Sunday March 26, 2023

Chief election commissioners in many countries had to resign

Electoral processes in troubled democracies and nations with fragmented political structures are often flawed and studded with violence, leading to allegations of widespread rigging and the consequent resignations and even convictions of their respective chief election commissioners, reveals an exclusive research conducted by the "Jang Group and Geo Television Network."

August 28, 2015
Electoral processes in troubled democracies and nations with fragmented political structures are often flawed and studded with violence, leading to allegations of widespread rigging and the consequent resignations and even convictions of their respective chief election commissioners, reveals an exclusive research conducted by the "Jang Group and Geo Television Network."
It, therefore, remains an elusive dream for countries like Pakistan to have extremely strong and imposing chief election commissioners who even have the powers to limit the sitting rulers from gaining any electoral privilege by virtue of their prized offices.
Just to cite one example in this context, in February 2015, the Israeli Election Commission chief, Salim Joubran, had barred the country's ruling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from seeking any pre-election boost by addressing the American Congress and discuss the threats of Iran's nuclear programme.
As per Reuters, Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to deliver this speech just two weeks before Israel's closely fought March 17, 2015 legislative election and at a juncture when the nuclear negotiations between Iran and six big world powers including Washington were in a sensitive phase.
The Israeli Election Commissioner had ordered that Netanyahu's address should be broadcast with a five-minute delay in Israel, giving news editors time to cut any statements deemed partisan.
Talking about the convictions and arrests of election commissioners, the entire team of the Maldives Election Commission was sentenced in March 2014 by country's Supreme Court for contempt.
According to BBC, the Maldives Chief Election Commissioner, Fuwad Thowfeek, was given a suspended six-month jail term. The court had also sacked the Deputy Election Commissioner, Ahmed Fayaz, but without a jail term.
Some reputed Maldivian media outlets had reported that Fuwad Thowfeek had openly criticised the Supreme Court after it had annulled a

Presidential election that was otherwise deemed free and fair by hundreds of observers. The ruling had come at an awkward time as the commission was supposed to be preparing for the March 22, 2014 parliamentary elections because the punishment of two more members meant that the election commission was wingless.
Earlier 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 organise 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 February this year, the "Aam Aadmi Party" chief Arvind Kejriwal's allegation of Electronic Voting Machines' tampering was rejected by the Election Commission, which is headed by the Chief Election Commissioner, who can only be removed only through impeachment by the parliament.
According to NDTV India, Arvind Kejriwal was asked by the Election Commission to prove his allegation that some Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) had been tampered with in favour of BJP and also give machine numbers as reference.
Arvind Kejriwal had contended that during an inspection in the Delhi Cantonment area, four machines were found doctored in a way that the result always showed BJP, no matter what party the voters chose.
The Election Commission of India had rejected his charge, saying that the EVMs were tamper-proof.
Coming to South Africa, after months of fighting over the way the country's second post-apartheid election should be run, the Chairman of the Independent Election Commission had opted to resign on January 26, 1999.
The Election Commission chairman, Justice Johann Kriegler, had repeatedly complained of a lack of financing for his agency and had criticised the Government's decision to require voters to get new identity documents before registering.
He had warned of the ominous specter of tens of thousands of black youths arriving at voting stations on election day -- but having to be turned away' because of the Government insistence on new bar-coded identification books.
The then South African President Nelson Mandela had announced Election Commissioner Kriegler's resignation at a hastily convened news conference, though he had not commented on why the official had relinquished charge.
(Reference: The January 27, 1999 edition of the New York Times)
In May 2015, the vice president of Burundi's Election Commission, Spes Caritas, had stepped down to flee the violence-wracked central African country.
Globally-acclaimed French media house, the AFP, had reported that she had announced her resignation via a letter and left the country, dealing a severe blow to the legitimacy of the incumbent President, Pierre Nkurunziza, who was pursuing a controversial bid to run for a third time in Burundi's presidential elections.
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 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 favour 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 September 2008, Klara Kabilova, the head of the Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan, had quit, saying she had been receiving threats from Maksim Bakiev, son of President Kurmanbek Bakie.
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 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, Iajuddin Ahmed.
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's list.
In June 2013, Egypt's Supreme Election Commission had decided to withdraw from reviewing an appeal submitted by ex-presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq over the result of the 2012 elections.
The withdrawal of the commission presided by Judge Maher al-Behery, was based on a sense of "uneasiness."
Being the last prime minister of the former regime, Shafiq had lost in the run-off of Egypt's first democratic presidential election to Mohamed Morsi in June 2012. While Morsi had garnered 51.73 per cent of the votes in the poll, Ahmed Shafiq could bag 48.27 per cent.
(References: Egypt's state-run Ahram Online and Chinese news agency Xinhua)
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.
By the way, in April 2012, Iraq's Election Commission Chief, Faraj al-Haidari, and one of his colleagues, Karim al-Tamimi, were handcuffed after spending three days in jail on corruption charges, in a case that had stirred political tensions in the country's fragile power-sharing government.
According to "Reuters," the Iraqi Election Commission duo was arrested on charges that they had given illicit bonuses to some employees, charges they had vehemently denied.
They were released on a bail of US $12,900.
It would also be worth mentioning here that in December 2011, a Moscow court had ruled that the country's sole independent election watchdog had broken Russian law by publishing citizens' complaints of campaign abuses during the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections.
The NGO was fined about US$ 1,000.
One of the election watchdog officials was even detained for questioning at one of Moscow's three airports, after being accused by a state-controlled television of trying to spark Arab-spring-style civil unrest in Russia to please the Western governments.
It is imperative to note that numerous other human rights groups in Russia, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, had demanded the dismissal of the country's Chief Election Commissioner Vladimir Churov, after he had accused some independent election monitors of deliberately causing disorder and planning to thwart the 2016 State Duma (parliament) polls.
According to BBC, in December 2011, thousands of people had attended the biggest anti-government rally in the Russian capital Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union.
As many as 50,000 people had gathered on an island near the Kremlin to condemn the alleged ballot rigging in parliamentary elections and had demanded a re-run. Over a thousand protestors were consequently arrested and several key protest leaders such as the anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny were jailed.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, according to the BBC, had never experienced popular protests like these before.
The Reuters news agency had reported that marchers, including former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Boris Nemtsov, a former Deputy Prime Minister under the late Boris Yeltsin, had streamed across a bridge near the Kremlin walls, past a long line of police.
In August 2013, Georgia's Chief Election Commissioner, Zurab Kharatishvili, had also left charge ahead of country's Presidential elections.
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 of the domain of the Election Commission.