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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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CAN Accuses El-Rufai Of Hidden Agenda

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The Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has accused Governor Nasir El-Rufai of engaging in politics with civil servants and residents of the state.
This was contained in a statement issued on Tuesday by the state chairman of CAN, Rev. John Joseph Hayab, in the aftermath of the pronouncement of a four-day work week by the governor.
El-Rufai had said the state government would begin implementing the transitional arrangement in the public service starting from December 1, 2021.
However, the CAN Chairman urged caution, stating that the citizens of the state had been subjected to pains by this government through some of its unpopular policies.
He advised civil servants in the state not to celebrate the policy yet until they were convinced that there was no hidden agenda behind it.
“Workers must be sure that the policy is not aimed at reducing their salaries.
“They must be convinced that the government will not wake up one day with another shocking news of salary reduction since the five working days have been reduced to four.”
“How can a state that is not secured talk about giving workers time for agriculture and be with family when bandits move about freely, terrorising people in their homes, on the farms, and on the highways!
“How can one spend time with family when you have nothing to feed them or provide for their basic needs?” he said.

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Meagre Allocation Stalls Adamawa LG Polls

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The Adamawa State Independent Electoral Commission (ADSIEC) has postponed the December 4 local government council polls indefinitely due to  lack of funds.
ADSIEC Information Officer, Innocent Daniel, said on Monday that the commission was awaiting funds from the government to conduct a free, fair and transparent election.
“Among the major challenges that led to the postponement of the election was the meagre allocation to the commission in the state’s 2021 budget.
“The allocation is too meagre for the commission to organise and conduct the election.
“Also, the re-usable election materials such as ballot boxes, duty vests, bags and kits were completely vandalised during the #Endsars protest,” he said.
The Information officer said that the commission was also faced with the problem of handling the new polling units that were converted from voting points by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He said that the conversion had raised the polling units in the state from 2,609 to 4,104.
“This development will lead to an increase in facilities and ad hoc staff. The ongoing registration of new voters will also have a resultant increase in ballot paper requirements.
“It is in this regard that the preparations for the local government council election for December 4, is hereby suspended to give the government time to source for funds,” Mr Daniel said.

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2023: Northern Youths Urge Old Politicians To Steer Clear

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Politicians above 60 years of age have been urged to stay away from the presidential race come 2023.
The appeal was made by the leadership of the Concerned Northern Youth Forum (CNYF) in Kaduna yesterday.
They argued that in developed nations, people of that age and experience were mostly engaged in charitable activities, free consultancy services and other forms of selfless services.
The spokesman of the group, Comrade Abdulsalam Moh’d Kazeem, called on youths to take advantage of the “not too young to rule”  to participate actively in the political arena.
Also, a north-based group has tasked Nigerian youths to join politics to free the country of bad governance.
Coordinator of the group, National Youth Movement for Good Governance, Nasiru Aliyu, who disclosed this at a news briefing in Kaduna, said Nigeria requires young hands that can work assiduously to address its developmental challenges.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders in the North Central zone and bigwigs of the PDP in the region, have thrown their weight behind the candidature of Bukola Saraki in the 2023 presidency.
The group, led by Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, stated this on Monday during the advocacy committee meeting for Saraki with party members and delegations from across the zone at the Nasarawa State party secretariat in Lafia.
An associate of Saraki, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, urged the party to consider Saraki as its presidential candidate for 2023 to salvage the country from total collapse.
Also, the campaign team of a former presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on Monday met with the party’s officials and stakeholders from the three senatorial districts of Benue State over the 2023 general elections.
The leader of the team, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, said they were in Benue as forerunners of Atiku to consult with the elders of the PDP in the state and ask them for support for their principal who will be contesting the presidential poll in 2023.
Similarly, a support group, Tinubu Legacy Forum (TLF), has said the national leader of the ruling APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is not too old to contest the presidency.
While 69-year-old Tinubu has not formally declared his presidential interest, his recent visitations and series of support groups, rooting for him, show his interest in contesting the 2023 presidency, probably under the APC.
Addressing newsmen on Monday in Abuja, the Coordinator, TLF, FCT Chapter, Barrister Abdullahi Awwal Muhammad, said Tinubu was not too old to contest for the presidency.
In Lagos, a Yoruba group yesterday endorsed the former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha as the next president. The group, under the aegis of Oduduwa Sons and Daughters for Equity and Justice, declared that the Yoruba people have decided to support a South-Easterner as successor to President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

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