Monday, June 30, 2014

Sudan opposition forces alarmed over remarks by President Bashir

Sudan’s opposition parties which agreed to participate in the national dialogue have expressed resentment over statements made by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir recently regarding the dialogue process and general elections.
In a speech before the members of the Shura (consultative) Council of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on Thursday, Bashir said his government’s adherence to national dialogue does not stem from weakness, underscoring that next year general elections will be held as scheduled without delay.

He further slammed NCP officials who spoke of a possible postponement of the electoral process in case a political agreement is reached with opposition forces in the context of the national dialogue. An informed source told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that the opposition participants in the national dialogue will hold a meeting to discuss Bashir’s remarks and take a final decision on whether to continue or not, noting that Bashir’s statements were disappointing. The same source did not rule out that some opposition parties might nonetheless decide to carry on even if other opposition forces decided to boycott it. It further disclosed that opposition parties participating in the dialogue approved in a meeting held on Wednesday the formation of a broad front, including political parties and national figures, to discuss the Sudanese crisis that is threatening the existence of the country.

The opposition parties have demanded a meeting with Bashir more than two weeks ago but the government has yet to respond to their request. Last week, Sudanese presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour disclosed that Bashir, will meet with these political forces in the next few days to discuss ways for pushing forward the process The National Umma Party (NUP) and the Reform Now Party (RNP) suspended participation in the dialogue process to protest arrest of the former’s leader, al-Sadiq al-Mahdi and what they said was a government crackdown on political and media liberties. However, the Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan al-Turabi has previously rejected calls to boycott the dialogue despite acknowledging recent crackdown by the government. Al-Mahdi described in press statements on Thursday the government officials’ linkage between dialogue and elections as “pointless”, calling o the government to choose between a dialogue which is accepted by all Sudanese people or popular uprising.

Meanwhile, Ghandour asserted some political forces misinterpreted the NCP’s call for national dialogue, saying their call did not stem from a position of weakness but a conviction for uniting the national front. Ghandour, who addressed the NCP conference at Khartoum locality on Friday, called on the political forces not to adopt a tactical approach in dealing with the president’s call for national dialogue, noting his party’s call for dialogue came at a time when the opposition forces and armed groups are at their weakest situation. At the end of January, Bashir launched the national dialogue initiative aiming to hold an comprehensive conference on a new constitution and ways to end the armed conflicts in the Two Areas and Darfur. He also issued a number of presidential decrees to ensure freedom of expression, press freedom and create a conducive environment for this political process. However, the security service last May arrested al-Mahdi for criticising a government militia, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and accusing it of committing war crimes in Darfur and South Kordofan.

Source: Sudan Tribune

Tunisia begins new voter registration

Tunisia began voter registration on Monday for heavily-delayed legislative and presidential elections due to take place later this year.The elections would consolidate the gains of an accord in January to end months of political crisis, which had blocked the democratic transition in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa and Chafik Sarsar, who heads the electoral organising commission, gave the order to begin the registration process at Tunis city hall, the government said.
After months of negotiations, the electoral commission this month proposed that legislative polls take place on 26 October and the first round of the presidential poll on 23 November, with the run-off on 28 December.The provisional election dates are to be submitted to parliament on Wednesday for approval."That should give time for deputies to make amendments," said National Assembly spokesperson Karima Souid. Some political parties have said the timetable is too tight to guarantee transparent elections, but ISIE has stressed that under the country's new constitution, both votes must take place in 2014.
Tunisians can register on the Internet, by SMS or by going to the relevant offices before 22 July, when registration closes. To facilitate the process, which is only required of those who were not registered for the October 2011 elections to the National Assembly, the electoral body has set up a call centre to field questions about how to register. An estimated seven million people are eligible to vote, but only 4.1 million Tunisians registered in 2011, for the first poll after the revolution that toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and touched off the Arab Spring.
In those elections, the Islamist party Ennahda won the largest share of seats in the assembly, which was due to be replaced by a permanent parliament in October 2012. But the process was heavily delayed by political crises, which culminated with the assassination last year of two opposition MPs by suspected Islamist militants and finally forced Ennahda to hand power to a technocrat administration headed by Jomaa.

 Source: AFP

Senegal votes in local elections seen as presidential test

Senegal voted in municipal and provincial elections on Sunday, seen as a key test for President Macky Sall whose party is riven by divisions two years after winning a bitterly fought election.
Sall's Alliance for the Republic (APR) struggled to agree on candidates heading into the election and in some cases could not come up with a common candidate.

But the party which won a crushing victory in 2012 — turning out of office President Abdoulaye Wade whose efforts to seek a third term sparked violence in the country — is hoping to shore up support. The local elections are a key test for Sall and his party which control only a few local towns.
Voting was delayed in some areas due to election officials and equipment not arriving in time, according to an AFP journalist on the ground. More than 5.3 million people are eligible to vote for more than 2,700 councillors across the country, a record number of candidates, up from 1,600 in 2009.

Those councillors from 602 districts will in turn elect mayors and heads of provinces. After casting his vote, Sall complained that the high number of candidates hindered the voting process. Sall called for "a quiet vote" after a campaign marred by incidents of violence.

No major incidents had been reported by midday, but several local officials said participation was still low across the country. Voting is due to end at 18:00 GMT. The March 2012 presidential election was marred by deadly riots sparked by Wade's efforts to stay in office after 12 years in power. At least 15 people were killed and 150 injured.

However Sall won with 65 per cent and Wade's acceptance of his defeat and the peaceful handover of power was hailed by the international community. Senegal has typically been hailed as one of the region's success stories, being alone among its mainland neighbours never to have undergone a military coup. The APR hopes the elections will allow it to strengthen its base despite poor economic results and frustrations amongst the Senegalese that election promises have yet to be fulfilled.

Source: AFP

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Libyan elections: Low turnout marks bid to end political crisis

Voting has ended in a Libyan general election marred by low turnout and deadly violence.
The election is seen as a last chance to end the anarchy that has gripped the country since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.Officials said about 630,000 people voted, fewer than half of those eligible.

At least five people died in clashes between government forces and militants in the eastern city of Benghazi. Security officials said Islamist insurgents had opened fire on a local security headquarters. At least another 30 people were wounded, they added. In a separate incident in Benghazi, unidentified gunmen shot dead human rights activist Salwa Bughaighis at her home shortly after she had returned from voting. Security officials said her attackers had been hooded and were wearing military uniforms. Ms Bughaighis, a lawyer, played an active part in the overthrow of Col Gaddafi and became a member of Libya's interim National Transitional Council. A native of Benghazi, she had three children.

 Security problems 

During the day, Libyan TV showed mostly empty polling stations in the main cities. Some polling stations stayed closed for security reasons in the flashpoint cities of Derna in the east, Kufra in the south-east and the main southern city of Sabha, officials said.
The election was called a month ago amid government claims that a renegade general was plotting a coup. General Khalifa Haftar denied the allegation, but launched a military offensive against Islamist militias whom he accused of holding Libya to ransom. At least 70 people were killed in the ensuing battles. Gunmen also stormed the parliamentary building in the capital, Tripoli.

More than 1.5 million voters were registered for the election, down from 2.8 million who registered for Libya's first election in 2012. The UN had described the poll as "an important step in Libya's transition towards stable democratic governance". Nearly 2,000 candidates were vying for places in the new 200-seat parliament, the House of Representatives. Liberal parties defeated Islamists in the 2012 elections, but there were no party lists this time. Instead, candidates contested parliamentary seats as individuals - a decision taken to reduce tensions, the BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says.
Analysis: Rana Jawad, BBC News, Tripoli

The new parliament will replace the General National Congress, a body that became riddled with controversy, political deadlock and the ideological battles that have raged since the historic election nearly two years ago. Though many Libyans have grown wary of the politics since then, they have not quite given up on democracy yet. As one prospective voter put it, "We will keep voting until we get the right people in."

It comes at a critical time for Libya, with growing pockets of instability and a prevailing sense of chaotic politics that is crippling the country. This election is seen as a fresh start, but the underlying divisions, involving political and armed groups, remain. They are all seeking to either overrule or outgun each other. Until these differences are set aside and a compromise reached, the tangible progress many hope for will stay out of reach.

The assembly has been widely blamed for the crisis in Libya, she adds. The cabinet issued a decree earlier this month that parliament would be based in the second city, Benghazi. The move appears to be an attempt to placate residents of the city who feel neglected, despite triggering the revolution that led to Col Gaddafi being toppled, our correspondent says. However, it is unclear whether new MPs would feel safe in Benghazi, which has been badly affected by recent fighting, she adds.

Source: BBC Africa

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Free, Fair and Facebook: Social Media Tracking of African Elections”

1st Annual African Elections Project Lectures

"Free, Fair and Facebook: Social Media Tracking of African Elections”
Dr. Michael Best, professor at the Sam Nunn School International Affairs & School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

June 30, 2014, at 5:30pm at New Media Hub, No 1 Otwe Close, Osu Ako Adjei, Accra
 The use of social media and crowdsourcing platforms is exploding across the African continent, especially via mobile networks and featured handsets. Over the last five years we have been developing new software systems and organizational processes to monitor social media (from Facebook to Twitter, Google+, Ushahidi, Mixit, and more) to help ensure free and fair elections in Africa. Our Aggie social media aggregator and monitoring software has been deployed during the Nigerian, Liberian, Ghanaian, and Kenyan elections. These real-world election experiences have demonstrated a number of strengths to our approach including: (1) Meeting the electorate where they are.
 (2) Technological neutrality.
(3) The need for working software that can handle high volumes of social media inputs.
 (4) And the value of embedding team members with core stakeholders, such as election commissions and security organizations.

We have shown that social media is routinely out front of traditional media, police, formal observer missions, and electoral commission offices in the identification of events and problems.

In the recent Ekiti state election in Nigeria we integrated the Aggie platform with our mobile phone based field observation technology, called ELMO. This allowed - for the first time - unified monitoring between social media and formal observers, enabled through a single platform. In this pilot project we demonstrated that formal observers and social media compliment each other in interesting and powerful ways.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nigeria: Ayo Fayose Wins Ekiti Elections

Former governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose has successfully made a return to the post after winning the Ekiti state gubernatorial elections. Fayose polled 203,090 votes, beating the incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi who could only gather 120,433 votes.

The Returning Officer for the 2014 governorship elections and Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Oye, Ekiti, Professor Isaac Azuzu, announced the results early  morning, June 22, 2014. Fayose, was governor of Ekiti State from May 29, 2003 to October 16, 2006. Rival party, All Progressives Congress (APC) has issued a statement, rejecting the outcome of the election.

Guinea-Bissau's new leader takes office and pledges stability

Guinea-Bissau's new president Jose Mario Vaz on Monday vowed to fight poverty and bring stability to the impoverished west African nation as he was sworn into office. The 57-year-old is Guinea-Bissau's first elected leader since the army mutinied in 2012, plunging into chaos a state already in the grip of powerful cocaine cartels and beset by political violence.

Standing before a crowd of 15 000 and leaders from across west Africa in the capital Bissau, Vaz pledged to work with other political groups to bring stability to the fragile nation of 1.6 million. "The chronic instability in which our country finds itself is not the cause of our problems," Vaz told the crowds, blaming instead "the extreme poverty ... which we will all fight". Vaz, from the dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), won an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote against independent rival Nuno Gomes Nabiam in a May election.

The vote was seen as a key test in a country where no elected president has ever finished his term in office. "This day brings the return to the normal constitutional order and we hope that Guinea-Bissau and its people will be supported by the entire international community," Senegal's President Macky Sall told AFP. The former Portuguese colony is the only west African nation to have achieved independence through military force and, since 1974, the army and state have been in constant, often deadly, competition.

Source: AFP

Namibian ruling party gears up for national elections

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba has launched ruling Swapo party's National Preparatory Committee (NPC) which will be in charge of preparations for presidential and National Assembly elections in November this year. The NPC consists of five sub-committees: administration and finance; logistics and transport; protocol and security; information, publicity and voter education; and strategy, planning and legal matters.

Launching the committee here Saturday, the president said it was vital for Swapo to prepare well and to position itself for a landslide victory in the upcoming elections. It was recommended that one regional representative for each region (province) be added to the sub-committee for administration and finance, while a sub-committee for information, publicity and voter's education is allowed to co-opt the required or needed experience.

"In order to maintain and sustain the same level of confidence the electorate has placed in the party, we should strive to remain politically relevant and commit ourselves to effective service delivery," Pohamba said. Pohamba said Swapo had emerged victorious in all elections held since independence in 1990 through hard work by engaging in rigorous election campaigns, mobilising voters to vote for the party and through mobilising financial and other resources.

Source: The Namibian


Monday, June 23, 2014

Nigeria's ruling party takes state in closely watched vote

Nigeria's ruling party toppled the main opposition candidate in a state governorship vote this weekend, officials said, giving President Goodluck Jonathan a boost ahead of national polls next year. Ayodele Fayose of The People's Democratic Party's (PDP) took almost 60 percent of the vote in southwestern Ekiti state, unseating the opposition incumbent Kayode Fayemi, the electoral commission announced on Sunday.

 Governors are among the most powerful figures in Africa's largest economy and oil producer. Some control budgets bigger than those of many African countries and play a significant role in selecting presidential candidates. The victory in Ekiti - where organizers said voting was fair and peaceful - was a rare piece of good news for a ruling party that is likely to see its sternest test yet in the 2015 national election. Jonathan has been beleaguered by defections of senior figures and criticism for his government's failure to quell Islamist group Boko Haram, which abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from a remote northeastern village in April. The main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) was created out of four regional parties last year - presenting a nationwide challenge to the ruling party.

Fayemi took office in late 2010 after a court annulled the result of 2007 polls that were marred by intimidation, vote-rigging and ballot-stuffing. Security was heavy during this year's polls, and the electoral commission declared the election "free, fair, credible and transparent". [ID: nL6N0P20QM] The United States would be watching the vote with "great interest", Washington's ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, said ahead of the polls, adding a free and peaceful election would help demonstrate the credibility of the electoral system. More than 800 people were killed and 65,000 displaced in three days of violence following the 2011 presidential election, Human Rights Watch has said.  Rioting erupted mainly in the mostly Muslim north after Jonathan, a Christian from the south, won the vote.

Source: Reuters

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mauritania President Seeks Re-Election as Opposition Boycotts

Mauritanians will probably extend President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s mandate in tomorrow’s first-round election as most opposition groups say they will boycott because of concern the vote won’t be fair. Abdel Aziz, 58, of the Union for the Republic faces four candidates, including independent Ibrahima Sarr, 65, and Lalla Mariem Mint Moulaye Idriss, 57, the second woman to run for the highest office there. A coalition of 11 other opposition parties, including the Islamist party Tawassoul, pulled out of the election, citing a breakdown in talks with the government. Results will be released as early as tomorrow.

The opposition’s “main point is that it is not a fairly contested process,” Geoffrey Howard, North Africa analyst at Control Risks Group, said by phone from London. This is an attempt to “give a cloak of democracy to what is essentially a pretty authoritarian regime.” Abdel Aziz, who has positioned himself as a Western ally in the fight against Islamist militants, led a 2008 military coup that ousted Mauritania’s first elected president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. Abdel Aziz won the 2009 elections against Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, who said the vote was fraudulent. Mauritania is Africa’s biggest exporter of iron ore after South Africa.

The opposition coalition has said that the Abdel Aziz didn’t include them in a transitional government that organized tomorrow’s elections. Sarr has called for equal rights in Mauritania, where as many 160,000 of a population of 3.8 million people are enslaved, according to the Global Slavery Index. “Western powers want a stable Mauritania and know that stability is tied to a democratically elected government.

Source: Bloomberg News

Mauritania to Vote for Next President

Voters in Mauritania head to the polls Saturday to vote in presidential elections, widely expected to return President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to office. But the opposition remains hopeful. Mauritanians have a choice of five presidential candidates, including incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

His two main challengers are a prominent anti-slavery activist and the country's second-ever female presidential candidate, both running as independents. Boydiel Ould Houmied, a member of a loyalist-backed party of former president Maawiya Ould Taya, and Ibrahim Moctar Sarr, a Black African who won five percent of the vote in the 2009 election, are also contenders. The country's leading opposition coalition is boycotting the poll, claiming a lack of transparency and vote-rigging. Aziz, a former army general who took power during a 2008 military coup, was officially elected in 2009. He is running on the platform that Mauritania is a better place today than it was before he took office.

He said the country was more safe today than five years ago, there were no more terrorist cells and there are no political prisoners, "so this means that we have democracy." Aziz is considered by many Western countries to be a key ally in the fight against al-Qaida-linked terrorists in the region. He has also claimed responsibility for the country's recent economic growth. But one of Aziz's top rivals, Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, said that it is time for a change, particularly when it comes to addressing Mauritania's ongoing problem of modern-day slavery. As a self-proscribed "defender of human rights," Abeid has promised to protect and promote the poor and the marginalized.

He said the election was a battle between two ideologies:  between that of human rights, equality and freedom, and that of the real Islam. "We are fighting against those ideologies that have bullied people into a lifestyle of slavery and against those who make a fortune on human exploitation," he said Mauritania has repeatedly tried to abolish slavery, most recently banning it in 2007. However, as many as 600,000 people, mostly of Black African descent, are still estimated to be enslaved by the lighter skinned Arab Moors.  The sole female candidate, Lalla Maryem Mint Moulaye Idriss, is promising to make women and children a priority while improving the country's agriculture and fishing sectors.  She has become a favorite with many female voters.

Aissatou Salam, a resident of Nouakchott, says she believes Mauritania could use a female leader. She says women represent 52 percent of the population and it is time for them to take power.,Some voters, such as Ahmed Beik Ould Maouloud, said they were only interested in positive change and wanted the winning candidate to take note. He said, "we expect to be able to find jobs and see a big improvement in our economy." If no one candidate wins 50 percent of the vote on Saturday, runoff elections are scheduled to take place on July 5.

Source: Voice of America

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Liberia: NEC Launches Civic Voters’ Education

With less than five months to the conduct of the Special Senatorial Election in the country, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has launched its Civic Voter Education Baseline in Monrovia.
The Civic Voter Education Baseline Survey is intended to enable the NEC to continue the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in Liberia. Speaking at the launch of the CVE Baseline at the headquarters of the NEC on Wednesday, a Commissioner of the National Elections Commission with Oversight responsibility on CVE, Samuel Joe, described the launch as a milestone in the life of the Electoral process in the country.

Mr. Joe said the Baseline Study Report comes at a time when all eyes; are on the conduct of the October 2014 Special Senatorial Election. He said the Elections Baseline Survey conducted by the Liberia Media Center (LMC) on Civic and Voter Education was undertaken with the objective of enabling the National Elections Commission (NEC) to continue the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in Liberia. Mr. Joe emphasized that Civic Voter Education is broader in scope as it refers to the dissemination of information about a country’s political system within the context of providing citizens with an understanding of their rights and responsibility.

He added that voter education on the other hand, refers to the dissemination of information, materials and programs designed to inform voters about the specifics as well as the steps and procedures of the voting process for a particular election. According to Mr. Joe, the survey among other things shows that youths appear far more knowledgeable and aware of the electoral process as compared to other target groups. He disclosed that seventy-three percent of the youth population were either aware or highly aware of the electoral process; that women, CBOs and persons with disabilities also demonstrate high levels of awareness with 53%, 63%, and 56% respectively; that half of the participants associated as “Ordinary citizens” was not aware, showing a close correlation to the survey main finding.

The NEC Commissioner also added that the majority of the respondents have interest in the upcoming Senatorial Elections as 86% of them have registered to vote and that only 14% said they had not registered. Upon this survey NEC maintained that there should be a robust civic voter education program that will engender the mass of participation of all stakeholders, and the information on the electoral process be sent in every corner of the country. Meanwhile, Commissioner Joe has further disclosed that the Baseline has helped to bring marginalized groups such as women and the disabled on board as this has been their fear in the political community of men.

He said the survey also gives an insight in the casting of ballots and the sorting, and counting and tallying processes, thereby discouraging the widespread misconception that no one wins fairly.
He also commended the Liberia Media Center for its report and other partners including the UNDP and IFES for their support. Commissioner Joe also praised the CVE Section of NEC, the BOC and the entire NEC family for the hard work being carried out to ensure a successful conduct of the 2014 Special Election.

Source: The Monrovia Inquirer

Presidential candidate lists 'evils of governance' in Mauritania

Exposing what he called 'the evils of his country', anti-slavery activist and candidate for the Mauritanian presidential election, Biram Ould Ould Dah Abeid, said he possessed the solutions to the myriad of problems if elected president.

Dah Abeid, the leader of the Initiative of the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), said Mauritania was a country of coups by army generals, the most recent perpetrated against the first democratically-elected president in the country’s history. He said Mauritania was a 'land of slavery, racism, rights violations, manipulation of justice, generalization and normalization of corruption and the collapse of public education'. He said, if elected president, he would launch a programme to establish the rule of law, revive the economy, ensure a more equitable distribution of national wealth, promote freedom, put an end to oppression, provide relief to victims of oppression, combat injustice and take into account the aspirations of all segments of the Mauritanian society in his administration.

The anti-slavery activist called the incumbent president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, as 'the symbol of exclusion and forfeiture of civil rights' of a section of the Mauritanian society. He alleged that the incumbent president manages the country like a small family business. President Aziz, also running in the polls, came to power 6 August, 2008, following a coup. He was elected President 18 July 2009. Mauritania's presidential election, slated for 21 June, is boycotted by the opposition parties, National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU0 and the Progressive People's Alliance (PPA). Winner of the United Nations Human Rights Prize in 2013, Biram Ould Ould Dah Abeid believes that both the ruling party and the FNDU support 'slavery and inequality'.

Source:  Africa News & Information

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nigeria Election: FCT Minister calls for peaceful election

Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, has advised politicians to ensure peaceful election in 2015 for the development of the country. Senator Mohammed gave the advice when he donated 22,18 seater buses to the Bauchi State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to help the party in Bauchi.

He said the gesture will help the party reach nooks and crannies of the state ahead of the 2015 general elections. Presenting the vehicles to the state PDP chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Yaro Yaro on behalf of the minister, Senator Abubakar Maikafi  said “the minister’s gesture was a fulfillment of his promise to the party to enable it reach everywhere in the state, particularly now that the 2015 general election is approaching”.

He said the vehicles will be distributed to PDP offices in all the 20 Local Government areas in the state, while the remaining two will be given to the state secretariat of PDP and North East zonal secretariat of the party. Alhaji Yaro Yaro called on supporters of the party to unite themselves and support the party at all levels for the success of the party in the next general election. Ibrahim said the gesture is a clear manifestation of the minister’s commitment to the success of the party and welfare of members.

Source: Daily Times

Mauritanian president accuses opposition of vote-rigging

Mauritania's president accused the opposition on Tuesday of buying up people's identity cards in an attempt to prevent them from voting in an upcoming election. President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, an ex-army general, is seeking re-election in the vote this Saturday, and rival politicians have called for voters to boycott what they call a "sham" election.

The president's spokesman said the government had received reports that the opposition was buying identity cards "to influence the participation rate". "We are talking about an operation on a grand scale," said El-Houssein Ould Ahmed El-Hadi. "It is not only illegal, but also morally wrong, because it prevents citizens from freely voicing their preference." The electoral commission is looking into the reports, he said. Mauritania's opposition, the National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU), which is made up of a loose collection of lawmakers, rejected the allegations.

"The reality is the FNDU doesn't need to confiscate citizens' identity cards, they themselves are showing their disinterest in the elections... by abstaining from the campaign," the party said in a statement. The opposition have criticised the "dictatorial" character of Abdel Aziz's regime, accusing him of organising an "electoral mascarade". Abdel Aziz, who took control of the former French colony in a 2008 coup before being elected a year later, said those seeking a boycott "refuse to acknowledge the great progress made for poor Mauritanians" in recent years.

A mainly Muslim republic between the Atlantic Ocean and the Sahara Desert, Mauritania is viewed as strategically important by the West in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked groups both within its own borders and across the region. Four candidates, including an anti-slavery campaigner and Mauritania's second ever female presidential hopeful, are running against the president. Aziz is tipped to win the poll, but a weak turnout could be interpreted as a sign that the boycott has been a success.

Source: AFP

AU ends Egypt, Guinea Bissau suspension after elections

The African Union (AU) ended the suspension of Egypt and Guinea Bissau from the grouping on Tuesday after the two countries elected new leaders, a senior AU official said. Egypt held an election in May after it was suspended from all the activities of the African body when the military overthrew the elected president, Islamist Mohamed Mursi, in July last year. Guinea Bissau also held a vote in May after a military takeover.

Suspension is the AU's usual response to any interruption of constitutional rule by a member.
"Today a decision has been taken to allow Egypt to regain its seat in all the activities of the African Union," AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui told Reuters.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who removed Mursi when he was head of Egypt's army, was sworn into office in June after a poll in which he won 96.91 percent of the vote.
Guinea Bissau's election winner was Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister and candidate for the dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). The result was initially challenged by the loser who then conceded.
Now we have a president elected and recognised by even those who were opposed," Chergui said.

Source: Reuters

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ghana: What are the essential pillars of democracy?

 The privileged to be called upon by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) as one of the resource persons for the 2014 Citizenship Week celebration in the Volta Region. Each year the NCCE dedicates a week to remind Ghanaians, especially the voting ones of their responsibilities as citizens and the role they can play in building; a strong, vibrant and a democratic Ghana. The Citizenship Week creates an environment wherein people in leadership positions, professionals, academics, great and accomplished citizens, are engaged by the NCCP. as volunteers living in their communities to interact with and impart virtues of good citizenship and the need to uphold democratic governance to pupils of basic schools across the country.

It also aims at encouraging mentor-ship lot pupils in the basic schools. The topic for the week's discussion was "Indiscipline; how it weakens die pillars of our democracy". In this week’s feature, I share with readers the essential pillar; if our democracy. In my view:, there are seven main pillars in the architecture of democracy; namely: elections, political tolerance, the rule of law, freedom of expression, accountability and transparency, decentralization, and civil societies. First, free and fair elections lend legitimacy to democracy in preventing one person or i small group in society front imposing certain vested interests on the general population. No one person or grump should exercise a monopoly of power own: the election process.

In a democracy, political parties can be formed and can campaign without intimidation. Some countries require political parties to have a minimum level of popular support before they can participate in elections. All political parties must also have access to a free media and other means to broadcast their election manifestos. The electoral process is supervised, monitored and carried out by a neutral body, often an election commission. However, elections can be rigged and votes bought. Politicians who only appear in their constituencies to enhance their patronage power are a familiar phenomenon in many countries. A political establishment that ceases to reflect aspirations of the citizens loses its political legitimacy.

The second pilar is political tolerance. Free and fair elections do not give a mandate to oppress or sideline those who have voted against the government. It also does lint mean that the majority have a right to rob the minority of its civil liberties, rights, property or life. Tolerance is required for democracy to be sustained. If minority groups do not benefit equitably from the election process, there can be no peace. That absence of peace will make a mockery of efforts to be democratic.
In many countries, there are examples of rewards being given only for those voters who supported the ruling party, with neglect or punishment given those who voted for the opposition. The distribution of food, water supplies and development resources has been used as a weapon of control to win elections.

The third pillar is the rule of law: There has been much debate on the meaning of this. What is dear, though, is the close connection between the rule of law and democracy. W7tcn the political process is subject to laws and a regulatory framework, it enable citizens to fudge the lawfulness of the government. They can find answers to key questions: Does the government govern according to the law or does it take the position that it is exempt from some inconvenient rules? Are procedures of government stable and within the law or does government act in an arbitrary fashion, arresting people who challenge its policies and depriving diem of their liberty-without due process. Democracy becomes dysfunctional when the bureaucracy, the judicial; the legislature, the private sector, the police and the military all use their power to enrich themselves and advance their own interests at the expense of civil society. Laws notwithstanding, corruption undermines the title of law: To ensure the functioning of rule of law, it is vital that the integrity and independence of the judiciary and entire justice system are not subject to undue influence and illegal intervention.

The fourth pillar is freedom of expression. What people in civil society arc allied to say, print, distribute and discuss is indicative of the democratic nature of a political system. A free press is a measure of the freedom of expression in a society: Few governments have a genuinely easy relationship with a free press. Yet, despite all its shortcomings, a free-press, supported by open Internet access, is indispensable to keeping the public informed as part of a functioning democracy. Even in an established democracy, government may seek to manipulate a free-press into serving its own ends. Governments often conduct spin campaigns to advance their agenda and dilute the power of independent media. technology is unleashing powerful new forces through expansion of information dissemination and space for public discourse. In countries with authoritarian practices, freedom of information is high on the government s danger-list. These new forces have made
It much harder for governments to control the flow of information. The fact remains that even democratically-elected governments will go to great lengths to manipulate public opinion -- whether on in the print media or the Internet. State influence and control over the flow of information should give us pause. The trapping of democracy may appear healthy, but the freedom of information and press freedom are hollowed out, then democracy is compromised

The fifth pillar is accountability and transparency. This means that institutions of government and individuals in those institutions must he held accountable for their actions. A government must be accountable to the people who elected it. Furthermore, it must be accountable to an independent judiciary or other impartial institution established to check government action. Decisions must not advance the agendas of vested interest groups over rho public interest. Accountability and transparency have the same purpose: to protect citizens against misguided policies or decisions that enrich a few at the expense of the many. When these two guardian angels are compromised it is an alarm that good governance is at risk, and democracy is stalled.

The sixth pillar rests on local political empowerment.'1'he closer the, government is to the people governed; the more responsive that government is likely to be. At the same time, for decentralized democracy to work there must also be a decentralization of funding, material and human resources and institutional capability. Decentralization of the political process is another way to curl) the concentration of power and influence exercised by political forces. Citizens become more aware, interested and willing to participate in democracy when they see their officials as neighbors and what is at stake as something close to home. Civil society is the vital seventy pillars. An active civil society begins its engagement at the grassroots. Community forums, clubs, activist groups, charities, cooperatives, unions, think-tanks and associations fit under the broad umbrella of civil society. These groups are the participatory vehicles for sustaining grass-moss democracy.

The pillars of democracy outlined above are necessary but insufficient without leaders to build and maintain them. The qualities of leadership for sustainable democracy are to be found in those who act in an honest, transparent and accountable mariner. They are consensus builders, open minded and fai are committed to rustier and no advancing the public interest. And they are tolerant of opposing positions. . There is truth in bull statements. But in admitting our limitations, let us strive to avoid the mistakes of the past and look forward to a new generation of leaders who can build on lessons from the struggles of ordinary citizens for democracy. 

Source: B&FT