Africans gather to discuss ways of improving elections and electoral practice
Citizens of Africa gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, for the pre-Summit for Democracy Citizens Summit in Defence of Democracy and Freedom, on the 27th and 28th of March 2023.The summit provided a platform for civil society actors across Africa to shape and share their aspirations around the nature and form of democratization they want, discuss how to make democracy deliver socio-economically, and push back on resurgent authoritarianism on the continent. The conversations contributed input to the second Summit in form of commitments from civil society representing citizens’ perspectives.
Secrets Known acting as the fly on the wall brings you the recommendations made concerning the democratic facet of elections and electoral practice. The Africans coming together under this pre- summit called upon their governments and partners for democracy to commit to strengthening and enhancing the integrity of elections as the most visible expression of popular democracy that can truly allow representative governance of the people by the people.
They observed that while the quantity of elections has increased, their quality, integrity, freeness and fairness to ensure genuine electoral contestation remains low. Secrets Known notes that poor quality elections in Africa are threat multipliers to the tenets of democracy. Freedom of speech, expression, association, and assembly are threatened by undemocratic elections in Africa. African elections are in many ways performative, without certainty of process but certainty of outcome, instead of the opposite.
The pre-summit made a clarion call to African governments and other partners for democracy to promote, encourage and support genuine democratic contestations where there is process certainty and outcome uncertainty and also where the will of the people is respected.
Unanimously, African governments, African Union and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have been encouraged to insist on sound electoral practice as per the African Charter on Democracy, Governance and Elections and regional protocols on the conduct of democratic elections.
African governments were also urged to commit to standardising legal frameworks on political financing to promote accountability, and transparency in financing of political parties, election campaigns, and referenda. Secrets Known notes that this includes strengthening institutions that offer political finance oversight in line with article 7.3 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which calls on states to take appropriate legislative and administrative measures to enhance transparency in the funding of candidatures for elected public office and political parties.
In the pre-summit communique, African Union (AU) was encouraged to coordinate African States to pass a resolution on a joint standard for political finance and set up a peer review mechanism on political finance at continental and national levels. Secrets Known observes that there must be international support towards operationalisation of best practice in political party and campaign finance. Political finance must be approached holistically through effective interagency collaboration, coordination and oversight, extensive citizen engagement and the integration of indigenous approaches that foster transparency and accountability, bearing in mind local context.
African governments were further urged to actively promote, strengthen, and encourage citizen engagement and participation throughout the electoral cycle, including providing an enabling environment for such participation.
Additionally, African governments and partners for democracy were advised to facilitate the active involvement of all stakeholders in the private sector, civil society, and academia in political and government processes. This follows that, inclusivity, consultation, engagement, representation, and participation are hallmarks of democratic practice.
Lastly, the African Union was encouraged to continue working with citizens and democracy stakeholders to condemn unconstitutional changes of government and facilitate greater citizen engagement, including their active participation in election observation missions.
The pre-summit event which was part of the global Partners for Democracy Day gathered cooperation and support from civil society organizations with interest and participation in the second edition of Summit for Democracy.
In the next edition, Secrets Known will share the recommendations from other democratic acets.