Monday, January 30, 2012

Vote for African Union Commissioner Ends in Deadlock

Vote for AU commission chief ends in deadlock

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 00:00

ADDIS ABABA - A vote by African leaders for the head of their bloc's executive ended in deadlock yesterday. Gabon's Jean Ping, who has headed the African Union Commission since 2008 and was seeking a new term, was challenged by South Africa's Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Intense campaigns had preceded the vote and dominated the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, where leaders gathered to discuss broadening trade within Africa and tackle conflict hot spots.

"We went for an election and none of the two candidates emerged as a winner," Zambian President Michael Sata said. "The next elections will be held in June."

Deputy AU commission chief, Erastus Mwencha from Kenya, will step in until fresh polls are held during the next summit in Malawi.

Analysts say the vote for the AU agenda-setting position has exposed political fault lines between English-and French-speaking Africa, as well as between different geographic regions.

AU sources said the election was tight, with Ping holding a slender lead in three rounds of voting in which neither candidate obtained the required two-thirds majority.

Ping, led Dlamini-Zuma in the first three rounds 28 votes to 25; 27 to 26 and 29 to 24, AU sources said.

Dlamini-Zuma was then forced under AU rules to pull out, leaving Ping to face a fourth round on his own, but he still failed to muster the necessary votes in his support.

Ahead of the vote, sources said Ping had been confident of re-election, counting on support from French-speaking West and Central African countries.

However, he has appeared to have fallen foul of criticism that he performed poorly in recent crises on the continent, after a year that saw a post-election crisis in Ivory Coast as well as the Arab Spring revolutions.

Dlamini-Zuma (63), had launched a tough campaign and had the backing of the 15-member Southern African Development Community, and Pretoria lobbied hard across Africa to drum up support.

South African delegates broke into song and dance after the stalemate vote conducted at the two-day summit in the new ultra-modern AU headquarters built by the Chinese and unveiled at the weekend.

But Cilliers warned that while Dlamini-Zuma supporters were celebrating, her failure to win suggested many might oppose South Africa for the post too.

"Importantly, this result may mean that Africans don't want a key country such as South Africa in the position of chair," he said.

In a pre-vote pledge, Dlamini-Zuma said if elected, she would "spare no effort in building on the work of those African women and men who want to see an African Union that is a formidable force striving for a united, free, truly independent, better Africa."

No woman has held the post to which Ping was elected in 2008.

South Africa said late yesterday that Dlamini-Zuma will vie again for the African Union commission chief's post after her challenge against the incumbent ended in a stalemate.


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