On 26 May 2020, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, held a webinar organised by the Democracy and Civic Engagement Unit to unpack the challenges of COVID-19 and its impact on elections on the African continent. The discussion was held in Zoom.
Theme 4: COVID-19 and the shifting electoral landscape in Africa
MODERATOR: Sohela Surajpal
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
- Dr Kojo Pumpuni Asante
Ghana Centre for Democratic Development
- Commissioner Mosotho Moepya
Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC)
- Daud Suleman
Malawi KokoLiLiKo Movement
The world is facing an unprecedented crisis and has entered a new world order. Undoubtedly, the multi-dimensional challenges brought by COVID-19 are monumental. In an attempt to respond to the pandemic, countries around the world had to adopt extraordinary measures to preserve lives and minimise the spread of the virus. The disruptive impact of COVID-19 on elections and electoral processes is no exception. This year, the continent had more than 20 elections scheduled to take place. These include major presidential elections in Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi, Ghana and Niger as well as smaller by-elections in Nigeria and Zimbabwe, to mention a few. Elections are continuous processes that involve a complex interplay of activities, logistics and crowd control. The pressures of social distancing and the ever-present fear of contracting the virus make the traditional mode of elections unworkable. Faced with the pressure of the pandemic, many governments have had to halt, postpone or revise their election preparations – often abruptly. In response to these challenges, electoral commissions across Africa are thinking creatively about new ways to conduct elections while keeping the overall rate of infections low. While African states are forced to take decisive actions to curb the spread of COVID-19, these actions should not undermine the rule of law and threaten the promotion of democracy. This means governments are in a position that needs a delicate balance of preserving human rights and maintaining democratic principles.
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