A regional Conference on “Ethics and Elections : Challenges and Institutional Responses” was organized by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nigeria in collaboration with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Nigeria from Tuesday, October 8 to Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at IBETO Hotels, 34, David Ejoor Crescent, Adisa Estate, Apo, Gudu District, Abuja.
Participants at the Conference included the Regional Coordinator and the Resident Representative FES Nigeria, the Chairman, Commissioners and Regional Electoral Commissioners of INEC Nigeria, the Chairman of the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI) Mali, the Vice Chairperson Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission, Kenya, Commissioners and representatives of EMBs of Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Togo and Kenya, representatives of ECOWAS and ECONEC, representatives of international Organizations as well as Civil Society Organizations, officials of INEC Nigeria and FES staff.
The over-all goal of the conference is to better combat flaws, frauds and corruption in elections in West Africa.
Specific objectives are to :
– define election integrity;
– understand the causes of electoral fraud;
– do a mapping of the consequences of electoral fraud on election outcomes, election integrity, legitimacy and the electoral process;
– understand the roles and culpabilities of political stakeholders and election officials in election fraud;
– facilitate the sharing of experiences on electoral fraud among EMBs;
– articulate strategies to better contain this phenomenon in West Africa.
The conference observed as follows:
1. The timing of the conference is apt considering the effects of ethical issues in relation to elections and its management in the region;
2. Plethora of international standards abounds without concerted efforts to disseminate them to the end- users;
3. Judicial activism in the electoral environment has adversely affected the administration of justice;
4. Weak electoral Institutions have impacted negatively on the conduct of elections;
5. All stakeholders have a share of the blame as far as ethical problems are concerned;
6. Zoning should not be seen as some kind of political settlement for the ruling class but should rather include creating enabling environment for women, youths and marginalized groups to participate in the electoral process;
7. There is a need for collaboration and partnership with all stakeholders especially the Media;
8. Internal and or alternative dispute mechanisms should be established before issues get to court;
9. Synergy among Security agencies should be encouraged;
10. Exclusion and ‘winner takes all’ leads to violence;
11. Corruption has remained a sub head in terms of cost of doing business; Corruption also is fuelled by practice of winner takes all and money politics;
12. Where rules on campaign financing exist, its enforcement remains problematic;
13. EMBs don’t have means and power to really prosecute electoral offenders;
14. Illegal money has remained a recurring feature of campaign finance especially within the region;
15. Incumbency power and abuse of the electoral process is rife in countries within the region;
16. The preponderance of hate speeches during political campaigns and media reportage of political activities.
Following the above observations, the Conference recommended as follows:
1. Good ethical background confers legitimacy and integrity to the electoral process and will consolidates democratic ethos in the region;
2. The media should engage in strategic reporting instead of sensational reportage that could have serious security implications for the country;
3. Regional Legal framework for conduct of Election should be established and proper ways and means of implementation designed. EMB should be rooted in very good legal framework with International Standard, Independence and sources of finance guaranteed in the law;
4. Appointment of the Chairman and officials of EMBS liberalized to remove them from the apron strings of the Executive;
5. Establishment of good EMB institutions with professional, competent and impartial staff. Also the EMB should be in the position to hire and fire its staff bearing in mind the bureaucratic bottlenecks of the civil service procedure;
6. Inter- agency collaboration be established where it does not exist;
7. Setting of limits and maximum disclosure of sources of campaign finance will regulate the abuse as it will promote good governance;
8. Establishment of election offences tribunal to adequately prosecute electoral offenders;
9. The need to look into the political economy of the region as a way of curbing money based politics, high cost of governance, violence and malpractices in pre during and post election, especially as these impinge on the ethical conduct;
10. Drastic reduction on the perks of public office in order to make election positions less attractive;
11. Invite countries that have practiced monitoring of political parties financing to tap from their experiences like the case of India;
12. Election observers should note that election is a process and must be observed from the beginning to the end instead of the event mentality approach adopted now;
17. There is a need of ratification, domestication and understanding of the various aspects of the International Standards and protocols as enunciated by the regional bodies;
18. CSOs should be positively engaged to assist in disseminating information to the public;
19. Electoral laws and media code of conduct should be strengthened to discourage hate speeches;
20. Code of conduct should also be adopted by EMBs staff and personnel as well as political parties in order to enforce ethical behaviours in the elections;
21. ECOWAS should set the benchmarks according to international standards for countries to follow in terms of all electoral activities.
Dated this day, Wednesday, October 9, 2013