Elections, Democracy and COVID-19 in West Africa

Based on its analysis of elections conducted so far in West Africa during the current pandemic, the Centre for Democracy and Development outlines the following considerations to guide the conduct of elections under the pandemic: The guidance and protocols issued by national governments, public health authorities, and national task forces on the movement and safety of people should inform the decisions taken by governments and electoral management bodies to either postpone or hold elections. Actors should prioritize conducting the full gamut of electoral activities (voter registration, procurement, political campaigning, and electoral crisis management). Decisionmakers must consider the constitutional significance .of elections and the original scheduled dates by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of holding or postponing an election during the pandemic. This is important if the legitimacy of the elections is not to be questioned or diminished. Postponement should result from consultation and be under girded by consensus, if possible, among all political parties and the national EMB. Unilateral or arbitrary postponement would deepen the existing trust deficit between ruling and opposition parties. It would also erode the legitimacy of the results. Executives must not abuse their power to declare a state of emergency to erode human rights such as press freedom, freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, press freedom. Executives should also refrain from repressing opposition candidates and their supporters and challenging the jurisdiction of courts to entertain challenges to their misbehaviour.