Discussions around issues of African electoral trends took centre stage at the Pan African Parliament Committee on Rules workshop held under the banner ‘The Role of Political Parties in Africa in Advancing Democracy in Africa.
Mr. Steven Grudz Programme Head of Governance with the South African Institute of International Affairs says progress has been made in elections in Africa since the 1980s. He says there has been a general move away from coups, military rule, one-party states and outright vote rigging. There have also been peaceful transfers of power through elections in recent years.
However, African countries still grapple with alterations to constitutions and presidential terms limits. Mr. Grudz says tampering with the electoral calendar in favour of the incumbents; harassment and intimidation of opposition, and low voter turnout are still contentious problems. He proposed that there was need for Africa as a whole to revisit the issue of observation missions as there are divergent outcomes from reports of different observer missions. He added that civil society and media also needed to remain vigilant and play and oversight role so as to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
Political parties in many African countries have lost touch with what their voters want. This is leading to low voter turnouts across Africa, which is essentially a passive form of voter protests, ”says Honourable Santosh Vinita Kalyan, a member of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) representing South Africa.
“We must consolidate to look after the voter rather than the political parties and their personal interests,” said Hon. Kaylan. “Some political parties get their funding, be it from other sources in Africa, or Western sources, and then use it to hold onto power rather than address the basic issues of poverty that is ravaging Africa”.
Chairing the session, Hon. Santosh was vocal as three of PAP’s Committees on Cooperation, Rules and Justice jointly discussed challenges that plague Africa’s democracy and governance systems.Expressing her views about the session, Hon. Kaylan said she found the discussions on how elections should run, what happens if presidents want to amend constitutions and overstay their welcome and how to react in such circumstances, very enlightening.
“Some heated debates evolved, but it is necessary and important for the future of African democracy,” said Hon. Kaylan. “I am also delighted that one of the outcomes of the workshop was to have a session about the impact of social media on governance and elections at our next sitting. The majority of MPs in our room were over 50; it is time that we realise the important role of social media in African elections”.
She said the discussion about political parties and democratic colonisation in Africa led to interesting, albeit provocative discussions. The main purpose of the session was capacity building of African Members of Parliaments in the field of democracy and governance.
The Council of African Political Parties presented to PAP, pledging their support in popularising the PAP Protocol, lobbying its 48 political member parties across 38 African countries to achieve this outcome.