The Malawi Congress Party and African Democratic Party have urged African presidents to stop appointing electoral commission chairmen and commissioners, so as to guarantee free, fair and credible electoral processes.
This is just as the political parties observed that the use of modern technology to conduct elections would not guarantee a fair process, as long as the electoral umpire remains an appointee of the government in power. Interim leader of opposition in the parliament of Malawi, Hon Lobin Lowe, made this call yesterday in Abuja, when he visited the national headquarters of the Action Democratic Party (ADP).
He noted that: “The electoral commission is supposed to play a neutral role, it’s supposed to be a referee, and the referee is not supposed to be appointed by a particular party, because the referee will play a role pleasing the one who appointed him.
“In this case, electronic gadgets are controlled by human beings, and it depends on which side a particular person is, so if the person in charge decides to favour a particular political party the election can’t be fair. So we cannot have a credible voting as long as the commissioners of electoral commission are appointed by the president.”
While corroborating Lobin’s position, national chairman of ADP, Engr. Yabagi Yusuf Sani said: “The issue of credible, free and fair election largely depends on the umpire. It’s just like in a game of football, if the referee is impartial and does not keep to the rules, the whole game will not be fair and interesting to anyone, even to the observers. So I think to achieve a credible election, we must have a truly independent electoral body that supervises the process of the elections. And also, the aftermath of the election, how do you treat infractions? Do you apply the law? Do you sanction people, so that it will serve as deterrent to future offenders?
“So largely we have to change the approach, how we appoint the officials of the electoral body, particularly the commissioners, the chairman, those high level officials in the commissions, and we should be able to come up with a system where people that will be apolitical, to a very large extent, look at election as an interest of the nation, and can be the people that we will appoint the electoral umpire, as the common saying goes, he who pays the piper dictates the tune. So the issue is that we must take away from the sitting president or from the executive, the power to appoint the electoral umpire, so that we will have a free and fair election. There is nowhere a free and fair election takes place without a truly independent
umpire and the rule of law.”
While speaking on possible areas of collaboration between the Malawi Congress Party and the ADP, Yabagi, who is also the presidential candidate of the party in the 2019 election, said his party would learn the acts of opposition from the Malawi experience.
“We should learn from them, how they have hold forth, since 1960, when the party was formed. The party remains the dominant opposition party in Malawi. So that is a part we can learn from them. We can also learn from them, how to engage effectively the party in power, how to constructively criticise, so that we do not, in any way, affect adversely the democracy that we are trying to protect. If the opposition is not constructive in its criticism, it might end up playing into the hands of enemies of democracy, we can learn a lot from them.
“Many African countries have the same problem of poverty, our people are poor, and most often than not, the government in power does not do enough to solve these issue of poverty, because there are issues of corruption, which the president who is in office today has it on his
agenda to fight corruption, so that what belongs to the people will be given to the people, that is the resources that God has given to east country. There is a lot that we can learn from the Malawi Congress Party,” Yabagi stated.