to the overall level of democracy, economic management and governance. For example, the index shows that between 2018 and 2020, the overall level of democracy declined by just 0.09, a small shift on a 1-10 scale. This suggests continuity not change.
Leadership changes often disappoint
In almost all cases, positive trends were recorded in countries where leadership change generated hope for political renewal and economic reform. This includes Angola, after President José Eduardo dos Santos stepped down in 2017, and Ethiopia, following the rise to power of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. It also includes Zimbabwe, where the transfer of power from Robert Mugabe to Emmerson Mnangagwa was accompanied by promises that the Zanu-PF government would show greater respect for democratic norms and values in future.
Sierra Leone also recorded a significant improvement in performance following the victory of opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio in the presidential election of 2018. Nigeria has continued to make modest but significant gains in economic management since Muhammadu Buhari replaced Goodluck Jonathan as president in 2015.
The significance of leadership change in all of these processes is an important reminder of the extent to which power has been personalised. But it is important to note that events since the end of the period under review in 2019 have cast doubt on the significance of these transitions.
Most notably, continued and in some cases increasing human rights abuses in countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe suggest that we have seen “a changing of the guards” but not a change of political systems.
Nowhere is this more true than Zimbabwe, where the last few weeks have witnessed a brutal government crackdown. Not only have journalists been arrested on flimsy charges, but the rule of law has been manipulated to keep them in jail. Following this sustained attack on democracy, it is now clear that the Mnangagwa government is no more committed to human rights and civil liberties than its predecessor was.
There is no one ‘Africa’
So what does the future hold? I often get asked what direction Africa is heading in. My answer is always the same: where democracy is concerned, there is no one “Africa”. The Bertelsmann Transformation Index report shows how true this is.
In addition to the well-known differences between leading lights like Botswana and entrenched laggards like Rwanda, there is also a profound regional variation that is less well recognised and understood.
From relatively similar starting points in the early 1990s, there has been a sharp divergence between West and Southern Africa – which have remained comparatively more open and democratic – and Central and Eastern Africa, which remained more closed and authoritarian. There is also some evidence that the average quality of democracy continued to decline in Eastern and Central Africa in the past few years. Because it continues to increase in West Africa, we have seen greater divergence between the two sets of regions.
Figure 1. Average Democracy scores for African regions, BTI 2006-2020*
These variations reflect the historical process through which governments came to power, the kinds of states over which they govern, and the disposition and influence of regional organisations. In particular, East Africa features a number of countries ruled by former rebel armies (Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda). Here political control is underpinned by coercion and a longstanding suspicion of opposition.
This is also a challenge in some Central African states. Here the added complication of long-running conflicts and political instability (Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo) has undermined government performance in many ways.
A number of former military leaders have also governed West African states, including Ghana, Nigeria and Togo. But the proportion has been lower and some countries, such as Senegal, have a long tradition of plural politics and civilian leadership. In a similar vein, Southern Africa features a number of liberation movements. But in a number of cases these developed out of broad-based movements that valued political participation and civil liberties. Partly as a result, former military or rebel leaders have had a less damaging impact on the prospects for democracy in Southern and West Africa.
It is important not to exaggerate these regional differences. There is great variation within them as well as between them. But, this caveat notwithstanding, we should not expect to see any convergence around a common African democratic experience in the next few years. If anything, the gap between the continent’s most democratic and authoritarian regions is likely to become even wider.
NDP candidate Babchuk a fixture in local politics since 2005 – Campbell River Mirror
Michele Babchuk is no stranger to the local political scene having sat on board of school trustees between 2005 and 2014 and then on city council for three terms beginning 2014.
She’s always had an interest in provincial politics and now is pursuing the MLA seat for North Island in the Oct. 24 election as a New Democrat.
“I’ve been interested in provincial politics for a long, long time,” Babchuk said.
In her role as a school trustee, city councillor and as chair of the Strathcona Regional District Board, a position she currently holds, Babchuk has worked her way around provincial ministries for years now. But despite her interest, there hadn’t been an opportunity to get involved at a higher level as outgoing MLA and Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena has held the position since 2005. Trevena announced Sept. 20 she would be stepping down, a day before Premier John Horgan called a snap election.
Later that same day, it was announced that Babchuk had been nominated as the NDP candidate.
“It is something I have been dabbling in for quite a while,” Babchuk said, “but I didn’t know I was going to get the opportunity until quite recently.”
Babchuk sees the top issues for the North Island going into the election campaign are the COVID-19 pandemic and the province’s handling of the crisis, economic recovery, community resilience and connectivity.
Babchuk says she is “extremely happy” with the way the COVID-19 emergency has been handled by the provincial government.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be top of mind for North Islanders for the foreseeable future and I am extremely happy with the way the emergency has been handled by Premier Horgan and his government,” Babchuk said.
But out of that, economic recovery and jobs are going to be an issue moving forward, Babchuk said. Resiliency refers to the community’s ability to keep jobs in the community re-start the local economy.
Community resiliency and the environment are going to be big issues as well. Another issue of importance is connectivity
“I also believe that connectivity is going to be on the list,” Babchuk said. “That’s what people on the North Island keep telling me are important.”
Connectivity more so than ever has become “absolutely imperative” for rural and remote communities because we are finding through the COVID-19 pandemic that people are even more isolated and so we have to do things differently, Babchuk said. The Strathcona Regional District and the Connected Coast project has been developing plans for improving community broadband Internet plans for rural communities like Kyuqyot, Quadra Island, Sayward, Tahsis and Zeballos.
The BC Recovery Plan has contributed $90 million into connectivity and to be able to start delivering the connectivity that those communities and the regional district have been pursuing is “amazing,” Babchuk said.
Homelessness has been a big issue for the City of Campbell River and Babchuk has been in the thick of that as a city councillor. It is technically a provincial responsibility and Babchuk will continue to advocate for housing issues.
She points out that the province has been investing heavily in social housing in Campbell River with a number of housing projects coming online through BC Housing. She referenced the Makola housing project, the purchase of the Heritage River Inn to provide housing for victims of an apartment fire, the acquisition of the Rose Bowl Restaurant to be converted into transitional housing and also the announcement last month about the construction of a supportive housing facility on Dogwood Street. In addition, Linda’s Place was brought onstream through the Head Injury Support Society and soon we will see an expansion to Rose Harbour, the supportive housing facility for women.
“I am really happy and really excited to take up this challenge to run as the NDP candidate in the North Island,” Babchuk said. “We need to do the policy and relationship building. We don’t do this in silos. It takes the whole community and it takes a whole bunch of collaboration and relationship-building to make all of this happen. So I am excited to be part of that team I am excited to work in caucus with a great premier, Premier Horgan, and I hope the people will consider me on Oct. 24.”
Curley: Conservative millennials wary about talking politics – Boston Herald
Since I started working in the political world, I’ve been asked one question over and over, “What do your friends think about your political leanings?”
The truth is that for the most part I don’t usually discuss politics with my close friends. We talk about “Real Housewives of New York” and wedding planning and celebrity breakups and work stress and podcast recommendations and eyebrow pencils and diets and desserts.
Maintaining my few close friendships trumps (no pun intended) my temptation to talk about Biden’s mental decline or #FillingTheSeat.
But I do understand why the question comes up time and again. Like most movie stars, professional athletes and famous musicians — millennials do tend to lean left. Need proof? Check out social media.
Instagram has changed drastically over the last few years. Formerly used as an app to post pictures of puppies and iced coffee, the “gram” is now heavily focused on politics.
Some people’s posts are more subtle than others. While one of my followers implores people to vote “like their life depends on it,” another just cuts to the chase and posts, “A vote for Trump is a vote for racism.”
Needless to say, when I come across someone who dares share an opinion that is pro-Trump on a public platform, I remember it.
So I decided to reach out to a few of these rare vocally conservative Millennials.
The first person I talked to was … let’s call her “Yvonne.”
Yvonne is a 27-year-old woman from Boston who posts on Twitter about everything from Joe Biden’s teleprompter disasters to the dangers of socialism.
Maybe she could shed some light on the lack of conservative voices on social media, I thought, so I typed in her username on Twitter to message her — but nothing came up. I found her on Instagram and reached out that way.
“Did you delete your Twitter account??” I asked.
She replied, “Yeah. I’m scared to get into trouble or that people will hate me.”
This column was supposed to be about fearless young republicans — and my first example had retreated.
But I was still intrigued.
What did she mean by “getting into trouble”? Was she scared about work?
She immediately responded, “Work, losing friends, guys thinking I’m crazy, etc.”
Yvonne informed me that she would most likely reactivate her account, but that she was taking a break. Her hiatus was brief — she is back (and better than ever) on Twitter.
Next, I reached out to a college acquaintance who occasionally posts his dislike for far-left Democratic policies. We will call him “Danny,” and he currently lives in San Francisco where he works in finance.
He did not mince words, writing, “I will be the first to tell you — Donald Trump certainly has his flaws. By no means am I a staunch ’Trump guy’. But as a conservative, I can’t stand the thought of the Democrats running this country — especially after living through what they have done to a beautiful city like San Francisco.”
Later, I asked the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s constituent if he ever feared any repercussions for sharing his views.
“Yes definitely; I’ve toned it down a little bit for that reason. I think ultimately corporate culture will get so toxic that overly ‘progressive’ companies will experience a brain drain.”
So their answers were similar — two conservative people, confident in their viewpoints, but cautious of the “tolerant” powers that be.
The expression goes that the loudest voice in the room isn’t always the right one. Well, I can assure you that the loudest voices on social media are most certainly the left ones. But that doesn’t mean the opposing voices aren’t speaking up — they just have to be a bit more careful than their friends.
Yvonne told me she received several private replies to her latest post of a Trumptilla boat parade. They were all positive.
Danny acknowledged, “The more I post, the more I have both subtle and overt ‘thumbs-up’ from people whom I’ve never discussed politics with.”
Maybe there is a silent majority — and maybe there are even a few silent Millennials.
Who is Andrew Wilkinson? 'An unusual person to be in politics' says former BC Liberal colleague – CTV News Vancouver
Former cabinet colleague Bill Bennett warns anyone verbally sparring with B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson to be prepared.
“It’s easy to fall into a trap when you’re arguing with Andrew,” Bennett said in an interview. “Without knowing it you end up in a dead-end canyon, wondering how the heck you’re going to get out of it. He’s a very logical person and he won’t say anything more than he has to say.”
The B.C. election is Wilkinson’s first as party leader, and part of his challenge is that his predecessor was Christy Clark, whose magnetic personality was a draw, Bennett said.
“He’s an unusual person to be in politics and he’s probably an unusual person to be running for premier of the province,” said Bennett, who co-chaired Wilkinson’s leadership campaign after Clark resigned in 2017 following the Liberals’ defeat after 16 years in power.
But Bennett said there’s substance to Wilkinson, 63, who attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and worked as a doctor in three small B.C. communities for about three years in the 1980s before becoming a lawyer.
“He’s not charismatic. He’s not Christy, he’s not Ralph Klein,” Bennett said, referring to a former premier of Alberta.
“He’s not colourful, but he’s very smart. And he’s got a good heart. He cares about people, I can tell you that.”
Bennett, who represented the riding of Kootenay East for 16 years and left politics in 2017, said Wilkinson got into politics “for the right reasons,” not for a “popularity contest.”
Where flair sometimes fails him, fairness and a solid argument are among Wilkinson’s best qualities, Bennett said, adding the avid birder who grew up hunting with his father has learned to “measure his words.”
That’s after some of Wilkinson’s words have fallen flat.
In one instance this year he apologized for his choice of words after characterizing an NDP throne speech proposal to give five paid work days to people leaving domestic violence as pay for people in a “tough marriage” during a radio interview.
In a tweet shortly afterwards, Wilkinson said he used the “wrong choice of words and I got it wrong. Victims of domestic violence need their voices heard and our unwavering support, and I want everyone to know they have that with me.”
Wilkinson, who represents the riding of Vancouver-Quilchena on the city’s west side, was criticized by the housing minister as being “out of touch” for saying in a budget speech last year that being a renter can be “a wacky time of life, but it can be really enjoyable.”
He later clarified his remarks, saying on Twitter that as a renter for 15 years and working a low-paying job he knows what “it feels like to worry about making ends meet each month. I know what it feels like to dream of a better situation, more choice and freedom in life.”
He said in an interview that his main interest in becoming leader was to improve the lives of people through policies that spur the economy, including the creation of more daycare spaces and services for those who are addicted to illicit substances in a province where over 5,800 people have fatally overdosed since a public health emergency was declared in 2016.
“We’ve said for two years now that we need to have a pathway to get people off drugs,” Wilkinson said. “As someone who trained in medicine, I have some ideas about that and I’ll be rolling them out in the next week or so.”
Wilkinson, who was born in Brisbane, Australia, said he had “very humble beginnings” in Kamloops, B.C., where his family immigrated in 1962 after his father accepted a job with the federal Agriculture Department as a scientist working on cattle parasites.
“I grew up delivering newspapers as a kid and pumping gas in high school. And I paid my entire way through university with my own funds so I’ve worked hard to get where I did and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a successful life. And I hope to bring those set of skills to this job.”
Wilkinson was elected in 2013 and became technology minister and then minister of advanced education two years later before serving for a short time as attorney general prior to the 2017 election.
He cycles or runs daily and kayaks in the summer while cross-country and downhill skiing in the winter. He has been married since 1993 to Barbara Grantham and the couple has three grown children in their 20s.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2020.
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