Elections dominate AU summit

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - Ahead of the summit of African leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this weekend, the election of the African Union Commission Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, as well as that of the eight commissioners, have dominated proceedings.

Also playing up on the sidelines of the meetings is the election of the next Chairman of the AU.

Incumbent AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping is seeking a second term, but he faces a challenge in South Africa's Interior Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Kenyan Erastus Mwencha is running unopposed for the post of Deputy Chairperson.

Speaking to journalists here, Dlamini-Zuma said her candidacy should not be seen as an affront to Ping, who is entitled to a second term by virtue of the Commission's statute.

“When the four-year term is finished, it is finished and another person is elected for a four-year term,” said Dlamini-Zuma, who described herself as a gender activist and reformer. “My election to the Commission will confirm that women can do anything they want. It would be the most symbolic thing that even in Africa, a woman could be at the helm.”

While she has the support of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Ping enjoys the support of francophone Africa as a bloc.

The Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson are elected by secret ballot and a majority of two thirds of the members with the right to vote, that is, members states that are not under sanction.

The election will take place on Sunday afternoon, on the day of the official opening of the AU Summit, and will be preceded by the debate on the theme of the Summit: “Boosting Intra-African Trade.”

Immediately after the election of the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Commission by the Assembly, the Executive Council retires to another room to elect the eight Commissioners of the AU.

The statute of the Commission limits the mandate of the Commissioners to four years,  renewable once. Therefore, four of them will no longer run in these elections - Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner, Commissioner for Political Affairs; Bience Gawanas, Commissioner for Social Affairs and Dr. Maxwell Mkwezalamba, Commissioner for Economic Affairs.

Mrs Elizabeth Tankeu, Commissioner for Trade and Industry, died in October 2011, during her second and final term.

Meanwhile, sources have suggested that unless Ping scored the requisite absolute majority required, the election could run into a stalemate. There have been suggestions among diplomats here that if Ping fails to win outright, Mwencha would be endorsed as interim Chairperson for six months, a position said to be opposed by Kenyan diplomats, who are instead seeking votes for Ping.

Asked about the suggestion, Mwencha said: "It is frankly unfair to me to be asked such a question because the competent authorities on this matter are the heads of state, who should answer such questions."

Also to be decided is the post of the AU Chairman.

West African foreign ministers have scheduled a meeting for Friday to discuss and possibly endorse Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan as the next AU Chairman, following the withdrawal of Gambian leader Yahya Jameh, PANA has learnt.

The Nigerian leader is expected to arrive in Addis Ababa earlier than expected Friday to discuss Nigeria's candidacy for the AU Chairmanship post.

Diplomatic sources said Nigeria's candidacy was a last-minute compromise, with the President of Benin, Yayi Boni, also said to be a contender.

In 2012, the chairmanship of the AU will go to West Africa in line with the principle of geographical rotation.
-0- PANA AO/SEG 26Jan2012



26 january 2012 18:16:09




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