ECOWAS Parliament recommends adoption of regional instrument to prohibit tenure elongation

The ECOWAS Parliament has recommended the revision of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance to prohibit all forms of political manoeuvring to hold on to power beyond constitutional limits.

The Parliament made the recommendation at the end of its High-level seminar on “Two decades of Democratic Elections in ECOWAS Member States: Achievements, Challenges and the Way Forward” on Friday, in Winneba, Ghana.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the recommendation was contained in the communique on the outcomes of the seminar, which was read by Hon. Zargo Stephen, a member of Parliament from Liberia.

The recommendation for a revised protocol to prohibit tenure elongation is coming on the heels of the phenomenon seen to be the leading cause of the disruption of democratic rule in Mali and Guinea.

The parliamentarians and experts at the seminar also recommended that in order to consolidate democracy and good governance, election of members of the community Parliament should be by Direct Universal Suffrage.

They also recommended that “a study be conducted for the adoption of regional standards to govern electoral processes.

“Such as an effective independence of election management agencies, the impartiality of courts that sit on electoral disputes, regulation of electoral campaigns, computerization of electoral registers and use of voters’ card.

“Compliance with the quota or gender equality system to enhance women’s representation in decision-making bodies, including the ECOWAS Parliament.”

On the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and non-state actors in elections, they cautioned Civil Societies, political parties and electoral candidates against disclosure of results before the body mandated to do so.

“There should be the adoption of mechanisms to ensure adequate participation of Civil Society in the democratic process; such as the protection of the members of civil society organisations, transparent financing, regular cooperation “and consultation with civil society and the promotion of its mediation role between communities and political actors.”

They also recognized the critical role of the media during elections, and made recommendations on what they should do to ensure the conduct of credible elections.

Participants at the seminar stressed the need for greater monitoring of social media during election periods, and the repression of abuse, in order to prevent any media misstep due to disinformation and the spread of fake news.

“Equal access to official media and public services by all electoral candidates to enable them convey their programmes and views to the electorates.

“Adoption of legal frameworks to guarantee press freedom and to compel media professionals to adhere strictly with their ethics, capacity building for media professionals, and sensitization of the populace”, were also recommended.

Taking cognisance of the role of security services, the seminar recommended that measures be adopted to guarantee the independence and neutrality of security services and their involvement as stakeholders in the electoral process.

“There should be provision of adequate material, human and financial resources to security services and their capacity building.

“Promotion of cooperation and collaboration among the security services of ECOWAS Member States to share best practices in electoral security”.

On the role of the judiciary, they recommended the consolidation of its independence and impartiality of the justice system by national parliaments, through adequate legislations.

As for political parties, it was recommended that ECOWAS Member States institute a national dialogue framework to help unite political actors, while ensuring democratic governance of political parties.

They said it was important that there was transparency in party financing, and separation of their resources and activities from that of government.

Electoral observation systems should be strengthened and consolidated before, during and after elections, they also recommended, saying that this could be achieved by improving the strategies on the deployment of observers, cooperation of various International and local observation missions, and the quality of expertise of members of observation missions.

NAN also reports that the outcome of the seminar contained inputs from Members of Parliament, the ECOWAS Commission, experts and stakeholders from across relevant sectors. (NAN)