The elections are here and as expected, the political actors are all fired up for the contest. So far, their diatribes, scheming and realignments, across party lines, have largely been typical; mostly self centered and targeted at either clenching or consolidating elective public offices. They are driving an already divided country into a frenzy.
What’s more, they have increasingly become obsessed, bothering on desperation, in their quest for political power, paying little or no attention to governance.
The intense politicisation of the electoral amendment bill, the evolving vote buying monster, the perception of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s partisanship, as well as allegations that security agencies are not playing fair, have further heightened tensions within the polity.
To this end, the quest for deescalating the tendencies for hateful narratives and actions that could culminate in violence as the elections approaches is expedient.
For one, the campaigns deserve to be issue based and not the resort to puerile and banal narratives that tend to divide voters along ethic or religious lines. The quality of engagement among the political actors and their parties ought to edify and inspire the voting population towards not just making the right choices at the polls but more importantly, to actively be involved in nation building after the polls.
While the signing of a peace pact, much in the mould of the 2015 peace accord, or code of conduct would be very instructive and symbolic, the candour and disposition of the principal political actors towards the electoral process would be far more important.
The need to tighten the electoral laws which will in turn address certain electoral tensions is crucial. According to Agora, a Swiss lab and foundation offering decentralized digital voting systems based on blockchain technology, stakeholders in the process need to be assured of better transparency such each step of the election process should be easily understood and open to scrutiny by all stakeholders (voters, political parties, outside observers and others). All results should be independently verifiable and auditable
They also should be assured of privacy that the choice that each voter makes should remain private both during and after the election
Also there is need to assure them that the system has integrity such that only eligible voters should be allowed to vote, and those votes much be protected from any alteration or exclusion.
There is also need for the process to be accessible to all eligible voters, regardless of location, group membership or disability, should have reasonable and equal opportunity to cast their ballot.
It is however essential that the moral responsibility of playing by the rules of engagement as contained in the 1999 Constitution as Amended and Electoral Act remains paramount. The none partisanship of the electoral umpire and security agencies cannot be overemphasised as a contrary perception would do a lot of harm to the entire electoral process.