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Cling-On elections now more prevalent in Africa

By Andrew Harding

Zimbabwe did it once. And could well do it again next year. Kenya did it too, and is still paying the price. Now Ivory Coast seems to be following the same cynical, wretched, familiar path.

We’re talking, of course, about a very specific – and right now, very African – type of election. One where the incumbent party or president uses violence, or the threat of violence, as a convenient device enabling it/him to ignore the actual election results and cling to office thanks to some expensively, externally mediated “power-sharing” arrangement.

It may not be an African phenomenon. But it certainly feels like one right now. And at its heart, of course, lies that awkward gap between the rulers and the ruled – a gap that seemed to be narrowing in some parts of the continent, but which remains an unbridgeable chasm in so many other places.

I’m not sure if this type of “election” is a blip, a trend, the last gasp of a particular generation of leaders, or something else altogether. But it does seem like an event in need of a proper title.

I’ve been scratching my head and badgering my colleagues and have so far only come up with “a Klingon election” – a feeble nod towards Star Trek and the foot-dragging instincts of the Gbagbos and Mugabes of this world. Surely you can coin a better phrase…

Andrew Harding  is the BBC’s Africa correspondent