Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of Electoral Commission (EC), yesterday said Electoral Management Bodies (EMB) and political parties needed each other. “They have no choice but to work towards collaborative relations.
“The relationship may be symbiotic; whether parties like the EMB or not, they have to deal with it and whether an EMB likes the parties or not, it has to work with them. “But I must admit that the collaborative relations don’t come easily,” Dr Afari-Gyan stated at a two-day Regional Conference on Interparty Dialogue organised by the International IDEA for Electoral Managers and Administrators in Accra.
“Where you have large number of political parties’ dialogue becomes unwieldy,” he said.
Stating reasons for the difficulty, Dr Afari-Gyan noted that in many countries, there was rapid turnover of election managers and party officials…by the time you had established good working relations with a group of people, they were gone. And one had to start all over again with a new group of people.
“Political parties may come to the dialogue with conflicting interest and agendas that are difficult to mediate and in the name of the transparency, political parties may demand participation in the electoral process in ways that are not acceptable,” Dr Afari-Gyan noted.
In spite of the difficulties, the EC Chairman noted however that the potential benefit of dialogue between EMB and the political parties far outweighed the difficulties of managing it.
Some of the benefits includes; increase knowledge of the electoral process; learning about each other’s concern and offering a platform for explanation of thorny issues; minimising conflicts, building confidence and trust and creating a sense of involvement in the electoral process.
Dr Afari-Gyan, however, reminded political parties that they were not the only actors in the electoral landscape, which included government, civil society organisations, security agencies, the courts and ultimately the electorate. All these actors had important roles to play in elections.
Mr Theophilus Dowetin, West Africa Programme Manager of International IDEA, said the workshop sought to encourage EMBs to undertake some research to evaluate the effectiveness and the contribution of stakeholder dialogue to the credibility and acceptance of the outcome of the electoral process in respective countries.
He said: “It is necessary to research and provide readily information on inter-party dialogue mechanism, a pressing topic that has yet to receive significant attention”.
The workshop will focus on the experiences of Ghana, Sierra Leone, Niger, Burundi, South Africa, Burkina Faso, and Cape Verde.