A two-day African Regional Conference on Financing of Electoral Processes scheduled to hold early next month in Windhoek, Namibia may provide fresh answers to the raging debate on how to drastically bring down the spiraling costs of elections on the continent. Slated for June 7th-8th, 2018 with the theme: An Investment for Inclusive and Sustainable
A two-day African Regional Conference on Financing of Electoral Processes scheduled to hold early next month in Windhoek, Namibia may provide fresh answers to the raging debate on how to drastically bring down the spiraling costs of elections on the continent.
Slated for June 7th-8th, 2018 with the theme: An Investment for Inclusive and Sustainable Democracy, the conference which will be graced by Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in the African continent and some international experts, is being funded by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), a Swedish based development agency in collaboration with the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN).
The organisers say it “is influencing a conceptual shift and understanding of the discourse on elections as a cost – to an investment that is required to enhance electoral democracy by effectively managing the interlinked electoral processes as building blocks for elections.”
The conference hopefully will come up with viable alternative sources of funding elections which cost is increasingly becoming too prohibitive for many governments to bear, with some already contemplating doing away with it altogether. There’s also the proposal to make the private sector share the burden of election through the payment of Election Tax.
The International IDEA and ECN also say “the Conference is convened as a platform for collation of information, experiential and knowledge sharing/exchange among EMBs in Africa….EMBs need sustainable resources for all electoral processes/components as opposed to the tendency to focus on the short-term objective of organising elections.”
While, it is widely acknowledged that elections are only one of the many key interdependent elements of the electoral processes and ultimately for democracy building, the financial and human resources required for electoral processes and to conduct elections continues to increase. “This has prompted the deliberations within International IDEA on creating an understanding on how elections are an outcome of the financing/investments in the interlinked electoral components/processes and the cost is what occurs if there are no sustainable investments into electoral processes.”
It is the organisers view that the ‘return on investment’ that is associated with democratic and inclusive electoral processes, as key components of a democracy, can be validated in terms of social stability within a nation. By contrast, countries that underfund investments in their democracy tend to be associated with issues such as; Ineffective electoral management, and administration; Low levels of voter turnout; High levels of election fraud and Manipulation and voting irregularities. Others include: Limited freedom for news media to scrutinize the exercise of power; Ineffective electoral justice system and lack of access to the mechanisms of resolving electoral disputes.
The Africa Regional Conference will explore the several interlinked aspects of electoral processes that influence democracy building and how it is a cost for any country’s democratic and sustainable development not to invest in these electoral components.
The Conference is expected to;
▪ Analyse the existing discourse on elections as a cost/burden to an investment for democracy building;
▪ Identify gaps and good practices on managing and investing in the interdependent electoral processes that are building blocks for elections; and
▪ Define action-oriented recommendations that support the sustainable investment in electoral processes and mandate of EMBs.
The main areas of discourse at the Conference will include;
▪ Financing for EMBs and the Critical Investments in Electoral Processes;
▪ Electoral Systems, Sequencing/Timing of Elections and the Implications on Resources to Manage Electoral Processes;
▪ Inclusiveness of Electoral Processes to Promote Gender Equality and the Participation of the Marginalized and Disadvantaged -An Investment for Inclusive and Sustainable Democracy;
▪ Sustainable Use of ICTs in Electoral Processes;
▪ Electoral Risk Management -An Investment for Sustainable Democracy; and
▪ Electoral Justice Systems- and Investment for Accountability and Sustainable Democracy.
International IDEA focuses on supporting the integrity of electoral institutions and processes, by focusing on the capacity of electoral management bodies/authorities to implement their mandate in order to support sustainable electoral democracy practices. The Conference is informed by the evident consensus on the need and demands for Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) to effectively manage all the interdependent electoral processes that are building blocks for elections and the growing challenge on the availability resources required to sustain such long-term undertakings.
Prof Liasu Adele Jinadu, former INEC National Commissioner says ECOWAS countries should consider the feasibility of “imposing an election tax on the private sector in the region, to be administered and used to defray election costs, as part of their corporate social responsibility and investment in the region’s democracy and development”. “The private sector stands to benefit from, and should invest in elections as mechanism for consolidating peace and stability in the region”, he says.
Flowing from the agitation spearheaded by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that led to their investment in Education in Nigeria via the Education Tax Fund, Jinadu argued that “The private sector stands to benefit from, and should invest in elections as mechanism for consolidating peace and stability in the region”.
Decrying the little investment of the private sector on elections, it was the view of Jinadu, a professor of Political science that “We need to tell them that investment in elections would bring good returns. You can see the results; Africa is not what it was 10 years ago. The private sector makes a lot of money within and takes a lot out of several countries in Africa. It must therefore invest in its stability. As a business you need to take risks”
While sharing the view that the corporate organizations needed to invest in elections, Mrs Notemba Tjipueja, chairperson, Electoral Commission of Namibia, posits that the problem of not investing in “inclusive democracy and a peaceful society is the crises and conflicts which becomes prevalent thereafter” . “Investment in election is worthwhile because it ensures a stable environment for business to thrive”, says Tjipueja who is also chairperson, Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern Africa Development Communities (ECF-SADC).
In his intervention, Executive Director, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Mr Fabio Bargiacchi also highlights the choice usually faced by International Development Partners of “either providing timely and adequate electoral support for the conduct of credible elections for peaceful transitions or providing resources for military intervention and post-conflict reconstruction in countries where bad election has led to conflict and civil war”.
Although he conceded that the costs of elections could in some instances be exaggerated, Jinadu inferring from his experience in Nigeria posited, “How much was voted? What was released? What was spent? What was left?” contending that much is also lost to leakages in the system. “When I was appointed Electoral Commissioner, there was a friend who told me that “this was your golden opportunity to make a clean out””.
But Mr Wanyonyi Wafula Chebukati, chairman, Independent and Boundaries Commission of Kenya mutes that “Most of the services providers of electoral technology are foreign based and relying on them unduly increases costs and knowledge transfer is necessary to enable local management and maintenance of the systems”. And that’s why some analysts contend that the EMBs will make lots of savings in their costs if they make use of local technology.
At the cost of $25 per voter, Kenya which had two presidential elections in a spate of two months in 2017 currently holds the ace of conducting the most expensive election in Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) conducted its 2011 election at a staggering $44 per voter while Ghana’s 2016 election cost $18 per voter.
Nigeria’s watershed election in 2015 which led to the defeat of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan costing a whooping $122.8 billion was $8.5 per voter. The cost per voter for other countries on the continent, are as follows: Liberia 2017 election $6.6, Tanzania’s 2015 election $5.16, Uganda 2016 election $4 while the Rwanda 2016 election cost $1.1 per voter.
In his paper titled, “Cost of Elections in Nigeria”, Jinadu, former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo says that with a registered voter list of 68.9 million and an election cost of N122, 9 billion, the cost of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria was N1158 or US$8.5 at an exchange rate of N210:US$. A large chunk of this went to defray the cost of honoraria, training and transportation to 5000 adhoc staff for election duties…
Although there was a decrease in the cost of the 2015 general elections (N122.9 billion), compared to the cost of the 2011 general elections (N135.9 billion), current projected cost of the 2019 general elections is N189.2 billion. With a projected figure of 73 million registered voters, , the projected cost per voter for the 2019 general elections at the official exchange rate of N360:US$ will be US$8.5 per voter.
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