Elections by themselves cannot guarantee good governance in African countries, but they can help resolve political differences and disputes, states Festus Gontebanye Mogae, former President of Botswana.
Ex-President Mogae posits, however, that the critical role elections play in governance cannot be over-emphasised since they enable the voting population to hold elected leaders accountable. Elections, he observes, is the entry point for successful governance.
He stresses that the legitimacy of governments is realised through credible elections which are focused on inclusive participation, adding that free and fair elections are the necessary conditions for democracy and good governance.
The former Botswana leader was speaking at a lecture on 'Credible Elections and Governance in Africa' held in Accra. The highly patronised and humour-laced lecture was organised by Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) as one of CDD-Ghana's initiatives towards promoting free and fair elections in Ghana?s December presidential and parliamentary polls.
Mr Mogae, a former vice President of the southern African country of two million people, lauds Ghana as a model of democratic governance in Africa and calls on Ghanaian stakeholders such as political parties, candidates and their supporters, civil society and the media to ensure that the forthcoming polls are credible and peaceful.
He says credible, free and fair elections can engender good governance when broad-based consultations and inclusiveness are involved. To him, the growing number of African countries like Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia that have had credible and peaceful elections in recent years is indicative of the trend towards achieving the goals of democracy and good governance. I have confidence in Africans to hold credible elections.
The ex-President, who was a supervisor of elections in Botswana, notes that impartial, professional, context-appropriate and sustainable elections prevent conflicts, whether perceived or real. He points out that the post-election conflicts that engulfed Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe resulted from flawed practices before, during and after the elections.
He beseeches African leaders to be adoptable to change because intransigence could force opposition parties to resort to violence, leading to civil strife and mayhem.
He appeals to the leaders and people of African countries to emulate the peace that had existed, and continue to exist, in Botswana. According to him, Botswana has conducted ten multi-party elections since independence in 1965. Political analysts argue that the country, however, has the dominant party type of multi-party democracy, with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party governing it since it obtained political independence from Britain.
Mr Mogae, a winner of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership for ensuring stability and prosperity in 2008, explicates that election is a complex system of events involving technological and administrative mechanisms. He delineates the whole election process as encompassing the pre-election, election and post-election stages.
The former Governor of Bank of Botswana explains that each of the stages is important for governance, and the pre-election stage includes campaign rules and guidelines, and complaints and dispute settlement. The management of elections is important because unintended mistakes can cause disruptions.
He notes that African opposition parties are divided and do not resolve their differences to contest the governing parties in national polls, thereby allowing the party in power to, more often than not, win the elections.
The Leader of the Botswana National Assembly underlines the significance of rule of law as the machinery for making elections work, and asks African governments to treat the courts with the independence and impartiality they deserve. He avers that the Africa Peer Review Mechanism helps leaders on the continent to uphold accountability and transparency key pillars of good governance.
According to the World Bank, governance has huge implications for policy making. The standard dimensions of governance are well-known: rule of law, transparency, lack of corruption, accountability, voice and participation, and effective government, the Bank states in a report, Africa's Pulse, which was released this month.
CDD-Ghana, in a pre-lecture statement, gave notice that the Tuesday lecture would provide civic education towards the promotion of democratic citizenship and increase popular demand for credible governmental accountability and responsiveness; and focus on attention to improvements in election administration, vote transparency and the integrity and security of the ballot box.
The other objectives of the lecture are: to help subordinate the state and government officials to the rule of law and make governments more accountable to the citizens; and provide a credible, independent platform for assessing Ghana's preparations towards elections.