Regularity of elections in Africa yet to deepen democracy

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is launching the 
third edition of the Africa Governance Report (AGR III) on Thursday June 
5 2014, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This Report focuses on the theme: 
“Elections and Management of Diversity”. The Report indicates that 
greater regularity in holding elections since the beginning of the 
1990s has not nec­essarily enhanced their value as sec­tarian 
mobilization, intimidation and violence have often turned polls
into conflict trig­gers rather than instruments for resolving differences.

The ECA and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
 have worked closely in producing the report since the diversity 
of populations in many African countries had made it essential 
that the dynamics surrounding the holding of elections and 
the management of diversity on the African continent be 
examined. Both the ECA and UNDP highlight that the 
Report’s findings are a reflection of the situation across 
the continent: “We also ask ourselves whether African 
elections promote inclusiveness and participation and 
improve the quality of governance,” they state in the 
Foreword.“To uncover some answers, we conducted
 extensive research, including surveys and focus 
group discussions in 40 African countries,” 
add the heads of the two institutions.
Among the Report’s key findings is the fact that electoral 
stability and the management of diversity are better promoted 
through the proportional, rather than the majoritarian, 
representation system. The Report also says that resolving
 issues like the quality of elections, how the constitution 
promotes diversity, how deeply embedded diversity 
is in pub­lic and democratic institutions, and the capacity 
of the state to mediate and rise above sectarian interests
 is central to consolidating the demo­cratic transition. 
Institutional capacity, relative autonomy, resources 
as well as the quality and integrity of judicial officers 
also need to be addressed.
On the issue of governance, the Report indicates that overall, 
Africa has made pro­gress, with some indicators, including 
respect for human rights and the rule of law, legislative capacity, 
civil soci­ety engagement and civil liberties. This notwithstanding,
progress remains low and has not allowed for the strengthening 
of democratization in the continent. It is expected 
that the recommendations provided in the third 
edition of the AGR will guide African governments
in strengthening elections and the management of 

Photo: African Leadership magazine 


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