The ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) has called on electoral management bodies (EMBs) in the region to reappraise election funding towards making the electoral process more cost-effective but at the same time, free, fair and credible.
In his remarks at the opening of an experts workshop in Abuja on Monday 15th October, to validate the Cost of Election Study commissioned by ECONEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, President of the ECONEC governing board said the spiralling cost of elections had become a serious cause of concern to the electoral commissions.
“This is more so because an expensive election that ushers in a government that lacks the resources to meet the needs of citizens, erodes confidence in elections in particular and the democratic process in general,” declared Prof. Yakubu, who is also chair of the National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria.
He said the study funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), was informed by the need to interrogate the factors driving up electoral expenses, with a view to coming up with workable recommendations to make the cost more manageable and the electoral process more inclusive and sustainable.
Underscoring the need for the pooling of resources by EMBs on the basis of need, Prof Yakubu expressed ECONEC’s full support for an election materials Depot at Lungi in Sierra Leone, under consideration by ECOWAS in line with its mandate on electoral assistance to member States.
He thanked the ECOWAS Commission and management for their support and development partners such as the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, which has been providing financial and technical support to ECONEC since its formation in 2008.
The ECONEC President also expressed appreciation to other development partners for supporting ECONEC’s activities. These include the German International Development Agency, GIZ, sponsors of the validation workshop, and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), adding that the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), also co-organized with ECONEC and INEC, a successful International Workshop on the use of technology in elections, in Abuja last April.
Speaking on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission’s management, Dr. Remi Ajibewa, the Director of Political Affairs, said that while elections should be a matter of national sovereignty, “the reality is that in most of our countries, election budgets are largely funded by development partners.”
“This situation often gives rise to accusations of foreign interference in the selection of our leaders,” he said, adding: “For this reason, the time has come to pause and carefully reflect on viable ways of self-financing our elections without jeopardizing the financial stability of future generations.”
In his goodwill message, the GIZ representative Ludwig Kirchner, noted that while there might be “different ways of distributing political power, election may not be the best way, but has been found to be democratic and more cost-effective.”
He noted that the German government has always supported ECOWAS in the area of peace and security, and assured that the partnership would continue.
Mr Kirchner expressed the hope that the outcome of the study would be useful to ECOWAS, in the strengthening of the electoral processes and consolidation of democracy in the region.
Speaking in the same vein, OSIWA representative Joseph Amena Guawon, said the organisation’s interventions in West Africa cut across political and economic governance and advancements, as well as justice, equality and human rights.
He expressed OSIWA’s commitment to continued partnership with ECOWAS and ECONEC in the delivery of programmes with positive impact on the community citizens.
Setting the tone for the deliberations, the ECONEC Permanent Secretary and Head of ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division, Mr. Francis Oke, reminded the participants, including the three consultants that stakeholders within and outside Africa were waiting for the outcome of the study as a guide on election expenses management.
The study was carried out in ECOWAS’ three official linguistic zones: Anglophone (Nigeria and Liberia), Francophone (Benin Republic and Senegal) and Lusophone (Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau). The published result of the study is expected to be launched by the end of this year.