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One can’t talk of democracy if citizens are excluded – Uutoni

URBAN and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni says citizen participation is paramount to the success of a democracy, and it was the responsibility of the Southern African Development Commission’s electoral commission to ensure citizens are included in the election process.

“If the decision-making process excludes the masses, one cannot talk of democracy. For healthy politics and a successful democracy, it is necessary that citizens know their roles and duties in the democratic process,” said Uutoni.

He was speaking at the four-day conference of the Electoral Commissions Forum (ECF) of the Southern African Development Commission (SADC) countries at Swakopmund last week.

Uutoni said elections are important for civic participation, as they provide a means for excluded groups to be heard and influence the political agenda.

The theme for this year’s event was ‘Stakeholder Engagement and Accountability to Promote Public Trust in Electoral Processes in the SADC region’.

Representatives from all member states unpacked the concepts of stakeholder engagement, accountability, public trust, and other challenges faced by election management bodies. They also shared experiences, and reflected on existing strategies, learning best practices for the way forward.

SADC-ECF president Barnabas Nyamadzabo said election commissions in the region are facing a number of challenges, which specifically have to do with managing and involving all stakeholders in the election process, without being biased.

According to him, it was crucial for each commission to nurture and maintain relationships with all stakeholders to ensure credibility and accountability.

Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Namibia Elsie Nghikembua said the conference allows members to learn from different regional perspectives as they deliberate on the complex issue of political party financing and compliance, and its relevance to accountability as an important aspect of electoral integrity.

“Election accountability depends on transparency, which is also essential in preserving the credibility of the election process. This is even more so when it comes to the handling and disclosure of funds for the election process,” she said.

She further stated that electoral accountability is an important feature of democratic societies as the process ensures that those who conduct elections do so in compliance with international procedures, and in a manner that promotes the integrity of the process.

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