THE African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)-European Union (EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly which met in Rwanda this week has said universal principles and s
tandards, free media, minority representation and effective opposition are vital to democracy.
Zimbabwe was represented at the assembly by Senator Clarisa Muchengeti and Forbes Magadu, both of Zanu PF and Nelson Chamisa from the MDC.
“All states should recognise that whilst free and fair elections are a prerequisite for democracy, they do not guarantee democratic governance. States establishing democratic institutions and frameworks should also be guided by the universal principles and standards in international and regional instruments,” said a report on elections and electoral processes that was presented at the assembly.
Presenting the report, co-rapporteur, Betty Amongi (Uganda), gave a list of prerequisites for free and fair elections. These included independent institutional frameworks for organising them, respecting the rights of all parties to recruit, assemble and freely associate, independent media to which the opposition has equal access, and an environment free of violence.
Amongi also stressed the need to “bring women and other disadvantaged groups on board” to enable them to “access positions of leadership”.
“Secret ballots, a legal framework for complaints about irregularities, and international observer missions are also necessary,” she added.
“We agreed that elections are essential, but not sufficient, for democracy,” said the other rapporteur, Miguel Angel Martinez, explaining that the report seeks to go for the” whole truth”.
The report said governments should establish a legal regime that allows for an independent, free and balanced media by ensuring that the state does not have a monopolistic or dominant position and encouraging a wide-range of private media that is not dominated by one group or individual..
Zimbabwe earlier this year refused to grant permission to an ACP fact-finding mission to the country to assess the human rights situation.
Meanwhile, the 42nd Ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights which is in session in Brazzaville has called on Zimbabwe and Kenya, which face elections in the coming months, to ensure freedom of expression and access to information, saying these are prerequisites for free, fair and credible elections.