What about Electoral Management Bodies’ day?
We continue celebrating World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) which falls on May 3 every year but in Malawi the celebrations were held on Saturday, May 7 and for the first time in Mangochi.
We take time to appreciate the crucial role the media plays in ensuring free and fair elections. The media plays a crucial role in building an informed electorate through news articles and programmes. The ability to reach to a wider audience spread across the nation in short time, positions the media as a critical stakeholders to the electoral body on voter education.
The media also acts as a watchdog on electoral stakeholders ensuring that they stick to the rules and regulations for free, fair and credible elections. If there is fraud, media has a role of exposing that.
As we celebrate such day, maybe it is also high time the nation, and the whole world institutions, considered setting aside a day to celebrate the role electoral management bodies plays in fostering democracy, good governance, peace and security in the country.
Elections have assumed a higher and important place in society especially in multiparty democracies. Electoral management bodies have gone beyond just being an organ for putting elected officers into office. Elections are a security and economic issue. Examples are not absent in Africa where countries have been thrown into turmoil and civil wars because of mismanaged elections. Kenya and Ivory Coast once went through internal disturbances because of electoral results misunderstandings. When a nation is approaching elections, foreign investors also hesitate until they are confident that a country will hold credible elections. In other cases there could also be capital flight if there are convincing confidence intervals that a country will not held credible elections which can subsequently result in internal strife.
The media also extends its watchdog role to the three arms of government and no wonder it is referred to as the fourth arm of government. But in a presidential system like Malawi, the electoral commission also has a double job of managing the process of filling the offices of the executive and legislative arms of government. Since its inception, the electoral commission has conducted five presidential and parliamentary elections, two local government elections and a referendum in 1993. Such a body needs to be beyond reproach and command confidence of all stakeholders so that electoral results are respected. No wonder the independence of any electoral management body is always under focus and discussion whenever there elections on the cards.
Therefore, it is proper that the nation takes a day (not a public holiday) in a year to come together and celebrate and reflect on the important role the electoral management body has come to pay in consolidation of democracy and good governance and preservation of peace and security in the country. On this day stakeholders would come together and reflect on the activities and preparations of the MEC ahead of the coming elections. It would be a day when several activities will be carried out as one way of establishing the integrity and credibility of electoral processes, and promoting the widespread acceptance of election processes and results. Stakeholders will also reflect on the challenges facing the Commission and discuss the way forward so that the country continues to hold credible elections.