Former Chairman, Independent National Election Commission (INEC) in Nigeria, Professor Attahiru Jega has said that an overhaul of the electoral system in ECOWAS Member States was critical to achieving credible, free and fair elections in the region.
Professor Jega made this known during a Technical Session at the on-going High-level Parliamentary Seminar of the ECOWAS Parliament on Thursday in Winneba, Ghana.
While speaking at the event, Professor Jega said independence, relative autonomy, integrity of the electoral body with a good legal framework would bring desired reforms in the electoral process of ECOWAS countries for good governance.
Professor Jega explained that achieving credible elections required the collaboration of all stakeholders, explaining that the electoral body alone could not succeed in delivering credible elections if other sectors were compromised.
“When we examined the conduct of elections in the last two decades in ECOWAS Member States, we could see some progress that has been made, but obviously there were still lots of challenges.
“To address these challenges, we need to pay attention to bringing about substantial and substantive reforms of the electoral processes and electoral systems being used in West Africa.
“Most specifically, we need to pay quick attention to integrity of the election management body itself, which was key the conduct of credible election in the country.
“We need to ensure that there is a robust legal framework which also has integrity as a framework for the preparations and conducts of elections, and I think quite often, the legal framework to which electoral bodies conduct elections leaves much to be desired,” he stated.
Professor Jega pointed that it was important to pay attention to the appointment of election management body, considering personal integrity, competence, impartiality, and neutrality.
Withstand Negative Pressures
He said these were very important values to establish an effective and efficient and component body which could withstand negative pressures either from incumbent regimes, political parties, or candidates.
Professor Jega said political parties, both incumbent governments and candidates aims to win elections either by hook or crook.
“And if you have a weak election management body or an election body that can be politically factious then there will be challenges of achieving at the core objectives of elections as it relates to democracy and governance,” Jega said.
The Former Chairman, Electoral Commission of Ghana, Professor Kojo Afari-Gyan also stressed the need for synergy across all stakeholders to guarantee the conduct of a free and fair elections in ECOWAS Countries.
Professor Afari-Gyan said that personal integrity of electoral staff and systems integrity were also critical factors that must be enforced for a free and fair process.
He explained that if members of staff of the electoral body fails in personal integrity, once there was system integrity, it would be easy to detect the source of the failure.
“Democratic consolidation is a multifaceted process of implementable gains in the performance of the functions mandated to be done by the institutions that form the democratic state.
“It is not a one institution thing.
“The responsibility does not lie in the hands of the government alone, political parties have a role to play, the police have a role to play.
“The way they carry out their duties will always make an impact in the quality of delivery,” he said.
Afari-Gyan talking about integrity, said all must distinguish between personal integrity and systems integrity.
Electoral Reforms Critical To Credible Elections -Former INEC Chairman