The hugely-anticipated election of a new African Union (AU) Commission chairperson ended in a deadlock yesterday after the incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon and South African Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma each failed to garner two-thirds of the vote.
The deadlock forced the AU to postpone the polls to its next summit in Malawi in July.
Observers said the poll, which was held behind closed doors, was very tight and beyond expectations.
According to AU rules, Ping and Dlamini-Zuma can no longer contest for the post and new candidates must now be nominated. Elections for AU commissioners have also reportedly been put on hold.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that Ping won the first round by 28 votes against Dlamini- Zuma’s 25.
Zuma, the ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma and one of South Africa’s longest-serving government ministers, was challenging to become the first woman to head the 54-nation bloc’s executive council.
She was forced to withdraw from the race in line with the rules, but Ping still failed to get the two-thirds with 29 votes.
Ping, who has been the AU Commission chairperson since 2008, was running for a second term.
He was challenged after reportedly coming under immense criticism from African leaders for the way in which he responded to the Libyan crisis.
AU Commission deputy chairperson, Kenya’s Erastus Mwencha, will now hold fort until the polls are held.
Meanwhile, Benin President Thomas Yayi Boni took over the chairmanship of the AU yesterday from Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbassogo, whose mandate for the year 2011 has come to an end.
The newly-elected chairperson of the continental organisation will manage the affairs of the Union and represent the AU for a one-year mandate.
According to the rotation principle, the chairmanship of the Union for the year 2012 was to be given to a West African country.