The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has called on the Electoral Commission (EC) to avoid the preparation of a crash timetable for the conduct of future elections because that practice undermines the electoral process and threatens national peace and stability.
It, therefore, urged the EC to publish well-defined programmes with timelines ahead of general elections to ensure certainty in the implementation of its activities.
“Things done in a rush are susceptible to costly mistakes. Indeed, such crash activities are a recipe for distrust, tension and the raising of unnecessary alarms over issues that could ideally pass without many qualms from the key stakeholders,” the IEA stated.
The call forms part of the recommendations of the IEA Electoral Reforms Project Report which captures the views of political party representatives and other key political actors in the country.
The IEA recalled that in the run-up to the 2012 elections, for instance, the EC engaged in a number of activities of considerable constitutional and electoral significance. These included the biometric voter registration, exhibition of voters’ register, review and creation of additional 45 constituencies and seats in Parliament.
According to the IEA, those activities overstretched the capacity of the EC to successfully undertake and accomplish all its pre-election programmes for the 2012 elections.
It wondered why all those activities were undertaken at a time when the key actors in the electoral process, particularly the political parties, were very busy campaigning across the country.
In the opinion of the IEA, well-defined activities of the EC and timelines for their implementation would help political parties to properly align their campaign activities, adding that they would also help build trust and ensure proper collaboration among the political actors for the conduct of credible and peaceful elections.
“This recommendation is very crucial in ensuring clarity and certainty in the minds of both the EC and political parties regarding all that must be done before general elections are held,” it said.
The IEA also recommended that the EC should recruit highly trained people to serve as election officials and punish those who would act negligently to undermine the electoral process.
It noted that election officials such as presiding officers, polling assistants and returning officers played a very crucial role in the electoral process so those who negligently undermined the electoral process should be punished (including imprisonment).
“The credibility of the nation’s electoral process, as well as acceptance of election results as free and fair, peaceful and transparent, to a large extent, depends on these polling officials.
“Where they perform their duties efficiently, the credibility of the poll is guaranteed but where they are incompetent and act negligently, they compromise the poll and undermine the nation’s electoral process,” it said.
The IEA said in the nation’s drive towards democratic maturity and quest for credible, transparent and acceptable elections, “there is the need for a rethink of the calibre of people recruited as election officials.
“As a fledgling democracy, it is imperative that we explicitly provide in our electoral regulations, some minimum educational qualifications for those who apply to be engaged as election officials,” it said.
The IEA observed that the EC currently conducted written examination to select election officials but it pointed out that “it is high time the Electoral Commission reviewed its syllabus and raised the standard of the examination”.
It also said the regulations should provide a minimum period for the training of election and registration officials before they were assigned duties, and added that education should be intensified to enable voters to verify the credibility of proposed election officials.
Source: Daily Graphic
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