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Elections: Transparency

Our feature series this week on free and fair elections in Africa concludes with a look at the need for transparency in the electoral process. We began with an overview and then looked in more detail at topics related to the electoral process, such as campaign financing, the role of the media, the independent electoral commissions.

David Carroll is the director of the Democracy Program at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. From his home in Sewanee, Tennessee, he told English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard, “Transparency is absolutely essential because it builds confidence both nationally and domestically among political stakeholders, parties and citizens, as well as internationally.”

Based on his experience with the Carter Center, Carroll said Liberia is an example of a country working well with electoral observers; he said they had very good access at all stages of the elections. By contrast, he said Zimbabwe is an example of a country failing to cooperate; “Many international observers have been completely denied any accreditation or official access whatsoever….” But Carroll said the Zimbabwean government did invite it perceives as “friendly groups” to observe the elections. He also cited Mozambique and Zambia (in the 2001 election) as u cooperative, although not to the level of Zimbabwe.

Carroll said Ethiopia wouldn’t provide accreditation to domestic observers, and that complicated the job for the international team. He said the “Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation” is an important document, which provides guidelines for guaranteeing at least minimum access to observers, while at the same time recognizing a nation’s sovereignty, jurisdiction and authority.

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