African Lawyers call for Clarity on Election Rules under COVID-19
This week, the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) filed a request to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to elaborate on the rules and standards that should govern elections in Africa during the coronavirus pandemic. The request, which is endorsed by the Justice Initiative, calls on the court to specify State obligations under African treaty law, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The request which comes in the wake of growing recognition that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already resulted in election delays and suspensions in at least nine African countries to date, will have potentially far-reaching effects on democratic rights and electoral legitimacy. Across the continent, 21 elections are scheduled to occur in 2020—including 11 for the office of president or prime minister—and 13 elections are scheduled to occur in 2021.
“African governments must ensure the health and safety of voters during this unprecedented health emergency while also protecting the integrity of the democratic process,” said Chidi Odinkalu, Senior Managing Legal Officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative. “Elected governments will only be recognized as legitimate by their citizens if elections are transparent, inclusive, and credible.”