Don’t use Covid-19 as an excuse to postpone and rig elections, African countries said

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Ballot boxes and other election materials at Moi Secondary School in Nakuru during the London Borough by-election on March 4, 2021. [File, Standard]

African countries have been advised against using the Covid-19 crisis to postpone elections and instead have been urged to put in place measures that will ensure integrity during these elections.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) clarified that the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights had not been seized of the question of whether a country can or should postpone its elections. .

Lawyers Donald Deya (Tanzania), Ibrahima Kane (Senegal) and Chidi Anselm Odinkalu (Nigeria) said the tribunal, in its advisory opinion, called on AU member states to ensure free and fair elections during the pandemic without infringing the rights of voters and candidates.

Last resort

The Court declared that the postponement of the elections results in the suspension of the right of citizens to participate regularly in the governance of their country, and can therefore only be considered as an exceptional last resort in the context of an emergency declared in the context of the general law.

“From the point of view of proportionality, the postponement of the elections must be a last resort, without which it will not be possible to protect the health and the life of the people and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process”, we can say. read in the press release.

Counsel said the court ruling cannot be used by governments to postpone elections in any country, but on the contrary, a limitation of their [incumbents’] claim to use the pandemic to postpone the polls at a whim.

“In the event that a country postpones the elections as provided for in its local laws, there must be consultation between political actors, health authorities and representatives of other stakeholders. ”

According to the court, the consultations should focus on the measures necessary to ensure the transparency of the electoral process.

As of 2020, some of the African countries that have held elections include Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Gambia, Morocco, South Africa, Zambia, among others.

Questions answered

The court said that while decisions to hold elections fall within the national jurisdiction of the member state, the manner in which they are conducted must follow the law of African treaties, including the African Charter of Human Rights and of peoples and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. .

The opinion was issued following last year’s submission by PALU requesting advice from the African Court and regional institutions on how to hold elections during the Covid-19 period.

The judgment addresses three questions including the decision to organize or not elections in the context of a public health emergency or a pandemic, such as Covid-19.

He also addressed the obligations of States Parties to ensure effective protection of the right of citizens to participate in the government of their country in the context of an election organized during a public health emergency or pandemic, such as the Covid-19 crisis.

The judgment also addressed the obligations of states parties that decide to postpone elections due to a public health emergency or a pandemic, such as the Covid-19 crisis.

Lawyer Odinkalu argued that “Covid-19 has had far-reaching effects on democratic participation and elections in Africa and around the world.”

“The African Court ruling authoritatively sets out what incumbents can and cannot do to retain power. ”

“One thing is clear, the era of government using the pandemic as a sword against democratic competition is over. A public health pandemic should not be an excuse for election rigging, ”he said.

Raging Debate

The postponement of the elections remains a thorny issue in the country after the boss of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (Cotu), Francis Atwoli, pleaded in his favor.

Some MPs led by Ndaragua MP Jeremiah Kioni are also preparing to ask the High Court to postpone the date of the elections in order to give the Commission and Electoral Boundaries (IEBC) sufficient time to proceed with the demarcation of the boundaries.

MEPs argue that the move aims to avoid a constitutional crisis by launching an election with illegal electoral units.

Kioni has said they will ask the courts to force the IEBC to conduct the boundary review ahead of the August 9, 2022 vote to avoid what he calls a looming constitutional crisis.

The MP said the 26 specially protected constituencies in 2012, although they did not meet the threshold, would be removed if the election agency could not conduct a review.

The IEBC has already set August 9, 2022, in its operational electoral plan, as the date of the next election.

So far Vice President William Ruto and his allies and ODM wing Raila Odinga have opposed any attempt to postpone the elections.

The Constitution provides for the limit of the President’s term under Article 255, which is protected and can only be extended by referendum.

Article 102 of the Constitution also provides for the extension of Parliament for six months if the country is at war or in exceptional circumstances.

Kenya’s elections are not staggered with all elective positions held on the same day every five years.


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