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A Commonwealth Observer watching voting in an African country

Commonwealth Secretariat shares learning on managing elections in Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic

25 February 2021

Commonwealth countries in Africa have been pooling knowledge gained from managing election processes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Electoral activities delivered safely

Documented in a new paper commissioned by the Commonwealth Secretariat are the emerging good practices and lessons on how electoral activities can be delivered safely during the pandemic.

The paper, entitled COVID-19 and Election Management in Africa: Challenges, Innovations and Opportunities, aims to help election management bodies (EMBs) and other relevant stakeholders to mitigate the impact of the public health crisis on elections and secure the political rights of citizens.

Drawing on interviews, webinars, survey data and desk research, it captures the experiences of Commonwealth countries in Africa working with limited resources in order to guide election officials that are preparing for upcoming polls.

The paper explores the impact of COVID-19 on different stages of the electoral cycle, and covers:

  • election financing
  • legal frameworks 
  • pre-election operations
  • voter registration
  • stakeholder coordination
  • public communication 
  • voting and post-election processes

Adapting and innovating

This is the second paper in the Commonwealth Elections and COVID-19 Briefing series, following a pan-Commonwealth study published in September. The series is designed to underline key election principles and share practical examples of how EMBs have adapted and innovated since the declaration of the pandemic in March 2020.

Martin Kasirye, Adviser and Head, Electoral Support Section, Governance and Peace Directorate said: “This discussion paper is an important contribution to the knowledge emerging from practitioners as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This type of support, and the existence of a community of learning that allows Commonwealth EMBs to share good practices, is essential to promoting electoral integrity, securing the rights of Commonwealth citizens and ensuring credible and peaceful electoral outcomes".

Planning electoral activities

The paper concludes with a list of considerations for those planning electoral activities in the context of COVID-19. Given the pre-existing challenges associated with holding elections in Africa, stakeholders must work collaboratively to ensure that the pandemic does not frustrate ongoing efforts to deliver peaceful and credible elections in the region.

Read the COVID-19 and Election Management in Africa paper (PDF)

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