Electoral reforms, Integrity critical to achieving credible elections in ECOWAS, says Jega


By Aluta News

Oct. 14, 2021

Prof. Attahiru Jega, Former Chairman, Independent National Election Commission (INEC),  has said that an overhaul of the electoral system in ECOWAS Member States is critical to achieving credible, free and fair elections in the sub-region.

Jega made this known during a Technical Session at the ongoing High-level Parliamentary Seminar of the ECOWAS Parliament on Thursday in Winneba, Ghana.

According to him, independence, relative autonomy, integrity of the electoral body with a good legal framework will bring the desired reforms in the electoral process of ECOWAS countries for good governance.

Jega said that achieving credible elections also requires the collaboration of all stakeholders, adding that the electoral body alone cannot not succeed in delivering credible elections if other sectors are compromised.

“When we examine the conduct of elections in the last two decades in ECOWAS Member States, we can see some progress that has been made but obviously there are lots of challenges which remains.

“To address these challenges, we need to pay attention to bringing about substantial and substantives reforms of the electoral processes and electoral systems which we use in the West African Sub-region.

“Most specifically we need to pay attention fast to the integrity of the election management body itself. This is key because whatever lacks integrity is unlikely to bring outcomes to integrity.

“We need to ensure that there is a robust legal framework which also have integrity as a framework for the preparations and conducts of elections.

“I think quite often the legal framework to which electoral bodies conduct elections leaves much to be desired.

“It is very important that attention has to be paid in the appointment of election management body to not only personal integrity but competence and impartiality, if not neutrality.

“These are very important values can help not only establish an effective and efficient and component body but can also withstand negative pressures either from incumbent regimes, or from political parties, or even from candidates.

“Because regrettably, most of our political parties, both incumbent governments and candidates want to win elections either by hook or by 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.

Prof. Kojo Afari-Gyan, Former Chairman, Electoral Commission of Ghana also stressed the need for synergy across all stakeholders to guarantee the conduct of a free and fair elections in ECOWAS Countries.

Afari-Gyan said that personal integrity of electoral staff and systems integrity are also critical factors that must be enforced for a free and fair process.

He explained that staff of the electoral body fails in personal integrity, once there is system integrity, it would be easy to detect what went wrong and where it went wrong.

“Democratic consolidation is a multifaceted process of implementing 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.

“Talking about integrity, we must distinguish between personal integrity and systems integrity.

“Where we cannot guarantee personal integrity, we can ensure system integrity, which means we can trace where the lapses occurred and find solutions to them,” Afari-Gyan said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that  parliamentary Seminar with the theme “Two Decades of Democratic Elections in ECOWAS Member States: Achievements, Challenges, Challenges and the Way Forward” seeks to proffer solutions to electoral inconsistencies in Member States.