n African Human Rights Law Journal - The challenges of adjudicating presidential election disputes in domestic courts in Africa

Volume 15, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



Defective and fraudulent elections are common in Africa. Although there has been some improvement since the democratic wave of the 1980s and 1990s, sham elections are still prevalent across the continent. Where elections have been assailed with anomalies and results are disputed, as is often the case in Africa, aggrieved parties have looked to the judiciary as an institution of last hope to seek redress. The judiciary has, however, almost always decided presidential election disputes in common patterns that militate against the growth of democracy on the continent. The common patterns are that all cases are decided in favour of the status quo; many cases are dismissed on flimsy technical and procedural rules without consideration of the merits; there is misuse of the substantial effect rule to uphold defective elections; there are delays in determining cases; and judges refrain from making any reasonable decisions. The judiciary in Africa may, therefore, be fully complicit in the delayed consolidation of electoral democracy on the continent.

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