As ministers are settling into their portfolios and others are swallowing their pride and disappointment of being kept out of the hall of honour, thousands of citizens are left with a bitter aftertaste of an election that aroused much controversy.
We are going to set aside the number of allegations made by citizens and the very serious irregularities highlighted by the African Union Election Observation Mission. These foreign observers note, for example, that “the counting process did not allow political party agents […] to check the seals and counter-check the counting of ballot papers.”
We shall, instead, concentrate on an issue that has turned into a national crisis: the large number of citizens who could not participate or have a say in the election.
First, I hasten to say that we have always had the utmost respect for the Electoral Supervisory Commission with men and women of great integrity, who have kept above party politics. And they have served us well so far. Elections so far have run smoothly and the results were always accepted in a spirit of fair play.
Back then, people on the board of the commission steered clear of politics and avoided even the perception of having anything to do with political parties. The commission did not have as members personal lawyers of the prime minister who ran to the Sun Trust to congratulate him on his victory and talk about a political vendetta; nor did it have very close members of the prime minister’s clan appointed in spite of the general condemnation of such appointments. Back then, the commission was the darling of the press. It was not only ferociously independent but also seen to be so.
Back in the day, we heard of the occasional careless voter who did not find his name on the electoral register. We have however never heard of complaints on such a large scale, the extent of which is terribly worrying.
The Electoral Commission was quick to brush the criticism aside stressing that only 6,813 people were not allowed to vote and that the figure represents no more than 0.72% of the population. Fair enough. But considering the small margins between the winners and the losers in many constituencies, even such a small percentage is significant. The frustration that followed was understandable. It was exacerbated by the alleged registered dead people who sneaked out of their peaceful tombs just to vote and the 838 foreigners who somehow were more informed than us about how to find their names on the voting register. This has resulted not only in a crisis but in a national disaster.
My friends who are inviting citizens who were deregistered to come forward tell me that the large majority of the deregistered voters who contacted them mainly from two constituencies belong to specific groups or are high profile families with known affiliations.
We don’t want to extrapolate from this but it is worth noting that voter suppression tactics are something well known in many countries around the world.
Several countries are known to have carried out mass purges of the voter rolls, ostensibly to remove dead people but in fact ending up keeping certain groups off the rolls.
Was this the case here? Who is responsible? Are citizens’ suspicions justified?
We don’t have the answers but someone must do. It is time they provided them to put an end to the atmosphere of shock and mourning that has followed the election. “The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments,” Friedrich Nietzsche says. Yes, we know the law puts the burden on the elector. But is that all there is to it? And who thinks this law is just?
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