Saturday, January 31, 2009

West African network to harmonize election standards

A regional network of electoral commissions has been established in the West African sub-region to harmonize election standards among ECOWAS countries.

Known as ECOWAS network of Electoral Commissions, it is made up of heads of institutions responsible for managing elections in ECOWAS member states.

A director at the African Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. William A Awinador-Kanyirige, who confirmed this in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said the body would ensure the promotion of transparent and credible elections in the region and help entrench the culture of democracy.

He said the establishment of the network, which was agreed at the end of a two-day meeting of the heads of the electoral management bodies in the region, would also contribute to the emergence of independent and impartial electoral management bodies in members states.

He explained that the proposal for the creation of the network emanated from a join workshop held in September 2005 by ECOWAS and the Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG).

Mr. Awinador-Kanyirige said the body was mandated to promote public confidence in the electoral process through transparent and credible electoral procedures, as well as the employment of electoral officials with integrity, probity and a strong sense of public service.

He said according to its eight-page statute, the network would also serve as a platform for co-operation in improving electoral laws and practices, the exchange of experiences and best practices, as well as pooling and sharing of electoral resources to ensure cost-effectiveness.

Mr. Awinador-Kanyirigie said the operations of the network, which had three organs, including a General Assembly and a Coordinating Committee, would be coordinated from a Secretariat located at the ECOWAS Electoral Unit.

He said the meeting endorsed tow documents, one of which was the 34-page ECOWAS handbook on election observation that would serve as a guide for the proper assessment of genuine democratic elections in member states.

He said the first section of the handbook placed electoral observation within the mandate of ECOWAS, while the other sections comprised practical guidelines for observation missions and sampled observation forms.

Mr. Awinador-Kanyirige said about 60 participants, including academics, electoral experts and civil society representatives, attended the meeting which was organized in collaboration with the Europe Union and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)

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