MUHAMMADU Buhari’s defeat of incumbent Goodluck Jonathan is historic in Nigeria, but loss by incumbent has happened many times before in Africa. More times than most people would believe, given the reputation of the continent’s politics for shenanigans by sitting presidents.
Somalia was actually the first African country to vote a sitting president out of a job; in 1967 Abdirashid Ali Shermake defeated incumbent Aden Abdullah Daar, whose popularity had suffered a beating due to the defeat of the Shifta rebels in neighbouring Kenya.
The Shifta were ethnic Somali rebels who had been supported by Daar’s administration, and were fighting to secede from Kenya and join the Somali republic.
Madagascar has removed three sitting presidents from power by the ballot, and in Senegal, it has happened twice.
In 2000, in Cote d’Ivoire, Robert Gueï was defeated by Laurent Gbagbo, and although he made an attempt to cling on, he vacated the seat. Ten years later, Gbagbo did the same and tried to hang on, but was eventually chased out by Alassane Ouattara.
The same game of musical chairs happened in Benin, when Matheiu Kérékou lost to Nicéphore Songlo in 1993, only to reclaim the seat in 1996.
And in the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso lost out to Pascal Lissouba in 1992, and left sulkily, plotting his return. In a couple of years, he had assembled a private army, and drove Lissouba out of town.
In all those are 19 defeats of incumbents. The number rises to over 20 when “interim” leaders are added, as in the December 17, 2015 election in Tunisia where Moncef Marzouki was beaten by now president Beji Caid Essebsi.
It also excludes the semi-autonomous Somali territory of Puntland which has seen its fair share of incumbents routed, the last being on January 8, 2014 when a ballot ended in the election of former prime minister of main Somalia Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who narrowly defeated incumbent Abdirahman Mohamud Farole.
The much smaller island nations, in this case Mauritius, is off the list because it is too much of an outlier and often past leaders bounce back, complicating the picture. It is the only African country that saw an incumbent defeated in the early 1980s.
Keeping to form, at the end of last year the opposition alliance, Mouvement Socialiste Militant and Parti Mauricien Social Democrate, or MSM-PMSD, secured 47 out of 62 elected seats in the National Assembly. Their leader Anerood Jugnauth became the new prime minister, taking over from the Labour Party and its partner Mouvement Militant Mauricien (the Labour-MMM alliance), that was led Navinchandra Ramgoolam.
That would place the total number at 25.
This infographic shows loss by incumbent in Africa – not those whose term ended and they went quietly, but the sitting presidents who were eligible, ran for election but were beaten at the ballot.