Organising credible elections is still work in progress in Africa

Beecham Okwere David

The debates about elections in Africa are as common as the elections themselves.

For years, many meetings, seminars and conferences have been held with the aim of identifying the crucial ingredients for credible polls, including some organized by UN, AU programmes and all other agencies to mention but a few.

All those have identified a number of best practices, drawing on both exemplary elections and more challenging cases.

There seems to be general agreement about the factors that can help produce credible elections:

Chief among these is the establishment of a truly independent and impartial electoral commission.

Such an institution can act as a referee during elections and its independence and impartiality can enhance citizen confidence in the process.

Commissions should act in a transparent manner and engage with all actors involved in elections.

In addition, non-partisan domestic and foreign election observers can provide an impartial assessment of the electoral process, further helping citizens assess its legitimacy.

The media should be able to provide balanced coverage of all candidates and parties.

Civil society groups should be active in issues ranging from voter education to the promotion of election dialogue and initiatives to defuse conflicts.

Throughout the electoral process, security personnel must remain neutral.
Competing politial parties and candidates must show willingness to conduct themselves peacefully and fairly.

Incumbent leaders must set a tone of tolerance and respect for the election process.

Commercial politics must be abolished to allow free and fair completion to give room to those without enough resources not to be blocked from exhibiting their leadership skills and talent

When many or all of these elements are in place they can help set the stage for elections that are inclusive, transparent and accountable to citizens.

Where these standards are met, analysts argue, the public is likely to have confidence in the election process and outcome.

I urge all of us to always desist from the root path of violence because that has always broken our backs in African Continent progress.

The author is an African Union Elections Observers Missions Consultant and Special Advisor of the International France Based NGO RAPEC.

 

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