Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has underscored the importance of conducting elections that enjoy the trust and confidence of citizens across the 53 nation organisation.
Speaking during a meeting with Commissioners and senior officials at the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) of Nigeria on 31 July 2014, Mr Sharma said that the starting point for the democratic process in any country is the conduct of peaceful and credible elections.
“It is for that reason that we consider credible elections as the ‘heart beat’ of democracy, because it is through elections that citizens chose leaders who represent them and make decisions on their behalf,” the Secretary-General said.
Mr Sharma said that the Commonwealth places critical importance to strengthening election management bodies because of the central role they play in ensuring the rights of citizens to elect their leaders through peaceful and credible processes with integrity.
He said that the conduct of credible elections is a key component of the enhanced Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group -a representative group of foreign ministers tasked to ensure adherence to the organisation’s political values of rule of law, human rights, freedom of expression and assembly.
The Secretary-General said that as Nigeria prepares for the February 2015 elections, the Commonwealth remains ready to provide any support to INEC to ensure that the polls are credible.
“The Commonwealth has previously observed elections in Nigeria and made recommendations to inform the future conduct of other elections. We look forward to observing the forthcoming elections, when invited,” he added.
The Secretary-General thanked INEC for actively participating in the activities of the Commonwealth Electoral Network, a peer network of election management bodies through which experiences and good practices are distilled and shared across the membership.