The time is ripe for Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) in Africa to find new ways of holding elections, especially during emergency situations.
Mr Wafula Chebukati, the President of the General Assembly of the Association of Africa Election Authorities (AAAEA), said the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions and risks calls for alternative mode to fulfil democratic tenets.
Speaking at the opening of AAEA’s two-day executive meeting in Accra on Thursday, he said, the advancement of technology offered some window of opportunity that needed to be explored.
Over the next two days the Executive Committee of the AAEA will discuss issues including its medium-term strategic plan and share lessons on conducting elections in a global pandemic.
“As EMBs our mandate is to ensure that people choose their leaders freely through election. This constitutional mandate cannot be postponed due to emergencies like COVID-19,” Mr Chebukati, who is also the Chairperson of Independent Elections Boundaries Commission of Kenya, said.
He said Kenya, on August 9, 2022 would go to the polls to elect the President, Members of the National Assembly and other leaders.
Mrs Jean Mensa, the President of AAEA and the Chairperson of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, said the COVID-19 took a significant toll on countries in diverse ways.
She noted that the EC had to take novel steps, including convincing electorates to organise credible, transparent and peaceful general election.
“It’s no doubt daunting. It is in this light that I urge members to press forward with the singular resolve of reviving the AAEA,” she said.
Mr Fabio Bargiacchi, the Executive Director of the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), pledged his organization's commitment to supporting the mandate of the AAEA to promote electoral best practices on the Continent.
He said the ECES was ready to support initiatives such as capacity and training to help prevent electoral violence, support free and fair participation of women in elections.
Mr Calixte Mbari, the Acting Director, Governance and Conflict Prevention at the Africa Union, said the activities of EMBs were crucial to the deepening of democracy on the Continent.
He said it was not right to blame EMBs entirely for electoral violence due to the involvement of other stakeholders in the process.
Mr Mbari urged AAEA to build a robust structure in Africa to stamp out electoral related violence through capacity building to ensure free and fair elections.