Are we ready to go for General election in 2023?

By Ruon Puok

In democratic regimes, the power of government officials flows from the voting citizens, and elected officials act as the citizens’ proxies by of election. This delegation of powers gives the government legitimacy or force. Correlatively, the obligation to obey the government decisions, policy and respect for laws and orders flows from the fact that the government elected by the people and law is made by and on behalf of the citizens. In sum, the obligation to obey the government and law flows directly from the right of every citizen to question their government. 

Democratically, citizens express their interest through election mechanism by electing leaders into the public office to represent their will in accordance to the rule of law. Election is the best mechanism human society adopted as a means of peaceful transfer of power without the use of violence. Government legitimacy and justification of its actions depends entirely on election that is why all dictators’ regime or any form of government depends on election means whether symbolic, free and or fair elections.

Practically, effective public participation in politics is achieved through elections; it gives equal chance to every citizen to choose good leaders among alternative options. It is a way of giving leaders sense of responsibility. It makes leaders be accountable before citizens and withdraws their support from any leader in the upcoming election.

Thus, without having elected government officials in office; the right of citizens to choose their leaders, participate in public affairs and hold their government accountable is compromised.  As a result, the government is hit by crisis of illegitimacy where citizens no longer support its decisions, no respect for laws which are eroded and this weakens the ability of the government to function effectively and thereby oppositions emerge.

However, having an elected government is crucial because there has never been election held since independence. The country has been run by successive transitional governments and as such, the election is needed so that government’s legitimacy is renewed and citizens act as source of power.  The question is, are we well prepared to go for general elections in 2023? And if yes, would it be free and fair elections?

Going for elections is determined by political environment and other factors. The reality is that there is no peaceful environment for election to be carried out freely and fairly. The election depends on the current peace agreement; chapter one (1.20.7) of the agreement states that the RTGoNU, shall address challenges of repatriation, resettlement, rehabilitation and reintegration of IDPs  and returnees into their area before election commences on related chapter (1.20.10) states that there shall be registration of voters (6) months prior to the election. Are we ready for election without these provisions complete?

Also, the implementation of security arrangements more specifically the graduation of unified forces to safeguard election for example chapter two, Article (2.4.11 ) of the agreement states that for the elections to be free and fair; the forces must be prepared on security related tasks during the election accordingly. Without unified forces present during the elections, the election result will be determined in favour of the party in control before casting the votes and thus the issue of rigging will be the slogan of losers which may cause another political crisis.

There should be an establishment of an independent electoral commission to supervise the electoral process and to ensure that it is conducted fairly, impartially and in accordance with established laws which are compatible with the covenant.  Laws must guarantee the effective exercise of voting rights. Persons entitled to vote must be free to vote for any candidate and be free to support or to oppose government, without undue influence of coercion of any kind which may distort or inhibit the free expression of the electors’ will. Voters should be able to form opinions independently, free of violence or threat of violence, compulsion, inducement or manipulative interference of any kind.

Furthermore, some peaceful measures must be put in place to guarantee the secrecy of the vote. This implies that voters should be protected from any form of coercion or compulsion to disclose how they intend to vote or how they voted, and from any unlawful or arbitrary interference with the voting process. In addition to the security of ballot boxes must be guaranteed and votes should be counted in the presence of the candidates or their agents. There should be independent scrutiny of the voting and counting process and access to judicial review or other equivalent process so that electors have confidence in the security of the ballot and the counting of the voters.

Nevertheless, there should be free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between voters, candidates and elected representatives. This implies a free press and other media free of government influence which is able to comment on public issues that censorship or restraint and to inform public opinion. This also requires freedom to engage in political activity individually or through political parties and other organizations, freedom to debate public affairs, to hold peaceful demonstrations and meetings, to criticize and oppose, to publish political material, to campaign for election and to advertise political ideas.

The state institutions should act independently during the election. This implies that state security apparatus such as national police,   South Sudan people defense forces, and other law enforcement agents should not be owned by any political party. Also public property or resources such as public vehicles, public fund, and state media like national TV as well as state judiciary system are not to be possessed or use in favor of one party during the election.

In conclusion, election is a citizen’s demand which is important for people of south Sudan to have an elected government for selection of true and humble servants whose daily business is to better and not betray the lives of the people. The problem is that lack of peaceful environment makes it impossible for election to be carried out free and fair. Issue of security arrangements, repatriation and registration of IDPS and returnees are challenges to be address before election. For these and many other reasons, we are not ready for any election.

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