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Electoral Reforms And Political Stability In Africa

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In many third world democracies, electoral reforms with the hope of making elections open, free, fair and acceptable to all the key stakeholders remain on top of the public agenda.  This paper discusses the topic “Electoral Reforms and Political Stability in Africa”.  It uses Zambia as the main case study.

A combination of two reasons suffices as to why most African countries should undertake electoral reforms. The first is that most African States were under British colonial rule and upon independence, adopted the Westminster constitution and the political arrangements that went with it. The electoral systems they adopted were not a product of a broad-based internal debate in which citizens had a chance to make submissions on the kind of system they wanted to see in place in their country. The second reason is that where limited changes have been introduced in the electoral systems, they were hardly ever debated and, in most cases, were partial and cosmetic rather than comprehensive and substantive. The result of these two factors has been political instability in some cases.

It is increasingly becoming a trend in Africa, that, whilst elections are supposed to anchor and ensure sustainable growth in democracies, in some countries elections have become a liability. This, therefore, calls for an amendment in certain African countries, to current electoral processes in order to reflect the present realities in the region as well as to adhere to international best practice standards. A number of African countries have resolved to undertake electoral reforms. A good example is Lesotho. The country adopted the Mixed Member Proportional System (MMPs) after its controversial 1998 elections. The move to the MMP was considered appropriate as the FPTP tended to exclude significant players in Lesotho’s political life.

Broadly, stakeholders must pay particular attention to two key areas· to improve elections in the region, namely election administration and electoral system design.

As an area of reform, election administration has to do with how elections are organised and managed. Election administration is a process which is as critical as the electoral outcome itself. Certain questions need to be asked to determine specific areas of reform and how reforms should proceed. These include: how elections are organised; how they are managed; and what regulatory frameworks are in place to ensure the credibility of the electoral process and the legitimacy of its outcomes.

Another area of reform is electoral system design. Electoral systems are methods of translating votes into seats. There are two main electoral systems used in most parts of Africa; the Single Member Plurality System, or first-past-the-post (FPTP), and the proportional representation (PR) system. The FPTP system is one were electors vote for one candidate in single-member constituencies, and the candidate who wins the most votes is elected, whether or not he or she wins a majority of the votes cast. In the PR system, the commonly used variant is the party list. The party list of candidates is usually equivalent to the number of seats in the House. The winner is determined by a calculation of the total proportional seats of each party relative to the overall valid votes cast. In Southern Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe practice the FPTP system whilst Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia have a PR system.

In order to help define the vision and objectives of the electoral reform process, Reynolds, Reilly and Ellis isolated 10 key criteria that could prove useful to guide the process, namely:

Ensuring a representative parliament and inclusive government;

Making elections accessible and meaningful;

Providing incentives for conciliation and constructive management of conflicts;

Facilitating stable, transparent and efficient government;

Holding the government accountable and responsive;

Holding the elected representatives accountable and responsive;

Encouraging “cross-cutting” political parties;

Promoting legislative opposition and oversight;

Making the election process cost-effective and sustainable; and

Taking into account international norms and standards (2005:9-14).

The above criterion is neither meant to be prescriptive nor suggestive. Granted, each African country has its own peculiar historical, socio-economic and political contexts and must decide for itself which of the above factors to include in its reform process.

The Zambian Situation before the era of  multipartyism in the 1990s, the election process in the country was managed by the department of elections under the Vice President’s office.

However, some people had a negative perception of the department of elections, viewing it as a compromised entity since it was under the charge -of- the Vice President’s office. In addition, the department was thought to be involved in rigging of elections with the sole purpose of keeping the ruling party in perpetual power.

In 1996, after multi-party politics had been in existence for some time, the Constitution was amended to provide for the creation of an independent electoral commission. Article 76(2) of the Constitution of Zambia, 1996, states that “An Act of Parliament shall provide for the composition and operations of the Electoral Commission appointed by the President under this Article.” This entails that the Parliament of Zambia is empowered by law to determine the operations of the Electoral Commission. According to the Constitution of Zambia, Article 76(1), the operations of the Electoral Commission include “ … to supervise the registration of voters, to conduct Presidential and Parliamentary elections and to review the boundaries of the constituencies into which Zambia is divided for the purposes of elections to the National Assembly.” As can be noted, the Constitution does not provide for the composition, powers and operations of the Commission; these provisions are found in the Electoral Commission Act, No. 24 of 1996 and the Electoral Act.

Section thirteen of the Electoral Act of 1991 provided that in the exercise of its functions under the Constitution, the ECZ shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority. In addition, the Act provided for the appointment of commissioners and officers as well as the functions of the Commission. The appointment of commissioners was to be scrutinised by a parliamentary Select Committee and ratified by the House. However, the performance of the Electoral Commission of Zambia under Justice Bobby Bwalya during the 2001 elections came under scrutiny as a result of the use of the Nikuv register which majority of Zambians claimed had been used to rig elections. The controversial Nikuv register and general concerns raised during the 2001 – elections Prompted the then president, the late Dr Levy Nwanawasa to make a decision to improve the functions of the Electoral Commission of Zambia in order to safeguard its legitimacy by appointing the Electoral Reforms and Technical Committee (ERTC) to make recommendations for electoral reforms.

In August, 2005, the ERTC submitted its final report containing recommendations which could revolutionise the electoral system and make it relevant to the multiparty political environment in Zambia. Some of the recommendations in the ERTC report include:

1. Electoral System – Zambia should adopt a Mixed Member Proportional System, which combines the FPTP and the PR systems. Under this system, it is proposed to have a 200 Member Parliament, excluding the Speaker. Out of the 200, 40 members should be nominated by various political parties, on the basis of the proportion of votes received in the FPTP Constituency. These seats should consist of women, differently abled persons and young persons;

2.The Electoral Commission of Zambia – the independence of the ECZ should be expressly provided for in the Act. The ECZ Commissioners should be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission and ratified by Parliament. The ECZ should conduct continuous voter education;

3. Electoral Law – All the laws pertaining to the electoral process be harmonised, rationalised and consolidated; and

4.Government funding of Political Parties and disclosure of source of Funding – political parties which have representation in Parliament or

Local Councils should be funded and that this political party financing should be subjected to efficient Government controls.

In response to the ERTC recommendations, the Government of Zambia introduced very limited legislative changes to electoral procedures in mid-2006, including an electoral code of conduct and limits on politically-motivated donations and handouts, all contained in the Electoral Act No. 12 of 2006 which replaced the Electoral Act of 1991. Majority of the recommendations are yet to be implemented.

Parliament made recommendations to the ERTC with the aim of enhancing Parliament’s representativeness. The following were some of the recommendations:  1.  The electoral system must provide for a two round ballot system or run­off, which is important in a presidential system such as exists in Zambia, whereby the top two or three candidates are subjected to a second round of votes to ensure that the eventual winner is elected by more than a 51 percent majority;

2.         the Electoral Act should provide for the Electoral Commission to be representative of the major non-governmental institutions in the country. The Act should provide for the President to request different institutions such as Trade Unions, Professional Associations and Church bodies to recommend three individuals from among them to sit on the Commission. The names should then be submitted to the President who should nominate one person from among each of the three recommended by their respective institutions. The nomination of these individuals would then be ratified by Parliament. The Electoral Act should also empower the Commission to hear Electoral petitions which, upon determination, by the Commission can be heard on appeal by the High Court;

Muntanga is a member of the Zambian National Assembly

 

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Senate Wades Into CJN, S’Court Justices’ Feud

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The Senate has waded into the disagreement between the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, and justices of the Supreme Court.
Fourteen aggrieved justices of the apex court had, in a widely circulated letter to the CJN, accused him of neglecting their welfare, not carrying them along in managing the affairs of the court, the deteriorating condition of services generally, and the state of the litigation department.
Speaking at plenary on Wednesday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the legislature must be interested in what is happening in the judiciary with a view to finding solution to any of its issues.
He therefore mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters led by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) to wade into the issue.
He said: “We must have interest in what is happening in the judicial arm of government with a view to bringing solution to the issue.
“Our Standing Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters should get involved and find out what the real issue is so that the National Assembly can help out.”

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Voter Registration: INEC Insists On June 30 Deadline, Denies Extension

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has denied extending the deadline of the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), describing the report that it has agreed to extend the deadline by 60 days as false.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, Aishatu Jibril Dukku, had while briefing lawmakers told members during a plenary session on Wednesday that the Commission had agreed to extend the CVR by 60 days.
“The Committee held a meeting with INEC yesterday (Tuesday) and they agreed to extend the CVR, all our resolutions were approved,” she said.
But responding, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, clarified that the Commission has not announced an extension of the CVR deadline.
The exercise, which was meant to end on June 30, has been greeted by calls for an extension. Also, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had stopped INEC from ending the exercise until all eligible voters had been registered.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has faulted media reports associating it with the extension of the ongoing CVR.
The House spokesperson, Benjamin Kalu, said it was untrue that the shift of the INEC voter registration was announced on the floor of the House on Wednesday.
Flanked by the chairman of the House Committee on INEC, Hajia Aisha Dukku, he said the decision on the shift is left to Prof Mahmoud Yakubu-led INEC to take.
Kalu acknowledged that INEC may not be able to adhere to the recently adopted motion of the House, which demanded an extension of the exercise by two additional months in view of the extant provision of the electoral amendment Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended.
He reiterated the resolve of the House to ensure that eligible voters are not disenfranchised in the 2023 poll.
Dukku expressed optimism that INEC would heed the call for an extension.

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Fear Grips APC Over Gale Of Defections, Adamu Runs To NASS

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Following the primary elections conducted in different parts of the country by political parties, a gale of defections has hit the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), causing the party serious concern.
APC national chairman, Sen Abdullahi Adamu, on Wednesday described the mass defection of members of the party to other political parties as unfortunate and worrisome.
Adamu made this comment to newsmen after he met with the APC Senate Caucus at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
He said: “It is an unfortunate development when it happens, but this is the season for all manner of behaviour in the political space. And Nigeria is not an exception.
“In every election year, this kind of thing gives cause for stakeholders to sneeze. This is what we are experiencing. Nigeria is no exception and the APC is no exception.
“I don’t give a damn what is happening in other parties. I care about what is happening in our party, but you and I know that it’s not just in the APC that is having this experience; because we are the ruling party, yes our problems are more prominent in the public glare.”
He stated that every responsible leader will be concerned worry about losing one member, not to talk of two. At the moment, we are faced with the stark reality of that problem and we are committed with my colleagues in the National Working Committee (NWC) to face the problems squarely and see the problems are solvable, and we will solve them,” he said.
But despite the defection the party has been suffering  in recent weeks, yesterday  three senators belonging to the APC resigned their membership.
The lawmakers are Senators Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina North), Lawal Yahaya Gumau (Bauchi South), and Francis Alimikhena (Edo North).
Whilst Babba Kaita and Alimikhena defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Gumau, on the other hand, defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Two senators from Bauchi and Imo States have resigned their membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively.
The lawmakers are Senator Dauda Jika – representing Bauchi Central and elected on the platform of the APC, and Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi – representing Imo East Senatorial District, who was elected on the platform of the PDP.
Both senators, in separate letters addressed to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, conveyed their decision to resign their membership of the APC and PDP,  and to join the Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), respectively.
The APC lawmaker, Dauda Jika, said he was moving to the NNPP whose ideals are in line with his political aspirations.
Onyewuchi, on his part, said defecting to Labour Party would nable him to participate fully in the “movement for a new Nigeria.”
Wednesday’s defections bring the number of APC Senators to 66, with members of the minority parties standing at 43.
The minority parties in the Senate at present are five in number as of Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022.
They are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Young People’s Party (YPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and Labour Party (LP).
Meanwhile, A former Minister of Aviation and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has raised the alarm that 22 Senators of the ruling party were at the verge of leaving the party for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over their inability to secure re-election tickets in the just-concluded APC primaries.
The Tide source reports that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had at separate sittings of the Houses lamented the inability of many lawmakers to secure their return tickets for the 2023 elections.
Chief Fani-Kayode, however, on Wednesday took to his verified social  media handles, saying the threat by the aggrieved Senators was a serious matter and something must be done to avert the mass defection.
He added that many party members have expressed concerns over the development even as he called on the national chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and national secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, to quickly wade in by reaching out to the affected lawmakers.
The former Minister wrote: “22 APC Senators are threatening to decamp to PDP because they have been denied the tickets to return to the Senate.
“This is serious and something must be done to prevent it.
“Many are concerned and we urge our able National Chairman and National Secretary to reach them. We cannot afford to lose them.”

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