In a move to reclaim the electoral process for the peoples’ interests, The Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) — a coalition of over 50 leading civil society organisations is set to deploy 19,000 impartial observers across 272 National Assembly constituencies to monitor voting and counting processes. It is a move that calls to the right of a free society to hold the state accountable, for when the democratic process of the state become routinely muddied through political engineering and coercion, it is the duty of the civil society to mobilize and insist on transparency.

Fafen seeks to present objective, unbiased and evidence-based information about the quality of electoral and political processes to the ECP, political parties, media, civil society organisations and the citizens. The organisation has enlisted accredited, non-partisan and trained observers to observe the polling environment, incidents of electoral and political violence, discrepancies in pre-polling, vote counting and ECP forms-filling processes, as well as barriers to women voting. The ECP and the establishment, touting the slogan of free and transparent elections need to avail Fafen in its mandate. Such parallel election supervisory entities are crucial for keeping incongruities under check. Where the 2018 elections seem to be rife with not just the usual political gimmicking but also a high-alert security situation, the ECP would be well advised to take Fafen in stead to administer what promises to be an overwhelming electoral process.

Fafen boasts of trained personnel that will compile data and documents from assigned polling stations and conduct parallel vote tabulations (PVTs) providing a comparison against official copies of the election forms. This cross-checking mechanism is a necessary augmentation in our chequered election process and should be fully enabled.

Independent observation organizations like Fafen, many of which are facing engineered obstacles in exercising their mandate, can allow for a nuanced and transparent election, with an eye to counter institutional and political obfuscation. In an era of an active social media where the court of the people has a resounding and efficacious forum, civil society organisations can have a deeper impact and can bring about real change. Where the state and its lobbyists are continuously weaving a climate of suppression and censorship and selectively gagging the media, its is imperative that alternative bodies, independent of political machinations and vested in the interests of the people, should be facilitated to come forward to contribute to the evolution of an election process that is free, fair, transparent, accountable and in accordance with the requirements of the Elections Act 2017.