Mr Edward Amoako Asante, President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, has called on national Electoral Commissions (ECs) in Africa to remain independent and assertive to consolidate democratic gains.
He said the EC must always uphold the sanctity and integrity of every election by putting in place pragmatic measures to deliver free, fair, and transparent elections to sustain national peace and cohesion.
Mr Edward Amoako Asante gave the advice at the 9th ‘Jurists’ Confab’ of the University of Cape Coast Faculty of Law.
It was on the theme: “Consolidating democracy, the rule of law, and respect for the ballot in an era of good governance.”
He said the most fundamental principle defining credible elections was that they must reflect the free expression of the will of the people.
To achieve this, elections should be transparent, inclusive, and accountable, and there must be equitable opportunities to compete in the elections, he stated.
“Fair elections include making sure that everyone can register to vote, and either go to a polling place or vote another way.
It also means that people can vote without being threatened”, he added.
According to him, voters should have a way to get all the right information on the electoral processes and fraudulent practices must not be entertained during voting.
All votes should be counted in the right way and the correct results should be given to the people, he said.
Mr Amoako lamented about indecision and lack of well-streamlined electoral management processes that had plunged many countries into protracted conflicts.
The endless violence associated with cleaning up voters registers often resulted in misunderstandings over reports of missing names and other challenges during exhibitions.
He emphasized that no amount of provocation during electioneering campaigns and electoral processes should result in physical assaults with its resultant murder or maiming of innocent citizens particularly, women and children who are vulnerable.
On electoral disputes, Mr Asante blamed the phenomenon on vote buying, bribery, delay in election declaration, and a host of others as the root cause of unending disputes and violence during and after elections.
“Politicians can impoverish communities, pretend as though they care and still get them to be tools for destruction and violence during elections.
But the youth must be empowered to avert such occurrences,” he added.
Professor Lydia Nkansah, the former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), among others, urged all to work hard to fiercely protect ballot boxes to ensure that everyone’s vote is counted.
“We must work hard to maintain the national peace. We are not violent people, but stakeholders must make sure that nobody disrupts the voting process in our polling stations.”