EDITORIAL: Make elections more efficient, less disruptive

Sunday August 13 2017

Across Africa, however, voting tends to pass on

Across Africa, however, voting tends to pass on without much incidence outside logistical challenges only for drama to unfold at the tallying stage. PHOTO | AFP 

By The EastAfrican
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Political stability is a key pillar of private sector confidence and individual prosperity.

Thus, there was hope that the Kenya election would bolster it after President Paul Kagame smoothly won a third term in Rwanda. The conclusion of the elections provides a moment of reflection on democracy across the region and how it can be managed to ensure minimum disruption of the lives of citizens, business included.

Among the good, turnouts in recent elections have been well above 70 per cent, an indication that confidence among citizens in choosing their leaders is increasing.

Implicit in this is that the electorate is increasingly keen to hold the government to account, even amid great odds, and this will eventually improve governance.

The confidence is also showing in the number of candidates offering themselves for election, giving the voters a broader choice of who best serves their local and national interests.

Acceptance of elections as a step to better welfare has come with improvements in various agencies charged with overseeing the elections, notably the electoral bodies whose independence is increasing with every election.

Thanks to laws and efforts to increase transparency in electoral processes, biometric technology is gradually curbing vices like ballot stuffing and double voting.

On this count, however, there is a need to explore new ways of making elections more efficient both in terms of time and resources. This would call for better organisation to ensure election materials are where they should be in time and functioning of systems is tested in advance. The shorter time the voter spends on poll activities like registration, verification and voting, the bigger the universal suffrage that will ensue.

Across Africa, however, voting tends to pass on without much incidence outside logistical challenges only for drama to unfold at the tallying stage.

In the Kenya election, there was hope that the technological solutions put in place and a strong legal framework would minimise disputes related to transmission and tallying. This was not to be with candidates for various positions questioning the integrity of the system amid delays in updates and confirmed hacking attempts.

Even with technology, human factors like suspicion among stakeholders and incessant disputes could undermine electoral reforms meant to quicken processes and make the ballot less costly.

Governments would save a great deal by allowing voters to choose their preferred voting method — electronic, mail or physical. Citizens with access to an average mobile handset would benefit from this as well as voters in the diaspora.

The transport chaos related to people travelling distances to their polling stations to vote and business disruptions associated with it would be minimised. Such a multiple system, however, would demand concerted voter education.

Invalid votes in the Kenya election were more than three times the combined ballots cast for the six fringe presidential candidates.

These reflected ignorance among voters. A well informed electorate would be the ultimate safeguard for well-run elections especially in situations where leaders want to cling to or ascend to power at all costs.