Professor Kealeboga Maphunye (LinkedIn) is the inaugural WIPHOLD-Brigalia Bam Chair in Electoral Democracy in Africa at the University of South Africa (UNISA). The Leaders of Africa Project represented by Peter Penar recently spoke to Prof. Maphunye.
In part two of the interview, Prof. Maphunye suggests that national election commissions, also known as election management bodies (EMBs), play an important role in ensuring free and fair elections. One of the major challenges facing election commissions is the ability to act independently of the state. Prof. Maphunye embraces the concept of independent election commissions over the explicit representation of political factions and civil society in an election commission. In assessing the challenges to independence, he explains that the failure to achieve independence fosters a lack of transparency, which can hurt citizens’ confidence in election quality and become a focal point for violence throughout the election cycle.
The difficulty for researchers is to measure the concept of “institutional independence.” Prof. Maphunye indicates that transparency and clear documentation of election activities are discernable outcomes that can be measured and judged against election standards. For instance, some election commissions refuse to share timely information with stakeholders (e.g., political parties, civil society) and the public about simple procedural elements, such as the characteristics of the ballot papers and accounting of the results. This lack of transparency is also the root of poor election commission-stakeholder relations.
Prof. Maphunye suggests that election quality extends beyond the election commissions to the security sector. Security forces have the obligation to ensure safety throughout the election cycle. However, Prof. Maphunye has observed firsthand how the security forces may be used to intimidate voters to vote in a certain way or to deter opposition supporter participation in overt and indirect ways. In Prof. Maphunye’s view fostering healthy stakeholder relationships, particularly involving the security sector, is key to ensuring free and fair elections.
Podcast version (also on Acast and your favorite podcast app):
Videocast version (also on YouTube):
- The Leaders of Africa Project is independent and non-partisan. The unedited views expressed in Leaders Voices are not those expressed by the Leaders of Africa Project. All opinions and experiences expressed are solely that of the thought leader.
- Use of any of the information gained from the video or this post must be cited: Leaders of Africa Project. “Leaders Voices with Prof. Kealeboga Maphunye.” Online video clip. www.leadersofafrica.org. Leaders of Africa Project, 13 July 2017.
About Prof. Kealeboga J. Maphunye
- Inaugural WIPHOLD-Brigalia Bam Chair in Electoral Democracy in Africa at the University of South Africa (UNISA)
- Bridges the gap between academic research in election management and election assistance in practice
- Participated in direct election support in many African countries
- Involved in the Management of Democratic Elections in Africa (MDEA) program at UNISA