Dr Ismaila Ceesay, the Head of the Political Science Department of the University of The Gambia has called on African governments to implement the recommendations of election observers to ensure legitimacy of the electoral processes on the continent.
He said: “Unless and until recommendations of international and domestic election observers are taken seriously and implemented, the electoral processes on the African continent would be manipulated and this would undermine the legitimacy of the entire electoral process.”
Dr Ceesay, a presidential contestant in the 2021 Gambian Presidential Elections made the call when he delivered a lecture at the Department of Political Science of the University of Ghana.
The lecture formed part of the Department’s monthly seminar series to celebrate the Scientific Renaissance of Africa on the topic: “A Reflection on Observations in 2021-2022 Election Cycle of The Gambia: Africa’s Democracy in the Balance?”
Dr Ceesay said the implementation of the recommendation would help promote effective democracy in Africa and beyond and would encourage fragile countries that were trying to move from autocracy to democracy to do so without backsliding.
He stated that election observers played critical role in helping to consolidate democracy in post conflict and international societies and therefore must find and adopt innovative methodologies to maintain legitimacy and inspire confident from voters or risk becoming irrelevant.
He said there were questions from voters, politicians, civil society organisations and even researchers as to the usefulness, relevance and credibility of international observers to enhancing democracy in Africa.
He noted that election observers were powerless as they lacked binding legal instrument to enforce their recommendations after elections, which was critical to ensuring the needed reforms to enhance electoral processes in Africa.
He stated that there were two key things that must prevail in the dispensation of democracy in Africa, thus election observers must reform, rethink and innovate and that the incumbent must be ready to leave power when they lose elections.
He paid glowing tributes to Ghana’s democratic dispensation saying, “That is why I like Ghana. Ghana is not a country when the results are counted the incumbent gets 98 per cent like in the Luanda, Cameroon, like in Libya before.
“In Ghana the margin between the winner and the loser is plus/minus 3 or 4 per cent. It has not happened once or twice, and that shows a mature democracy. That is why Ghana and Senegal are touted. Nigeria, for the past 20 years is crawling, but have come at some point … we are also crawling bit by bit, so that is the issue.”
Dr Maame Adwoa Gyekye-Jandoh, the Head of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana and the chairperson for the occasion in her welcoming address said: “We can’t have democracy without elections, and we can’t have a sustainable democracy without free, fair and credible elections, hence election observers.”
She said for this instance elections and electoral processes in the pursuit of democracy could not be wish away.
“In fact, election observation is important because it promotes the credibility and legitimacy of elections and for the elected government. So, if we do not have election observers to give voters the idea that the elections have been fair, then it questions the credibility and the legitimacy of the elected government,” she stated.
Dr Gyekye-Jandoh said Ghana had its issues in 1992, where elections were boycotted by the opposition parties, the parliamentary elections and there were electoral reforms to make the elections a bit more transparent.
“In 1996 we had reforms, 2004, 2008 elections; 2016 and 2020 and in all these elections we have improved from one election to another and part of it was because the electoral processes have been reformed,” she stated, adding, “We have had more of inputs and more participation from domestic election observers as well as international election observers.”