AS election fever heats up in Nigeria ahead of its February polls, all the attention is focused on the two big parties. The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has endorsed incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan as its candidate, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), a coalition bringing together some of the leading opposition parties, has not yet yet a candidate.
Long serving politician and former head of state Muhammadu Buhari is touted as the APC’s frontrunner for the party’s primaries that are set to happen this week.
Although the 2015 election has been touted as a two-horse race, fringe parties in Africa have the ability to cause a major upset: Just ask Jacob Zuma and the headache that Julius Malema has caused him.
Malema’s far-left, radical Economic Freedom Fighters party managed to garner 6.35% of the popular vote, securing 25 seats in the May 2014 election; Malema has even been called South Africa’s Person of the Year for 2014.
EFF’s decent third-place showing is even more remarkable given that it was only launched seven months to the election, and managed to get into parliament without even properly registering members.
Blunt and sweet rhetoric
Malema’s movement has even spawned a similar party in Namibia, called the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters.
Although the party, led by Jan Mukwilongo, only garnered 0.28% of the vote, the blunt rhetoric of the freedom fighters has found resonance even among the youth wings of establishment parties.
SWAPO’s Party Youth League Secretary, Elijah Ngurare is quoted to have said that the only solution to Africa’s widespread poverty is “fearless economic fighters who should be trained to fearlessly wage that war and set the people free from the bondage of soaring unemployment and biting poverty.”
It’s probably too late for the fringe parties in Nigeria to make a real dent Malema-style, but their emergence points to the deep dissatisfaction with traditional party politics in Africa.
But fringe parties in Africa can get really eccentric. One in South Africa is called Keep It Straight and Simple (KISS) party, whose ideology appears to comprise only one thing – strengthening the rand – and is run by a woman called Claire, and seemingly no one else.
There’s the Dagga Party, which ran in the municipal elections in 2011 on one platform, to legalise marijuana, believing “cannabis legalisation would confer numerous socio-economic benefits to South Africa”, according to its manifesto.
There’s also the Patriotic Alliance in the country, also known as the “gangster party” as its ranks are filled with seedy characters of all shades.
It was founded in November 2013 by Gayton McKenzie, a one-time convicted bank robber turned motivational speaker, and Kenny Kunene, a convicted Ponzi-scheme fraudster turned socialite known for his flamboyant style and throwing sushi parties.
Gets more eccentric
A few years ago there was the Placenta Party of Kenya, founded by a successful saxophonist and music teacher, who said that the party was to “birth a new Kenya”. But the party did not survive to run in the 2013 election.
Zambia has the United Poor People of Zambia Freedom Party, starkly abbreviated as the Poor People’s Party.
Madagascar has the Judged By Your Work party, (Asa Vita no Ifampitsarana, AVI) which, despite its peculiar name, actually sent former president Marc Ravalomanana to power in 2001, though it is no longer represented in Parliament.
And Gabon’s extensive forest cover plays a part in its politics too – there’s the National Woodcutters Rally, and its splinter National Woodcutters Rally – Kombila.