Wednesday, April 30, 2014

SouthAfrica: IEC pledges impartial polls

The main national results operations centre of the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) was officially opened in Pretoria on Wednesday. IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula conducted the ceremony at the Tshwane events centre, west of Pretoria. "The national operations centre together with the provincial results centres have become an enduring symbol of our commitment to deliver a free and fair election," she said.

"It now gives me great pleasure to declare the results operations centre for the 2014 national and provincial elections officially open."She said like previous polls, the 7 May elections would conform to internationally accepted criteria, including impartial administration of the electoral process.
President Jacob Zuma and several representatives of opposition parties were at the launch and were given a tour of the huge electoral centre.

Source: News24

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nigeria Elections: Stage Set for Real Competition

The opposition APC has to convince voters it represents genuine change, while the ruling PDP will have to persuade voters to stick with the devil they have come to know so well. The formation of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in February last year represented a landmark event in Nigerian politics. For the first time since the country's return to multi-party democracy in 1999, the dominance of the ruling People's Democratic Party looked like it could be seriously challenged.
The APC resulted from the merger of four main opposition groups and is essentially the first challenger party with a national scope. 

Historically, party politics in Nigeria has consisted of one ‘national’ party and a few others with more regional outlooks. This was the case in the so-called First Republic (1963-6) and the Second Republic (1979-1983). In the Third Republic, the annulled elections of June 1993 were contested by two national parties − the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) − but these were essentially creations of General Ibrahim Babangida's regime and were roundly dismissed by critics as ‘test tube parties’.

In the Fourth Republic (1999-now), there have been attempts to create genuine challengers to the PDP. Days before the 2011 elections, for example, some opposition parties tried − and failed − to join forces. Even if they had, the PDP's march to victory looked all but inevitable. Now, however, some lessons seem to have been learned. Opposition groups have been able to put aside their differences − at least for now − and form early enough before the 2015 elections to develop an alternative platform from which to woo voters and smooth out any internal cracks before it's too late.

APC challenges

There is much discontent in Nigeria with the PDP. Various high-level officials have been implicated in corruption scandals, the government has been unable to ensure economic growth is inclusive and leads to employment, and President Goodluck Jonathan has failed to stem the tide of attacks by the Islamist militants Boko Haram. However, disillusionment with the PDP does not necessarily mean victory for the APC come 2015. The opposition party has its own issues with which to contend. Last year, for example, the APC welcomed a wave of defectors from the ruling party, including 5 governors, 37 members of the House of Representatives and around two dozen senators. On the one hand, this was a political coup and marked a changing of the tides. But on the other, it left some wondering how different the APC could be to the ruling party if it was drawing so much of its line-up from the PDP.

One way in which the APC could distinguish itself is through its choice of presidential candidate and, crucially, in the process by which that choice is made. As a party whose slogan is ‘A new party for a new Nigeria’, the APC needs to pick a nominee who can embody this sense of change as well as connect with voters. However, once again, its strength in being able to boast an array of well-recognised political veterans could prove to be a weakness if not handled sensitively. For a long time, the PDP somehow managed to keep the many factions within the party happy; now the APC must do same.

Securing credible elections

For all the attention on the PDP and APC, the two giant parties are not the only organisations that will determine the outcome of the 2015 elections. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will also play a key role, especially given how competitive and potentially close the polls could be. The first challenge will be financial. According to INEC's chairman, Attahiru Jega, running the election will cost N92.9 billion ($570 million). However, given that the 2011 elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a population less than half the size of Nigeria's, cost $360 million, that figure could end up being significantly higher.

The second challenge for INEC is to ensure the elections are credible. At the beginning of April, federal lawmakers continued to debate changes to electoral law that would place the burden of proof on INEC in election petitions. If implemented, this would mean that INEC would have to show an election was credible when challenged. Only once it did this would the petitioner be required to provide evidence that the poll was not conducted properly. It is hoped that this arrangement would put even more pressure on INEC to ensure free, fair and credible elections.

The messy and disputed governorship elections in Anambra state last November raised serious concerns about the commission’s capacity. Jega has said the lessons have been learnt, but this assertion will soon be tested in the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun, to be held on 21 June and 9 August respectively. The American author Mark Twain is often credited with coming up with the saying: “Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed often, and for the same reason”. One thing this points to is the fact that while, in an electoral democracy, people may vote out bad leaders, they will not necessarily vote in good ones. Hence the need to repeat the process often.

Since 1999, Nigerians have not really had this opportunity. Although the man at the head of the PDP has changed, the ruling party has not. Now, for the first time, Nigerians could decide that 15 years of PDP rule is enough and that they are ready to try something new. Over the next ten months, the APC will have to try to convince voters that they are indeed something new, while the PDP will have to try to regain the people's trust or at least convince them to stick with the devil they have come to know so well.

Source: Think Africa Press

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Malawi Elections: MEC disowns bank deposits into political party account

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has trashed reports that it has deposited money into any political parties’ account ahead of the May 20 general election. In a statement signed by MEC chief elections officer, Willie Kalonga, the commission it has been availed with bank deposit slip that has been provided to the media indicating details that it was made by a MEC staff member into a bank account for a political party.

“This matter has been referred to the Fiscal police who are investigating and treating the issue as a criminal matter. The Commission is confident that the Police will do a professional job to the culprits to book,” reads part of the statement.Kalonga further says that the Commission finds this act not only defamatory but also malicious and being orchestrated by individuals or groups that are bent towards denting the image of the commission as we prepare for the Tripartite Elections May 20, 2014

He says the electoral authorities are utterly disappointed “with the act by unscrupulous individuals or bodies that are peddling bank deposits slips with forged information about the Commission's staff.”He then assured all electoral stakeholders of the Commission’s highest commitment to hold credible elections to be satisfaction of all stakeholders.

Source:  Capital Radio Malawi

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mauritania sets June 21 date for presidential election

Mauritania will hold presidential elections on June 21, according to the presidency, despite a lack of agreement on the reform of election rules that some opposition leaders argue will likely ensure the return to power of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Abdel Aziz is yet to say if he will stand, but some observers say he will likely run. He came to power in an army coup in 2008, won an election the next year and is a Western ally against al Qaeda in the impoverished and unstable Sahel region of West Africa.

A statement from the presidency said potential candidates had until May 8 to declare their intention to stand. So far, anti-slavery activist Biram Ould Abeid is the only one to do so. The statement came after weeks of talks between the ruling party and opposition parties failed to reach agreement on the election's date and rules. Opposition parties say the electoral commission, which will oversee the poll, favors the president as it is currently constituted because its members are close to him. Moussa Fall, executive director of the opposition Forum for Democracy and Unity, denounced the communique and said by naming an election date the ruling majority was effectively unilaterally suspending those talks.

There are still no clear guarantees on the ground rules and transparency of the elections. Even so, we reiterate our willingness to resume talks," Fall told Reuters on Monday. Ten opposition parties, including the main Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD) party led by Ahmed Ould Daddah, boycotted legislative elections in December and accused the government of rigging the poll which was won by the ruling Union for the Republic.

Source: Reuters

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Observers give Guinea-Bissau vote clean bill of health

Observers from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS on Monday said Guinea-Bissau's weekend election was free and fair, and called on international donors to restart cooperation suspended in the wake of a 2012 coup.Bissau-Guineans flocked to the polls in large numbers on Sunday to vote in long-delayed legislative and presidential polls meant to bring stability to the former Portuguese colony after years of putsches and political infighting.

No elected president has completed a five-year term in Guinea-Bissau, which has become a major transit point for smugglers ferrying Latin American cocaine to Europe.The election was conducted according to international standards and the election was peaceful, free, fair and transparent," the ECOWAS observer mission said in a statement.The mission noted a few isolated problems in certain areas, including a shortage of ballot papers and an attack by the national guard on some supporters of one candidate, but said these did not impair the overall conduct of the election.

The last election in 2012 was aborted when troops under army chief Antonio Indjai stormed the presidential palace days before a presidential second-round vote was due to take place, plunging the country into chaos.Many in Bissau hope a successful transition to democracy can unlock donor funding for one of the world's poorest countries, including 110 million euros in European Union aid frozen after a 2011 military uprising.


(ECOWAS) urges all development partners to expedite the lifting of sanctions imposed on the country and to extend financial support towards meeting the urgent post-electoral task of reconciliation, reconstruction and reform," said the mission led by the former interim president of Liberia Amos Sawyer.An EU election observation mission also said the election was well-organized and conducted in a calm atmosphere.

Results are due by Friday. If no candidate wins an outright majority in the presidential ballot, a second round will be held between the top two.The front runner of 13 presidential candidates is Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister running for the dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).Vaz's candidacy is tainted by accusations from Bissau's attorney general of involvement in the embezzlement of a $12.5 million grant from Angola, something Vaz denies. His main challenger is former World Bank executive Paulo Gomes.

Guinea-Bissau, home to 1.6 million people, has dozens of remote islands and a jagged coastline of mangrove creeks that have made it a paradise for drug smugglers.Indjai was indicted last year by a federal grand jury in New York on cocaine and weapons-trafficking charges but he escaped a sting operation to catch him that netted a former navy chief. Both men deny involvement in drug trafficking.

Source: Reuters

Monday, April 14, 2014

Malawi Elections: First phase of voter verification exercise unsuccessful

The first phase of the voter verification exercise came to an end on Sunday with numerous irregularities as other registered voters could not access their names casting doubt of having a chance to vote came May 20.The exercise  started on April 9 to April 13, 2014, with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) assuring registered voters that it has worked on the inconsistencies that were discovered in the voters roll.

It has also been established that some registered voters ignored to take part in this exercise of verifying their details.For example, at Namiwawa centre in Blantyre, less than five hundred people have verified their names out of over two thousand who registered there.Meanwhile, MEC officials say some centres that failed to open on the first day in the first phase of the voter inspection exercise will have an extension equivalent to the period they were non-operational.

Source: Face of Malawi

The first phase of the voter verification exercise came to an end on Sunday with numerous irregularities as other registered voters could not  access their names casting doubt of having a chance to vote came May 20 . - See more at:
The first phase of the voter verification exercise came to an end on Sunday with numerous irregularities as other registered voters could not  access their names casting doubt of having a chance to vote came May 20 . - See more at:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Absentee Bouteflika dominates Algerian presidential poll

At a packed sports hall in western Algeria, portraits of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika gaze down on supporters rallying for his re-election. But the leader himself, weakened by a stroke a year ago, is a no-show.Throughout campaigning for the April 17 polls, Bouteflika has remained mostly out of the public eye apart from brief television appearances, as he has done since falling ill.

His absences, and his health, have raised doubts about what will happen after the election in an OPEC oil exporter that supplies a fifth of Europe's gas, and plays a significant role in the Western war on Islamist militants.For now, Bouteflika is campaigning by proxy. With his former prime minister and allies crisscrossing Algeria in his name, the 77-year-old independence veteran is almost assured of a fourth term after 15 years leading the nation.They promise that Bouteflika, who is credited with ending a civil war in the 1990s between the state and domestic Islamist militants, can keep Algeria stable.

This is a powerful message in a country still traumatized by the conflict that killed 200,000 and left little appetite for the turmoil unleashed on its neighbors after the revolts of 2011 in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.It is a theme that goes down well at the sports hall in Chlef. This is deep in loyalist territory, the farming provinces ravaged by the war where Bouteflika is hailed as the man who delivered peace, and who can keep delivering it."He is like a father to us," said Fatima Benahou, a public administrator at the rally. "He means stability, security. We supported him yesterday, and we are loyal so the least we can do is recognize what he has done."

Opponents dismiss Bouteflika's bid as the last breath of the old guard from the ruling Front de Liberation Nationale party (FLN) which has dominated Algerian politics since 1962 independence from France.With the backing of the political machinery of the FLN, army factions and business elite, Bouteflika faces little challenge from rival candidates despite his absences.On Thursday, state television showed him greeting the Emir of Qatar, and talking and joking in French with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, his longest public appearance in a year.

Algeria resisted the upheaval of the Arab Spring, largely due to the aversion to instability. With $200 billion in reserves built up from oil and gas exports, state spending on social programs, credits and housing eased any unrest.Instead, Algeria's struggles go on behind closed doors between the independence-era clans - the FLN elite and the army intelligence agency DRS - which see themselves as guardians of stability.

Source: Reuters

New Prime Minister appointed in Mali as entire government resigns

Mali's government has resigned and town planning minister Moussa Mara will become prime minister, a presidential spokesman said on state television late on Saturday. Outgoing prime minister Oumar Tatam Ly submitted the entire government's resignation to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Saturday and it was accepted, the statement said.

His replacement Mara, a political veteran who ran against Keita in Mali's August Presidential election, will be responsible for appointing new ministers.No timeframe was given for the appointments.Under the Malian system, a reshuffle is normal following legislative elections.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, known universally by his initials IBK, was elected on a pledge to unite Mali and is seeking to rebuild the country from the ashes of a war against Islamists.

The West African country was plunged into chaos by a Tuareg rebellion in early 2012, followed shortly by a military coup. Islamist militants took advantage of the chaos and seized the desert north, forcing France to intervene in its ex-colony.

Source: Reuters

Friday, April 4, 2014

EC Consultative Forum On The Public Elections Regulations

Mr Augustine Okrah, Director of Training at the Electoral Commission (EC), said yesterday that under the electoral laws of Ghana, anybody whose name is on the biometric voters register used for the 2012  elections, would be committing an offence,  if he re-registers  this year.
Mr Okrah was speaking at a consultative forum on the Public Elections Regulations, Constitutional Instrument (CI 75) organised by the EC, and facilitated by the KAB Governance Consult in Takoradi.
Representative of the political parties, organised labour and the media, participated in the forum.

Mr Okrah said those who infringed the law, could go to jail for two years, and one anticipated major challenge in the limited voter registration in June this year was how to prevent people on the voter register from re-registering.
"You can change your name, even how you look, but you cannot change your biometric information so, persons who register again will be found out", he cautioned.
Mr Okrah said the limited voter registration was intended for persons who have turned 18 years since the last registration in 2012, and persons who are older but for one reason of other could not register in 2012.
He said the qualification and registration procedures would be the same as that in 2012.
Mr Okrah said as compared with Presidential and Parliamentary elections, voter turnout in Local Government elections was very low, below 40 per cent most of the time, and this was regrettable because local government was self-government.
He said it was important for the electorate to join hands to canvass for high voter turn-out at the next District Level Elections, in view of the fact that the referendum on the proposed constitutional amendments may be tied to the elections.
Mr Okrah said for the referendum to be valid, the minimum turnout must be 40 per cent of the total number of voters on the national register.
He explained that a candidate for the District Assembly or Unit Committee election must contest the election strictly as an individual, and not as a member of a political party or an organisation or a group.
Mr Okrah said it was, therefore, an offence for a candidate to use the name or symbol of a political organisation or a group, and also the candidate was prohibited from asking for or receiving any form of assistance or help from a political party, an organization or a group.
He said the penalty for this provision was cancellation of nomination or candidacy and a political party that gave support to a candidate was liable to a fine of up to five million cedis.
Mr Okrah said any organisation or group that was interested in and wanted to assist in the conduct of the District Level and Unit Committee elections, must not be affiliated to a political party and even so, it must give its assistance in cash or kind to the EC to organise platforms for the common use of the candidates.
He said unlike the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, the candidate in the District Level Election would not pay a deposit and unlike the previous times, a candidate is not restricted to house-to-house campaigning and can mount a platform.
Mr. Steve Opoku-Mensah, Western Regional Director of EC, said the main law that regulates public election in the country is the Public Elections Regulations, which replaced the Constitutional Instrument (CI 15) of 1996, following the introduction of the Biometric Voter Registration and the use of the Biometric Verification Devices. 
Source: GNA

EC to increase polling stations

The Electoral Commission (EC) is to increase the number of polling stations across the country from 26,000 to 35,000.
This is to reduce the voter population at some polling stations, as well as reduce the pressure on the Biometric Verification Device (BVD), to enable it function efficiently without any hitch.
Mrs Georgina Opoku-Amankwah, Chairperson of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and a member of the EC, announced this at a consultative forum on the Public Elections Regulation CI 75 in Koforidua.
She explained that it was a move to address the various challenges encountered with the verification process during the 2012 elections.
According to her, the CI 75 is the same regulation to be used for the upcoming district assembly elections and therefore the need to consult the public to collectively come to the realization of the need to review some of the provisions of the regulations.
Mr John Aidoo, Director in-charge of Finance and Administration of the EC, who spoke on the challenges encountered in the 2012 elections, mentioned the difficulty in capturing the fingerprints of eligible voters, the number of ballot papers exceeding that recorded by the BVD, as some of the challenges that confronted the EC.
He said, the over-voting issue and the frequent breakdown of the verification devices marred the smooth running of the elections.
Mr Aidoo observed that most of the election officers did not heed to the advice of changing the BVD batteries after every four hours, and said that resulted in the breakdown of most of the machines, thus causing delay in the balloting process.
Mr Aiddo explained that the batteries had been designed to work continuously for four hours, and failure to change them result in the break down of machines, which take longer periods to start working again after the batteries had been changed .
He said to ensure smooth operation , the EC would put stringent measures in place to ensure strict adherence to the handling of the machines, and added that despite the BVD challenges, its advantages far outweigh the challenges.
Mr Dogbey Adukpo Selormey, Eastern Regional Director of Elections, said a number of votes exceeding that recorded by the BVD and counting mistakes similar to that of the general elections are some of the anticipated challenges to be encountered in the district level elections.
Source: GNA

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

South African opposition want elections boss to step down

A group of South African opposition parties Tuesday called on the head of the electoral commission to step down over alleged mismanagement, just five weeks before crucial general elections. After a meeting of 10 political parties in Pretoria, eight of them agreed that Pansy Tlakula, chairwoman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), "must resign immediately." "Should she refuse to resign, the parties who are in agreement will pursue legal action," they said in a statement.

The parties claim the integrity of the electoral commission was at stake after a recent audit found flaws in the procurement of one of the commission's offices."It is important that a body with the international reputation of the IEC should not have a whiff of scandal about it," said anti-apartheid stalwart and successful businesswoman Mamphela Ramphele, who leads the Agang party. However, the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and the smaller centre-right Freedom Front Plus distanced themselves from the call.

Piet Uys of the Freedom Front Plus said forcing the chief elections organiser out now could affect the running of May 7 elections."We believe she is doing a good job," said Uys. Tlakula attended the parties meeting but recused herself when her future was discussed.

Source:Global Post

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

South Africa: Elections app fosters political accountability

The national elections this year will be closely watched as commentators and politicians analyse the support for the ruling party after 20 years of democracy. To help ordinary citizens keep track of the results in their area, News24 parent has launched an elections platform that tracks voting patterns from a national level right down to the municipal voting district. While there have been previous "live" election maps, these were primarily the result of a team sitting through the night and manually punching in results from the IEC.

"I threw down the gauntlet to our dev team - I wanted interactive results maps that update frequently. And I wanted to emulate sites like New York Times and Huffington Post in how they visualised election results on web and mobile," said Cathryn Reece, head of product for The ruling ANC is under pressure during this election, widely seen as a litmus test of the execution of the vision of struggle heroes such as Nelson Mandela, OR Thambo and Walter Sisulu.

Unique challenge

However, revelations on President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead, continuing revelations that the promised jobs from the controversial arms deal have not materialised and Gauteng e-tolls have put the ANC on the defensive. The rise of new political formations like the Economic Freedom Fighters and AgangSA have given an indication that this election may be a tough one for the ANC to win convincingly.

The team from worked closely with the IEC to ensure that the election maps will truly represent the will of the people in the 2014 election, but unlike the US, there are many political parties which presented a unique challenge. "But what we didn't realise when we began working on development of our mapping solution was just how complicated the South African electoral process is. There are two elections happening at once - a National and Provincial one.

"This means you can't automatically do binary comparisons of things, and you can't rely on colours alone to tell all the data stories you want to tell. We struggled with this most with our Voting Shifts map," Reece said. A further challenge is also the lack of local data in specific elections, but the team put in a great deal of work to ensure that the election map is an accurate rendering of voting patterns in SA.

"With the help of the IEC however we were able to navigate our way through most of these challenges and have built the most ambitious and comprehensive set of election result maps we've ever attempted. We have five maps in total - Previous Results, Voting Shifts, Results per Party, Voter Turnout - and live election results for 2014," said Reece. The elections map is available on web, mobile, Android and iOS platforms and is designed to educate voters about the importance of participating in a democracy as well as the political "temperature" of their area.

Source: News24