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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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