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July 31, 2018

Following rigging and incompetence allegations...: Chief election commissioners in many budding democracies had to resign


July 31, 2018

LAHORE: The demand of Pakistan People's Party Chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, that the Chief Election Commissioner should step down for failing to hold transparent elections in the country is not surprising or outlandish at all because chief election commissioners and other high-ranking officials in many troubled democracies with fragmented political structures had either opted to resign due to administrative issues or were shown the door to be consequently convicted on allegations of widespread rigging, shows an exclusive research conducted by the "Jang Group and Geo Television Network."

 A few top election commissioners had even decided to call it a day after certain ant-government political circles had raised concerns over their impartiality. Here follow a few recent examples in this context:

During May this year, an Elections Commission member of Maldives had resigned after the opposition said the elections could never be free and fair with the current commission, led by a loyalist of President Yameen.

Elections Commission member Mohamed Shakeel's resignation had come following doubts being raised over by the opposition benches ahead of presidential polls in September. In October 2017, a top Kenyan electoral official had resigned, casting shadows over the presidential vote, which was just eight days away.

Roselyn Akombe had quit as a commissioner of Kenya’s electoral board by issuing a statement from New York saying the rerun of the presidential election scheduled for October 26, 2017 could not be free and fair.

She was quoted as saying: "This election as planned cannot meet the basic expectations of a credible election. Not when the staff are getting last minute instructions on changes in technology and electronic transmission of results. Not when in parts of country, the training of presiding officers is being rushed for fear of attacks from protesters."

In July 2006, three of Thailand's election commissioners were jailed by the Bangkok Criminal Court for four years on charges of mishandling the country’s elections as there were widespread concerns over the poll's legitimacy.

The verdict was a blow to the-then incumbent Thai Premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, as the Election Commission had been seen as his ally.

The court had found the electoral officials guilty of flouting the law by allowing unqualified candidates to stand. The election commissioners had been under fire for some time, with many people urging them to quit in time for the next ballot exercise.

In India, which is deemed to organize the biggest electoral exercise in the world with minimum fuss and complaints, a Maharashtra state Chief Electoral Officer, Nand Lal, was sentenced in March 2008 to two-day custody for alleged breach of privilege.

Nand Lal later said the decision was born out of 'political vendetta,’ because he had acted against the state Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on the issue of delimitation of a constituency and had not paid any heed to the pressure of Maharashtra state’s constitutional head.

The Maharashtra assembly had unanimously approved the report of the privilege committee In August 2013, an election commissioner in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had left job over doubts about the integrity of results showing a big win for President Robert Mugabe's political party.

Media reports had suggested that the Election Commission official, Mkhululi Nyathi, had resigned just days after a colleague had quit over the conduct of the vote that extended President Robert Mugabe’s 33-year dictatorial rule.

In his resignation letter, Nyathi implied the elections were not free and fair despite the peace and calm throughout the country. He was quoted by media as saying: "I hereby tender my resignation from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission with immediate effect. I do not wish to enumerate the many reasons of my resignation, but they all have to do with the manner the Zimbabwe 2013 harmonized elections were proclaimed and conducted."

In October 2011, the chairman of Liberia's Electoral Commission, James Fromayan, had hung his boots because of threats by the country's leading opposition party to boycott November's presidential runoff.

The Voice of America had reported that he was blamed by the Opposition for manipulating the vote in favor of sitting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Liberian Election Commission boss said he had stepped down so that the country’s main opposition party would not have an excuse to boycott the Presidential voting.

In September 2012, Louceny Camara, the President of Guinea's National Independent Election Commission had announced his resignation on state television. Media reports said his imminent resignation was contributed by accusations by Guinean political stakeholders that the Electoral Commission chief was using his office to delay the elections.

Earlier in September 2010, according to an esteemed American media house "Bloomberg," two officials from Guinea’s electoral commission were jailed for a year over irregularities in the first round of the West African country’s presidential election.

Ben Souka Sylla, President of the National Independent Electoral Commission, and Boubacar Diallo, the body’s Planning Wing chief, were imprisoned by a court and were also ordered to pay fines of US$347.

In June 2015, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, the chief of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission has resigned amid accusations that he had rigged vote results to favour Ashraf Ghani, one of the candidates in the country’s Presidential election.

Zia said he had stepped down for the national interest and for the sake of the election process. He had denied any involvement in electoral fraud and maintained he had decided to call it a day in a bid to resolve the political crisis.

The presumed front-runner in the June 14 runoff election, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah had accused election commissioner Zia of stuffing ballot boxes for rival candidate Ashraf Ghani, a former Finance Minister and World Bank official.

(References: The Wall Street Journal and the Al-Jazeera TV)

In January 2007, Bangladesh’s Chief Election Commissioner, Justice M.A. Aziz, had resigned from the post of Chief Election Commissioner, citing a major political alliance's lack of confidence in him and to avert further political unrest in the country.

He had personally delivered his letter of resignation to the country’s President. Justice Aziz's departure had ended his highly controversial 21-month stint in the office, during which he was forced to go on a leave of absence, after repeated demands for his resignation from the Awami League-led Alliance for failing to prepare a correct and updated voter list.

In 2014, the entire board of Iraq's electoral commission tendered its resignation in protest against political interference, casting doubt on a future nationwide voting exercise. According to international news agency Reuters, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission members said they found themselves caught between conflicting rulings from parliament and the judiciary regarding the exclusion of certain candidates from the election.

Critics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had accused him of using the law to eliminate his political rivals to help clear the way for his third term. In August 2015, Professor Vijay Naidu, a member of Fiji's Electoral Commission had resigned.

Professor Naidu later told his country’s media houses that he also had many issues with the way the Supervisor of Elections did his job. Last but not least, many Pakistanis would recall that on July 31, 2013, Pakistan's Chief Election Commissioner, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, had resigned from his post, a week after the Supreme Court had ordered the commission to hold presidential polls on July 30, ahead of its original schedule of August 6.

His resignation had come after the Pakistan Election Commission and the Supreme Court were slated by the lawmakers during a session of the National Assembly and the Senate.

The Election Commission had earlier rejected a government request to change the date of the poll. Some legislators were even heard demanding that the chief election commissioner should resign from office.

Independent analysts said Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim was displeased by the Supreme Court’s decision and had seen it as an encroachment into the domain of the Election Commission.

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