The High-level Seminar on “Two decades of Democratic Elections in ECOWAS Member States: Achievements, Challenges and the Way Forward”, organized by ECOWAS Parliament in Winneba, Ghana., has ended with a recommendation that a study should be conducted for the adoption of regional standards to govern electoral processes.
The communique read by Hon. Zargo Stephen a Member of Parliament from Liberia said such study should include an effective independence of election management agencies, the partiality of courts that sits on electoral disputes, regulation of electoral campaigns, computerization of electoral registers and use of voters’ card as well as compliance with the quota or gender equality system to enhance women’s representation in decision-making bodies, including the ECOWAS Parliament.
It also recommended the revision of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance to prohibit all forms of political maneuvering to hold on to power beyond constitutional limits.
The communique recommended an adoption of mechanisms to ensure adequate participation of Civil Society in democratic process; such as the protection of the members of civil society organization’s and transparent financing.
They also recognized the critical role of media during elections while stressing the need for greater monitoring of social media during electoral periods and the repression of their abusive use to prevent any disinformation and the spread of fake news.
It called for the adoption of legal frameworks to guarantee press freedom and to compel media professionals to strict adherence of their ethics and capacity building for media professionals.
There was emphasis on “equal access to official media and public services by all electoral candidates to enable them know their programs and views to the electorates. “
The communique recommended measures to be adopted to guarantee the independence and neutrality of security services.
“There should be provision of adequate material, human and financial resources to security services and their capacity building.
“Promotion of cooperation and collaboration among security services of ECOWAS Member States to share best practices in electoral security”.
For political parties, it was recommended that Member States should institute a national dialogue framework to help unite political actors.
They stressed the need for transparency in party financing, and separation of their resources and activities from that of government.
They also recommended the strengthening and consolidation of election observation systems before, during and after elections.
This they said could be achieved by improving the deployment strategies of observers, cooperation of various International and local observation missions and the quality of expertise of members of observation missions.
Reporting by Idara Ukpanyang; Edited by Adeniyi Bakare