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Rethinking and reforming the African Union Commission elections

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Recently, in July 2012, the high-profile and bitterly fought nine-month race for the post of Chair of the African Union (AU) Commission, between Dr Jean Ping of Gabon, and his main challenger, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, culminated in the latter's victory. Her victory came after the deadlock at the Eighteenth AU Summit in January 2012. Borne out of the considered need for a quick fix through reliance on a vote of expediency, the election of Dr Dlamini-Zuma represented a political resolution to the crisis that arose due to the earlier ongoing electoral deadlock. Far from being a competitive election by design, the 2012 AU Commission election by default became transformed into an intensely fought campaign that put the AU in the limelight. This article briefly introduces the electoral process, explains in detail the voting behaviour of AU member states, and offers five specific reasons for the victory of Dr Dlamini-Zuma. On the surface the election looks very competitive, but the article explains why this is not the case. To create greater competition for these posts, the AU needs to overhaul the nomination process and the voting procedure. In this regard, the article proffers detailed analysis and proposes a radical revision of the existing criteria for the nomination. The article also proposes specific recommendations for the amendment of the rules of procedure of the AU Assembly to allow for a qualified majority as a deadlock breaker in the fifth round. It also assesses whether the integrity of the AU Commission election was damaged during the campaigning and voting process. In this regard, it recommends the development of a code of conduct for future elections at the AU.
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African Security Review 21.4, December 2012, 64–78
Dr Mehari Taddele Maru is
Progra mme Manager for t he
African Confl ict Prevention
and Risk A nalysis Prog ramme
at Instit ute for Securit y
Studies , Addis Ababa Of fi ce.
Rethinking and reforming the African
Union Commission elections
Mehari Taddele Maru
Recently, in July 2012, the high-profi le and bitterly fought nine-month race for the post
of Chair of the African Union (AU) Commission, between Dr Jean Ping of Gabon, and his
main challenger, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, culminated in the latter’s victory. Her vic-
tory came after the deadlock at the Eighteenth AU Summit in January 2012. Borne out of
the considered need for a quick fi x through reliance on a vote of expediency, the election
of Dr Dlamini-Zuma represented a political resolution to the crisis that arose due to the
earlier ongoing electoral deadlock. Far from being a competitive election by design, the
2012 AU Commission election by default became transformed into an intensely fought
campaign that put the AU in the limelight. This article briefl y introduces the electoral proc-
ess, explains in detail the voting behaviour of AU member states, and offers fi ve specifi c
reasons for the victory of Dr Dlamini-Zuma. On the surface the election looks very com-
petitive, but the article explains why this is not the case. To create greater competition for
these posts, the AU needs to overhaul the nomination process and the voting procedure.
In this regard, the article proffers detailed analysis and proposes a radical revision of the
existing criteria for the nomination. The article also proposes specifi c recommendations
for the amendment of the rules of procedure of the AU Assembly to allow for a qualifi ed
majority as a deadlock breaker in the fi fth round. It also assesses whether the integrity of
the AU Commission election was damaged during the campaigning and voting process.
In this regard, it recommends the development of a code of conduct for future elections
at the AU.
Keywords African Union, election, reform, integrity, legitimacy, representation, meritocracy
Africa Watch 65
Introduction
By electing Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the rst chairwoman of the African Union (AU)
Commission, the July 2012 Nineteenth Summit of the AU has effected a change of guard.
This has offi cially ended the electoral deadlock that occurred in the January 2012 Eighteenth
AU Summit. The deadlock resulted from the extremely tight election competition between
the incumbent Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr Jean Ping of Gabon, and the South
African candidate, Dr Dlamini-Zuma. Her victory came after the Ad Hoc Committee of
Eight Heads of State and Government (Committee of Eight), established to formulate solu-
tions to the electoral deadlock, failed to come up with a decisive solution.1
Like the 2011 North Africa uprisings that caught almost everybody by surprise, the nomi-
nation of Dr Dlamini-Zuma by South Africa, the fi erce election race and deadlock in January
2012, and her eventual victorious election as leader of the AU Commission have also aston-
ished many commentators, including many AU member states and staff members of the AU
Commission. The election of Dr Dlamini-Zuma as chairperson reinforced old concerns that
were raised after her nomination and spawned new worries about the impact of her lead-
ership. Her election has also generated further discussion related to the reasons behind the
changes in the voting behaviour of many member states of the AU. Furthermore, it has also
raised novel questions about the short-term implications and long-term consequences of the
2012 election, the deadlock that ensued, and the manner of campaigning in view of the rules
governing the elections for the AU Commission leadership. This election elicited excitement
about the possibility of change at the AU Commission.
This article briefl y introduces the electoral process and investigates the nature of the elec-
tion campaign, comparing the voting behaviour of member states of the AU in the January
2012 Summit election, in which Dr Ping led in the balloting but failed to obtain the required
two-thirds vote, to his subsequent defeat at the July 2012 AU Summit. Furthermore, the ar-
ticle explains the reasons behind the victory of Dr Dlamini-Zuma and the eventual defeat of
Dr Ping. By examining the factors that caused the deadlock, identifying the major shortcom-
ings in the election campaign and pinpointing the legal lacunae in the rules of procedure, the
article examines the implications of the 2012 elections for future elections.
Looking forward, the article identifi es a few areas of reform and proposes recommenda-
tions for more free, fair and credible elections with the highest possible ethical standards and
competition.
Nomination and election process:
gender and geographic representation
The fi rst step in the election process for the leadership of the AU Commission is for the mem-
ber states of the AU to forward the names of their candidates in response to calls by the Legal
Counsel of the Commission.2 The Counsel then prepares a list of the nominations from the
member states. Based on this list, pre-selection processes are conducted at a regional level to
identify candidates for each region. The elections are based on the AU regional geographic dis-
tribution formula. Each of the fi ve regions, save those nominating candidates for the chairperson
position, is entitled to propose two candidates for the ten portfolios of the Commission. At least
one of the candidates for each region should be a female candidate. This makes a total of eighty
candidates, of which at least forty must be female.3 The regions from which the chairperson
66 African Security Review 21.4 Institute for Security Studies
and deputy chairperson are nominated can only propose one candidate each for commissioner
positions. These selected regional candidates form the continental pool of candidates, which the
Legal Counsel prepares with a team of consultants. The team of consultants is composed of two
independent experts from each region who verify whether the candidates fulfi l the required cri-
teria and other elements such as the regional geographic distribution.4 The central pre-selection
process begins with the consideration of the pool of candidates and a report from the team of
consultants by a ministerial panel composed of two ministers from each region. The ministerial
meeting in turn submits the list of candidates for the commissioners and the chair and deputy
persons to the Executive Council and the Assembly.5
The worrying trend:
declining nominations, and dwindling competition
A signifi cant contribution of South Africa’s nomination of and insistent campaigning for Dr
Dlamini-Zuma, and the most enduring advantage of this election, is that it has aroused inter-
est in, and stimulated debate on, the AU Commission by the AU in general. A long-term
implication is that this competition has set a higher standard for the next elections at the
AU Commission. Winning elections for posts at the AU Commission will not be as easy
as it was before. Incumbency will not be a guarantee for re-election. Nonetheless, this elec-
tion development happened by default, not by design. On the surface, the election looks
very competitive. However, a closer look at the number and manner of nominations and
the pro le of the candidates shows that the nominations were insuffi cient in number and in
competence. Since 2004, the number of nominations received by the Legal Counsel of the
AU Commission has drastically declined. Central Africa forwarded the greatest number of
nominations. Cameroon, for example, nominated nine persons.6 As a result of regional con-
sultations, the Ministerial Panel reduced the number of nominations from the central region
by fi ve nominations.7 Entitled to two posts at the AU Commission leadership, North Africa
nominated only two, rendering the election uncompetitive. Similarly, the incumbent Deputy
Chairperson ran alone without a challenger and reduced the election for this high post into a
vote of con dence.
While the Central African region nominates more than its share, North Africa nominated
only two, the number of posts it is entitled to hold.
Figure 1 Nomination and Election Process for the AU Commission
Continental
pool
Regional
consultations
and team of
consultants
Ministerial
panel
Executive
council and
assembly
Candidates by department of the AU Commission8
Some portfolios have more than seven nominations while others only have one.
The percentage of female candidates compared to male candidates has increased since the
AU’s last ministerial panel meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in November 2011.9 This
indicates positive progress in the nomination process.
Africa Watch 67
Figure 3 Some regions of Africa nominated more candidates than others
South
21%
North
7%
Central
32%
East
18%
West
22%
Figure 2 The worrying trend of the declining number of nominations, decreasing pool of candidates
and dwindling competition
Number of candidates
85
80
70
60
50
40
30
25
Yea r s
2003 2007 2011
75
65
55
45
35
80 80 80
73
47
31
26
45
72
Candidates Nominations Required number of candidates
68 African Security Review 21.4 Institute for Security Studies
Figure 5 Candidates by department of the AU Commission
Chairman
Deputy Chair
Political
Social
Trade and Industry Infrastructure and Energy
Human Resource,
Science and Technology
Rural Economy
and Agriculture
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Peace and Securit y
Economic
Figure 4 Some regions limit the competition by nomination; some regions have more candidates
than others
Number of candidates
16
6
8
10
12
14
0
2
4
Pre-Malabo Post-Malabo
Regions
East West South North Central
55
7
666
22
14
9
Africa Watch 69
Old concerns and new worries on the election
of Dr Dlamini-Zuma
On the positive side, this election for the leadership of the AU election derived enormous benefi t
from the nomination of Dr Dlamini-Zuma. It has set several precedents that should be followed
in future elections. The election established a high threshold for competitive elections for the
leadership posts at the AU Commission. Regardless of the questions and misgivings associated
with the manner of South Africa’s election campaign, incumbent leaders of the AU Commission
will face stiff election competition from new candidates in future. Furthermore, large African
countries may propose candidates for the post of Chairperson, thereby overriding the traditional
practice of candidates for chairperson only being nominated by small countries. It should not
come as a surprise if, after four years, candidates from countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt,
Algeria, Kenya and Ethiopia compete for the post of Chairperson. Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s victory
also broke another unwritten rule. Unlike previous elections, the posts of both Chairperson and
Deputy Chairperson will, for the fi rst time, both be held by Anglophone countries.
A gentlemen’s agreement used to forbid big countries from running for the post of
Chairperson, but now small countries may permanently be excluded from assuming this
post. However, the concept of meritocracy benefi ts from this change from unwritten, tradi-
tional and basic rules. Now, competent candidates, regardless of their origin, the size of their
country, the fi nancial contributions of their government to the AU, or their colonial history,
are entitled to compete for any AU Commission posts. By and in itself, Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s
election as the fi rst chairwoman of the AU Commission represents progress at the AU. As
a matter of principle, these changes constitute generational progress towards a meritocratic,
competitive and gender-sensitive Pan-African political landscape.
Despite these positive aspects of the election, South Africa’s ‘do or die’ election campaign
has led to violations of many substantive and established procedural practices. Consequently,
for South Africa, this victory came at enormous cost. Most of the concerns over the motives
of South Africa’s nomination of Dr Dlamini-Zuma still remain legitimate. Was the motive a
genuine commitment to push a Pan-African agenda or a spillover of the domestic politics of
South Africa? As an ex-wife of the current President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, and the
lone remaining member of the cabinet of the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki,
it was widely believed that Dr Dlamini-Zuma could have challenged her ex-husband in the
Figure 6 Increase in number of female candidates after the Ministerial Panel meeting in Malabo
Male
47%
Female
53% Male
40%
Female
60%
F
70 African Security Review 21.4 Institute for Security Studies
bid for the presidency of South Africa in 2014.10 As an extension of South Africa’s domestic
political struggle and an internal arrangement within the ruling African National Congress,
her candidature for election to the AU Commission chairpersonship represents a compromise
deal to remove her from South Africa’s domestic political landscape.
Concerns about the integrity of the AU and its election and voting process will remain,
as their implication extends beyond the AU Commission. Questions have been raised about
the manner in which South Africa carried out its election campaign. Did South Africa run an
ethical election campaign within the bounds of the ethical code of conduct the AU requires
from its member states in national elections? Election campaigning tactics of an opaque
nature, involving enormous fi nancial contributions, damage the integrity of such elections,
regardless of whether the accompanying deals fall within the ambit of bilateral cooperation.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s victory came after nine months of targeted and aggressive election cam-
paigning that included strategic vote-trading, some rough exchanges, shuttle diplomacy and
the utilisation of signifi cant amounts of funding for horse-trading and ‘envelope diplomacy’.11
Smear tactics and mudslinging and disinformation were also employed as part of the elec-
tion campaign.12 While the competitive nature of the campaign has to be nurtured, in this
specifi c election one has to ask whether the end justifi ed the means.13 Moreover, the campaign
involved unethical and probably clear violations of principles of a free and fair election due to
back-door negotiations, inducements through horse-trading and bartering votes for favours.14
The competitive nature of the campaign has to be nurtured. In this specifi c election, the end
justi ed the means, while the election and the campaign strategies employed should have
been exemplary to all contending political leaders and parties.
At the root of these concerns and questions lies the need to maintain the same level of
integrity for the election of AU leaders that is applied to African elections. As the norm-
setting body on the democratic principles of free and fair elections across the continent, the
AU should hold the highest possible threshold of ethical standards for its own leadership elec-
tions. The elections for the AU Commission should pass the same rigorous tests and uphold
the same principles that it requires from its member states.
The consequences of a surprise nomination by South Africa
Received with surprise by many African states, South Africas nomination of Dr Dlamini-
Zuma stirred concerns about the underlying motives and the total absence of prior consulta-
tion by South Africa. In the beginning, like most African countries, member states of the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) were also alarmed by the nomination.15
What is more, the nomination by South Africa contradicted the unwritten agreement that
excludes regional powers from vying for the post of chairperson of the AU Commission.
Indeed, one of the three important unwritten rules that the Committee of Eight intensively
debated included the ‘tradition whereby the big contributors abstained from standing for the
post of AU Secretary General or Chairperson of AU’.16 However, it failed to advance a con-
crete proposal and only indicated that
at its level, it was not for it to pronounce on the aforementioned unwritten practices and
rules and that it fell on the Assembly itself to examine them and indicate that, in future, the
said unwritten practices and rules could be taken into account, and if need be, incorporated
in the rules of the Organization in accordance with the procedures in force.17
Africa Watch 71
Construed as part of this rather worrying foreign policy approach of President Zuma, the
nomination of Dr Dlamini-Zuma was opposed by many AU member states, not because of
their support for Dr Ping but mainly due to their disapproval of President Zuma’s divisive,
exclusive and insensitive approach to a number of key regional, linguistic and diplomatic
African dynamics. His approach indirectly contradicts the longstanding tradition of pre-sum-
mit informal consultation by the major in uential regional leaders as was done previously by
his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, and with former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria
and John Kufuor of Ghana, as well as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, and
Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Boutefl ika. To ensure common understanding, they consulted
before proposing any agenda items of such a serious nature.
Furthermore, these countries all have reservations about giving power to Pretoria that may
constrain their own spheres of infl uence and national interests in their respective regions.18 Dr
Dlamini-Zuma tried to address this concern immediately after her victory, stating that: ‘South
Africa is not going to come to Addis Ababa to run the AU. It is Dlamini-Zuma who is going
to come to make a contribution.19 Smaller nations are also concerned that their candidates may
never attain the top position at the AU Commission. Abolition of the old unwritten agreement
may reduce them to being part of a permanent minority. Apart from serious misgivings about
South Africa’s foreign policy under President Zuma, the manner in which Dr Dlamini-Zuma
conducted her election campaign and her public display of joy at the failure of Dr Ping to se-
cure a two-thirds majority amused and offended many observers. Some regional players such
as Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, and Ethiopia had actually actively promoted Dr Ping with the
aim of preventing Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s success.20 According to some commentators, the victory
of Dr Dlamini-Zuma was perceived as a defeat for regional players such as Nigeria.21
Paradoxical dichotomy of the two election results:
the voting behaviour of states
In the January 2012 Summit, fi fty-three of the fi fty-four AU member states were eligible to
vote, save Madagascar, which is under sanction for an unconstitutional change of government.22
In the July 2012 Summit, Mali and Guinea-Bissau were added to the sanctions list and were
also not eligible to vote.23 Thus, only 51 countries voted in the July 2012 election. In the January
2012 election, Dr Ping led the balloting in the fi rst three rounds by an average of three votes.
He lost the fourth ballot that constituted a vote of no confi dence, by winning only 32 of the 53
votes.24 Dr Jean Ping failed to win 65 per cent of the votes, enjoying just over 60,3 per cent sup-
port. This indicates that he did not enjoy the support of one-third of the member states, most of
them SADC member states. With Guinea-Bissau and Mali under sanction, and with the defec-
tion of Chad from Dr Ping’s camp, Dr Dlamini-Zuma led by three votes. On the fourth ballot
she won 37 of the 51 votes. Her victory in the fourth round constituted 72,5 per cent, not 60 per
cent as widely reported by many media outlets and analysts. What explains this trend reversal?
Turning the tide:
ve reasons behind Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s victory
In secret balloting, any conclusion about voting behaviour remains highly uncertain.
However, based on some diplomatic sources and circumstantial evidence, one can provide an
72 African Security Review 21.4 Institute for Security Studies
intelligent estimate of the voting behaviour of the states involved. The victory of Dr Dlamini-
Zuma is attributable to the following fi ve major factors: the solidarity and the support she
enjoyed from SADC and the government of South Africa; the contrasting limited support the
Gabon extended to Dr Ping; the micro-targeted election campaigning strategy and enormous
election fi nancing; the absence of two infl uential heads of state; and most importantly the
urgent need felt by the leaders to break the electoral deadlock that had previously prevented
the AU from electing a new leader of the AU Commission.
Although Dr Dlamini-Zuma gained most of her voter support from SADC and Africa’s
Anglophone countries, a number of Francophone countries like Benin, Chad, the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi reportedly also voted for her.25 Some of Dr Ping’s
staunch supporters were Anglophone countries. This signifi es a positive development in re-
ducing the political barrier colonial language posed in the history of the AU and OAU. In
this regard, South Africa’s contributions in the DRC and Burundi peace mediation might
have played a role. Throughout the election, the full machinery of South Africa’s Ministry
of International Relations and Cooperation was at the forefront of Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s cam-
paign. To ensure that she would win the election, the government of South Africa convinced
and mobilised the SADC to act as a unifi ed bloc in support of its candidate. Composed of
no fewer than three ministers drawn from SADC member states, including a member from
South Africa, the SADC sent delegations to almost all African states to solicit support for
its candidate.26 As part of its micro-targeting campaign, South Africa approached many of
the member states with the specifi c interests of each country in mind, using favours and
resources effectively. This required a substantial investment of resources, made available by
South Africa.
While South Sudan expressly pointed out that it had voted for Dr Dlamini-Zuma in terms
of its prior pledge to this effect long before the Summit,27 bilateral economic cooperation and
Number of votes
40
Figure 7 C o m p a r ison o f Januar y 2012 and July 2 012 AU Summit vo ting for the post of C hairper s o n
35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
Rounds of balloting
January election July election
Votes for Jean Ping Votes for Dlamini-Zuma Rounds of balloting
Africa Watch 73
personal interests might also have in uenced the vote. Benin, Cape Verde, Somalia, Chad,
Benin and Liberia may also have voted for Dr Dlamini-Zuma for various reasons linked to a
presumed economic partnership, fi nancial support towards the payment of their AU arrears
and because of gender considerations. It is to be recalled that the arrears of some member
states in terms of their contributions to the AU budget were paid only a few weeks before the
Summit.28 This aggressive campaigning, to some extent, explains the votes that Dr Dlamini-
Zuma received particularly from countries outside of the SADC region. In a way, votes cast
for candidates’ countries did not necessarily refl ect support for the vision, integrity or compe-
tence of the opposing candidates.
In contrast, although Dr Ping was offi cially supported by Gabon from the very begin-
ning, apart from the private jet that his government placed at his disposal, the Government
of Gabon did not actively campaign for Dr Ping. Gabon reacted only when media outlets,
particularly from South Africa, reported many inaccurate and questionable stories regarding
communications, indicating that Dr Ping lacked the support of his own country.29 During
the balloting, some heads of states from SADC countries were asking delegates in the hall to
vote for Dr Dlamini-Zuma, but no similar effort was made by Gabon’s head of state. Active in
situ lobbying contributed to the surge in the number of votes in favour of Dr Dlamini-Zuma.
With the necessary security arrangements in place, both President Jonathan and Prime
Minister Zenawi were expected to attend the Summit.30 An Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS) pre-summit consultation, similar to the one conducted in January
2012 to discuss the election, among other issues, was also cancelled due to the absence of
President Jonathan.31 According to many observers, the absence of Prime Minister Zenawi
from both the third meeting of the Committee of Eight and the AU Summit, the cancel-
lation of the ECOWAS pre-summit consultation, and the absence of President Jonathan
from the Summit undoubtedly allowed South Africa and SADC to ultimately infl uence the
AU Su mmit.
In its report to the Assembly, the Committee of Eight ‘observed with regret that no
progress had been achieved and that the two countries concerned had maintained their posi-
tions, with the risk of leading the Union into the same stalemate seen at the January 2012
Summit’.32 It also strongly urged the Assembly to avert a further deadlock by stating that
‘the image and credibility of the AU were seriously tarnished by the failure of the election of
the Chairperson of the Commission by the 18th Session of the Assembly of the Union, and
it is absolutely necessary to avoid a repeat of the same impasse at the July 2012 Summit’.33
Accordingly, the leaders simply wanted to end the ongoing deadlock and avoid electoral fa-
tigue. Once the fi rst balloting went in favour of Dr Dlamini-Zuma, the rest of the balloting
followed the example of the fi rst balloting. Thus, the July election practically constituted less
of a legal decision. Borne out of the considered need for a quick fi x through reliance on a
vote of expediency, the election of Dr Dlamini-Zuma represented a political resolution to the
crisis that arose due to the earlier ongoing electoral deadlock.
Areas of reform
Far from being a competitive election by design, the 2012 AU Commission election by default
became transformed into an intensively fought campaign that put the AU in the limelight.
Undoubtedly, it aroused the interest of many commentators and stimulated further debate
about the AU. The most enduring message of this election is that an incumbency does not
74 African Security Review 21.4 Institute for Security Studies
guarantee re-election; and being a candidate from an economically advanced and infl uential
country does not ensure a smooth victory. Intensive election competition driven by a genuine
commitment towards the AU Pan-African agenda, with a vision to provide better leader-
ship, would certainly signify marked differences from the past and could result in a more
effective and effi cient AU. More importantly, if planned and maintained, such competitive
elections could signify the relevance of the AU for its member states and indirectly the peo-
ples of Africa. Hence, this election and the initial deadlock offered a welcome opportunity
for reform.
Overhauling the nomination process: towards meritocracy
A competitive election requires an adequate number of nominations and competent candidates.
While the AU member states are required to nominate eighty candidates, the continental pool
had only twenty-fi ve candidates.34 Consequently, the 2012 election has been characterised by
a sharp decline in the submissions of nominations.35 The Ministerial Panel for the Election of
Commissioners and the Team of Consultants noted with concern that the ‘limited number
of candidatures ... could be an impediment to the potential of selecting the most competent
candidates for the portfolios’.36 Member states bestow minimal attention on the elections.
Most of the submissions were made with incomplete documents. In the 2012 election, a par-
ticular AU member state actually nominated a candidate without a university education. The
Team of Consultants excluded this particular nomination without the minimum requirement
of a university degree. No region ‘complied with the rules and modalities for presentation
of candidates’.37 The pool of nominations included consultants and staff members of the AU
Commission. This, by itself, should not be considered as problematic and could even be ben-
efi cial for the AU. Nevertheless, these facts indicate the lack of rigour in the nomination proc-
ess. Member states and regions also proposed the incumbent leaders of the AU Commission
as nominees. In this regard, the Ministerial Panel pointed out that the ‘fact that no appraisal
performance report was submitted for the incumbent Commissioners seeking re-election’38
contributes to the uncompetitive nature of the elections. The current nomination process lacks
transparency at national level, and it is not competitive. This election has already provided an
excellent opportunity, if seized, to reverse the sharp decline in nominations, as evidenced in
the past three elections.
Politically expedient compromise borne out of election fatigue and an absence of substan-
tive choice would not deliver a popularly legitimate and effectively performing leadership at
the AU Commission. Accordingly, the AU needs to overhaul the nomination process and the
voting procedure to make available the best candidates for the AU Commission leadership in
future. The AU needs to ensure the observance of the criteria by member states and regions.
Failure in any of the required submissions of documentation and competence of the nomi-
nees should be suffi cient reason for disqualifi cation. New candidates should be strictly evalu-
ated and incumbent contenders should be appraised based on their popular and performance
legitimacy, as achieved during their fi rst term. Regions should also ensure that their member
states observe the rules and criteria in order for them to provide the best candidate for the
Continental Pool. At the member state level, attention should be granted to the nomination.
In reality this may require the allocation of resources for the process. Governments need to
encourage the highest possible national level competition through public announcements and
by ensuring the integrity of such a nomination process.
Africa Watch 75
Criteria and marking system based on popular
and performance legitimacy
Furthermore, the criteria applied by the Team of Consultants and the Ministerial Panel for
the Pre-Selection Process of Commissioners need to be revised. Current marking procedures
employ fi ve criteria:
Education that focuses on degrees and publications of the nominee as verifi ed by offi cial
certifi cates, marked 30.
Experience in both public and private, marked 25.
Leadership as proved through previous positions held, marked 20.
Achievement measured by career progression and merit awards, marked 20.
Vision and strategic approach provided in a brief mission statement of the candidate that indi-
cates his/her intention, marked 10.39
The passing mark for candidates is 60 per cent.40
To create the highest competitiveness for these posts, the existing criteria need to be revised
radically. What is more, the marking formula corresponding to the criteria set by the Team of
Consultants would serve the AU better if reversed. Accordingly, criteria for candidacy should
focus on the merits and integrity of a candidate. Vision and a strategic approach that demon-
strate a Pan-African commitment and understanding of the AU, as well as achievements and
leadership quality corroborated in the popular and performance legitimacy of the candidate in
previous posts, should be graded higher than mere educational background and experience,
which the current marking system follows.
Amending the rules of procedure:
qualifi ed majority as a deadlock breaker
The need for amendment of the relevant rule of procedure of the AU is still valid. The elec-
toral deadlock that the AU faced in January 2012 resulted from legal lacunae in and lack of
foresight on the AU Rules of Procedure. One of the most important legal questions in this
election was whether candidates like Dr Ping and Dr Dlamini-Zuma, who failed to secure
a two-thirds majority in the fi rst election, should be allowed to run again, or if fresh nomi-
nations should be called for. The rules are silent regarding candidates who fail to get the
required two-thirds majority necessary to win the election. After three rounds of elections
and a confi dence vote, no winner emerged because of the failure of both the candidates to
secure the required two-thirds majority support. Furthermore, such an electoral deadlock
constituted a major impediment to the AU Commission’s ability to focus on other urgent
and important agenda items, reducing the AU Commission to a ‘lame-duck’ commission.
The downside of this is that an extension of the term of the ‘lame-duck’ commission has
continued to negatively affect the functioning of the AU Commission. During the past six
months, the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, as well as half of the Commissioners,
have spent a signifi cant amount of their time campaigning and concentrating on how to win
a second term. What is more, during this time, offi cials of the support services exceeded
their mandates for recruitment, which could have serious implications in the future.41 As
the Committee of Eight has pointed out, this development tarnished the image of the AU.42
76 African Security Review 21.4 Institute for Security Studies
Thus, when such deadlocks occur in future, the Summit should decide that candidates failing
to gain the required majority should withdraw, and call for new nominations for the relevant
posts. This procedure would be desirable for the following reasons. First, it would offer an
opportunity to member states to propose well-considered new nominations, particularly for
uncontested posts. In actual fact, the Ministerial Panel for the Election of Commissioners
recommended new nominations to the Executive Council for posts having only a single can-
didate.43 This important recommendation should also be applied to the other positions in the
AU Commission. Second, it would offer a diplomatic way out for member states to vote for
other candidates, helping to unify the AU by preventing any similar diplomatic tensions in
the future. This could be one option for the amendment of the Rules of Procedure of the AU
Assembly.
However, this option may also require the extension of the mandate of the incumbent
leadership until fresh elections are conducted. To avoid such deadlocks in the voting, and
at the same time to prevent any extension of a mandate of an incumbent leadership, the AU
Summit should amend the rules of procedure to provide a deadlock breaker when continuous
balloting produces no winner. This could take the form of an amendment to the current
rules of procedure to include a qualifi ed majority rule as a deadlock breaker, when the balloting
advances to the fi fth round and the minority candidate continues to block the election. The
amendment of the rules of procedure to allow for a qualifi ed majority in the fi fth round would
require a blocking minority of 45 per cent as opposed to the current 35 per cent.44 Finally,
ensuring the integrity of the election process demands serious attention and further work by
the AU. In this regard, a code of conduct should be developed for future elections at the AU.
In the long term, the AU needs to adopt election voting quota based on population size. This
will ensure the process of working towards transforming the AU from a ‘union of states’ to a
‘union of African peoples’.
Notes
1 The Committee of Eight comprises the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr Meles Zenawi, the President of South Africa,
Mr Jacob Zuma, and the President of Benin, Thomas Yayi Boni, and heads of states of Algeria, Angola, Chad, Côte
d’Ivoire, and Gabon.
2 See Article 6–17 of the Statutes of the Commission of the African Union, AU, Decision on the Statutes of the
Commission of the African Union, Ass/AU/2(I)-d. Also see the Modalities for Election of the Members of the
Commission of the African Union, the Nineteenth Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, Decision EX .CL/AU/
Dec.661 (X IX). Note Verbal BC/OLC/217/5065.11 dated 21 September 2011. Rules 38-42, the Rules of Procedure of the
AU Assembly, Assembly of the African Union, First Ordinary Session, 9–10 July 2002, Durban, South Africa,
www.
africa-union.org/r ule_ prot/rules_Assembly.pdf
(accessed 23 July 2012).
3 Ibid. (5 reg ions × 2 candidates each × 8 portfolios = 80 candidates)
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Report of the Ministerial Panel for the Election of Commissioners, Executive Council, Twentieth Ordinary Session,
23 – 27 Januar y 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, E X.CL/713(X X ); The Report of the Team of Consultants to Assist
the Ministerial Panel on the Election of Commissioners, 19 November 2012. The Ministerial Panel on Election of
Commissioners composed of Algeria, Chad, Ethiopia, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, and Senegal met in
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on 24 November 2011 and January 14, 2012 in Addis Ababa.
7 Ibid.
8 CH: Chairperson, DCH: Deput y Chairperson, PA: Political A ffairs, IE: Infrastructure and Energy, SA: Social Affairs,
HRST: Human Resources, Science and Technology, TI: Trade and Industry, REA: Rural Economy and Agriculture,
EA: Economic Affairs.
Africa Watch 77
9 Report of the Ministerial Panel for the Election of Commissioners, Executive Council, Twentieth Ordinary Session,
23 – 27 Januar y 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, E X.CL/713(XX); The Report of the Team of Consultants to Assist the
Ministerial Panel on the Election of Commissioners, 19 November 2012.
10 Elissa Jobson, ‘African Union chooses fi rst female leader’, The Guardian, Monday 16 July 2012,
http://www.guardian.
co.uk/world/2012/jul/16/african-union-fi rst-female-leader
(accessed 8 August 2 012).
11 Inter view with Key Informant No 9, and No 5.
12 Press Statement by the Chair person of the AU Commission, Dr Jean Ping 9 July 2012, Addis Ababa, ‘At Last, SA may
get its woman into AU post’, The Sunday Times of South Africa, 8 July 2012; Statement by Honourable Phandu T. C.
Skelemani, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, on Dr Jean Pings Response to an article in The
Sunday Times, Addis Ababa, 12 July 2012.
13 Interview with AU Commission Senior Staff Member Key Informant No 9 Addis Ababa Ethiopia, July 21, 2012, an
Ambassador and a Permanent Representative of an East Africa AU Member State Key Informant No 5, Addis Ababa,
April 26, 2012.
14 Ibid.
15 Interview with Permanent Representative of a SA DC member state to the AU, Key Informant No. 1, 13 June 2012,
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
16 Report of the Ad-Hoc Committee of Heads of State and Government on the Election of the Members of the
Commission, A ssembly of the African Union Nineteenth Ordinary Session, 15–16 July 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
Assembly/Au/2(XIX ); Report of the Commission on the Election of the Chairperson of the Commission of the
African Union, Assembly of the African Union Nineteenth Ordinar y Session, 15 –16 July 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
Assembly/AU/3(XIX).
17 I bid.
18 Elissa Jobson, ‘African Union chooses fi rst female leader’, The Guardian, Monday 16 July 2012,
http://www.guardian.
co.uk/world/2012/jul/16/african-union-fi rst-female-leader
(accessed 8 August 2 012).
19 Daniel Howden, ‘Africa split after election win for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’, The Independent, Tuesday 17 July 2012,
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/africa-split-after-election-win-for-nkosazana-dlaminizuma-
7946879.html
(accessed 8 August 2 012).
20 Interview with Permanent Representatives and Diplomats of Member States to the AU, Key Informant No 2, 3, 4, 6,
and 7, July 23, 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
21 Ogbole Amedu Ode, ‘Nigeria: ‘Dlamini-Zuma’s Election-Nigeria’s Crushing Defeat’- A Rejoinder’, All Africa, 4 August
2012,
http://allafrica.com/stories/201208040526.html
(accessed 8 August 2012).
22 Communique of the AU Peace and Security Council, 303rd Meeting, 08 December 2012, PSC/PR/COMM (CCCIIII).
23 Communique of the AU Peace and Security Council, 315th Meeting, 23 March 2012, PSC/PR/COMM (CCCX V);
Communique of the AU Peace and Security Council, 318th Meeting, 17 April 2012, PSC/PR/COMM (CCCX VIII).
24 In January 2012 AU Summit, Jean Ping- Dlamini Zuma vote was: 28 -25, 27-26, 29 -24, 32 Yes for Ping and 21 No. In
July 2012 AU Summit Dlamini Zuma-Jean Ping was: 27-24, 29-22, 33-18 and 33 Yes for Zuma and 18 No.
25 Geert LaPorte, Could Dlamini-Zuma’s election revive EU-Africa relations? July 20, 2012,
http://www.ecdpm-
talkingpoints.org/could-dlamini-zuma%E2%80%99s-election-revive-eu-africa-relations/
(accessed 8 August 2012).
26 Inter view with Key Informant No 1 and No. 9.
27 Inter view with Key Informant No 5.
28 Ibid.
29 For detail see Press Release, Offi ce of the President of Gabon, Libreville, 12 May 2012,
http://allafrica.com/
stories/201205141294.html
(accessed 11August 2012).
30 Inter view with the AU Commission Offi cial, Key Informant No 8, July 21, 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
31 Inter view with the AU Commission Offi cial, Key Informant No.9. July 26, 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
32 Report of the Ad-Hoc Committee of Heads of State and Government on the Election of the Members of the
Commission, A ssembly of the African Union Nineteenth Ordinary Session, 15–16 July 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
Assembly/Au/2(XIX ); Report of the Committee on the Election of the Chairperson of the Commission of the African
Union, Assembly of the A frican Union Nineteenth Ordinary Session, 15–16 July 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
Assembly/AU/3(XIX).
33 Ibid.
34 Report of the Ministerial Panel for the Election of Commissioners, E xecutive Council, Twentieth Ordinar y Session,
23–27 January 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, EX.CL/ 713(X X); The Report of the Team of Consultants to Assist the
Ministerial Panel on the Election of Commissioners, 19 November 2012.
78 African Security Review 21.4 Institute for Security Studies
35 Mehari Taddele Maru (2012) Monitoring the Monitor: Elections at the AU Commission, ISS Today 28 November 2012,
http://www.iss.co.za/iss_today.php?ID=1395
(accessed 28 November 2011); The Report of the Team of Consultants
to Assist the Ministerial Panel on the Election of Commissioners, 19 November 2012.
36 Ibid.
37 Ibid.
38 Report of the Ministerial Panel for the Election of Commissioners, E xecutive Council, Twentieth Ordinar y Session,
23–27 January 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, EX.CL/ 713(X X); The Report of the Team of Consultants to Assist the
Ministerial Panel on the Election of Commissioners, 19 November 2012.
39 The Report of the Team of Consultants to Assist the Ministerial Panel on the Election of Commissioners, 19 November
2012, pp 4–7.
40 Ibid.
41 Inter view with a staff member of the AU Commission, Key Informant No. 10, 22 July 2012.
42 Report of the Committee on the Election of the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, A ssembly of the
African Union Nineteenth Ordinar y Session, 15 – 16 July 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, A ssembly/AU/3(XI X).
43 Report of the Ministerial Panel for the Election of Commissioners, Executive Council, Twentieth Ordinar y Session,
23–27 January 2012, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, EX.CL/ 713(X X); The Report of the Team of Consultants to Assist the
Ministerial Panel on the Election of Commissioners, 19 November 2012.
44 According to the AU Commission Statute and the Rules of Procedure, balloting for the elections of the AU
Chairperson continues until a candidate gains a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Rule 5, Rule 38-42,
The Rules of Procedure of the Assembly of the Union, Assembly of the African Union, First Ordinary Session, 9–10
July 2002, Durban, South Africa, ASS/AU/2(I)-a,
ww w.africa-union.org/rule_ prot/rules_Assembly.pdf
(accessed
23 July 2012).
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Mehari Taddele Maru (2012) Monitoring the Monitor: Elections at the AU Commission, ISS Today 28 November 2012, http://www.iss.co.za/iss_today.php?ID=1395 (accessed 28 November 2011); The Report of the Team of Consultants to Assist the Ministerial Panel on the Election of Commissioners, 19 November 2012.
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