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African Gov’ts Advised To Ensure Free, Fair Elections 

By Sixtus Mbom

African governments have been called upon to put in place necessary conditions that guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in their various countries. Parliamentarians made the call during the 6th regional meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly ACP-EU that held at the National Assembly in Yaounde from April 28 to April 29.

They emphasised that the conditions for free and fair elections should be observed before, during and after elections. The MPs highlighted the importance of having a reliable judicial system, pluralist access to the media, and independent electoral commissions. They also laid emphasis on the citizen-targeted campaigns for democracy and measures to ensure the security of all candidates.

While recommending that election should be accepted by all candidates, they stated that for such acceptance to be possible, the recognition of the opposition should be protected in national laws and measures for the public funding of political parties be on a prorate basis.
They also called for peaceful handing over of power when necessary. Another major issue which preoccupied the MPs was constitutional changes that are made shortly before elections, which to them create doubts about the commitment to democracy of those who implement them.

They also expressed worries about the particular message that is communicated to the electorate in such cases and the implications for the sense of civic duty of the citizens concerned. One of the co-presidents who chaired the meeting, Louis Michel from Belgium, explained to the press that political parties need to be on the same level during campaigns to be able to effectively compete with each other.

Michel said constitutional changes bring doubts about democracy in the countries concerned.
The European MP also stressed that in countries where there is real division of powers between the judiciary, the legislative and the executive; parliamentarians are capable of deciding what the executive will implement. He added that the success of an electoral process depends on government authorities as well as the citizens.

They made many recommendations in reference to cementing relationships between the regions, economic partnerships, reduction of costs of doing business between countries and accelerating the achievement of the millennium development goals. The delegations expressed concern about the loss of income due to the implementation of an Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA, and urged the European Union institutions to compensate the possible net fiscal losses.

After the meeting, Hon. Emmanuel Banmi, in an interview with The Post, said: "I want to state here that, MPs were made to understand the European Union and what EPA is all about. We realise that the EU are talking about aid and upgrading of capacities and all what not, but we realised that the actual aim of all this is to prepare and keep the African countries as suitable markets for manufactured goods from European countries.

They are talking of building capacities or trying to help us to compete. We as Africans, we need to re-think our co-operation with the European Union. We have to look very carefully before we leap, if not, we are going to be in serious problems."

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