AU Leadership Race Deadlocked
Peter Heinlein | Addis Ababa
January 30, 2012
The race for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission ended Monday
in a deadlock, as the incumbent chairman, Jean Ping, and challenger
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma failed to win the necessary two-thirds majority
needed to win.
Through three tense rounds of voting, the contest was tight. Jean Ping, the
incumbent from Gabon, narrowly prevailed in the first ballot, 28 votes to
25. The challenger, veteran South African anti-apartheid activist Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma, pulled ahead slightly in the second round, 27-26, but in the
third round, Ping was back on top, 29 to 23.
According to the rules, Ping's name was on the ballot alone in a fourth
round, but 20 countries abstained, leaving him short of the necessary
two-thirds majority and sending the race into confusion. Diplomats said the
mass abstention was a vote of no confidence in Ping's leadership, which many
say was disastrous during recent continental crises in Ivory Coast and
It was not immediately clear how the stalemate would be resolved. The 53
member nations went into several hours of closed-door negotiations in search
of a compromise.
Diplomats close to the negotiations say a possible deal would allow Ping to
stay on as chairman for another six months, until a fresh election is held
at the next continental summit in Malawi at the end of June.
It was not immediately clear whether either Ping or Dlamini-Zuma would be
allowed to run at that time.
South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane characterized the
outcome as a vote of no confidence in Ping's leadership.
"The outcome is that the incumbent chair lost, and in terms of the rules he
had to vacate the seat, and in his place will come the deputy chair ad
interim until the next elections, which by all probability will be at the
next summit in June-July, Nkoana-Mashabane said. "After four rounds of
elections, we think the political message that has been sent out there is
that African leaders want change."
The deadlock is a setback for efforts to paint a picture of continental
unity, and revealed a glaring split along language lines. Ping represents
the French-speaking bloc of countries that carefully guard their hold on the
leadership. But South Africa represents a bloc that is increasingly
disenchanted with the pace of change.
The situation has also dampened the celebration at the new African Union
headquarters, which was dedicated Saturday. It is also the first summit
since the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was a powerful
force in the continental organization for four decades, and held the
rotating AU chairmanship in 2009.
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Received on Mon Jan 30 2012 - 12:32:05 EST