PAP Bureau election: Ensuring the swearing in of new parliamentarians - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Thursday, December 2, 2021

PAP Bureau election: Ensuring the swearing in of new parliamentarians

Opinion by Olu. Ibekwe (

The publication of the decisions of the 39th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Executive Council held 14-15 October 2021 at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the AU website has laid to rest, the contentious issues that led to the suspension of the May 2021 election session of the Bureau of the Pan African Parliament (PAP).

According to the publication, the Executive Council directed “the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to conduct and manage the upcoming PAP elections process and elaborate the elections modalities in accordance with the Rules, Regulations and established practice of the African Union as well as relevant decisions of the Executive Council on the principle of rotation.

In order to allow regions that are eligible to occupy the Positions of the PAP President to present their candidates, the Executive Council also decided that the nomination for the post of the other Bureau members should also be reopened and all candidates including the president must be submitted to OLC through respective eligible Regional Caucuses.

The decision should be viewed within the context of the fact that under the AU structure, the OLC provides a “unified central legal service for the Union including all its organs and institutions” and ensures that “decision-making processes are compliant with AU legal frameworks”. The OLC also provides advice on the interpretation of AU legal instruments and conducts elections for the Executive Council and Assembly.

And since the OLC conducts elections for the Executive Council and Assembly, it is not out of place to request it to conduct and manage the upcoming PAP elections process in view of the circumstances that led to the suspension of the said election session. This will ensure the conduct of peaceful and credible election of the Bureau of the Parliament by an independent unit.

To give meaning and effect to the Council’s decision, arrangements should be made to ensure that newly designated parliamentarians are timely sworn in to enable them to participate at the resumed bureau election.

At least, ten member-states are expected to designate new members to the PAP following parliamentary elections and the designated members expect to be sworn in so as to be able to participate in the elections. This translates to more than fifty (50) new parliamentarians.

In the spirit of a free and fair process, these newly designated parliamentarians should be eligible to vote and be voted for, and for this to happen, they must first be sworn in as members of PAP.

This calls for the activation of the Interim Bureau in line with the provisions of the PAP Protocol.

It would be recalled that the May 2021 PAP session adjourned sine die without formally extending the tenure of the Interim PAP Bureau to continue to run the affairs of the parliament pending the election of new officers.

I therefore humbly submit that members of the Interim Bureau whose terms as members of the PAP within the meaning of Article 5(3) of the PAP Protocol have not expired as well as officers whose terms of office are valid within the meaning of Article 12(3) should resume their respective offices to ensure that newly designated parliamentarians are sworn in.

Under Article 5(3) of the PAP Protocol, the term of a member of the PAP shall run concurrently with his or her term at the National Parliament or other deliberative body while Article 12(3) provides that the term of office of the President and Vice Presidents shall run with their tenure at their respective National Parliaments. In other words, under the PAP Protocol, members of the interim bureau whose tenure at their respective National Parliaments have not expired should resume their offices.

Although the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure prescribes three year tenure for the Bureau, the need to ensure the swearing in of new members to enable them participate in the resumed election session calls for the application of the doctrine of necessity to allow the Interim Bureau to resume their offices until elections are held. After all, it is the PAP Protocol that gave PAP the power to adopt its rules of procedure.

The doctrine of necessity as a legal rule, is applied in exceptional circumstances to justify or endorse acts that would otherwise be against the law.

This implies that under exigent circumstances as we now have, the observance of the provisions of the PAP Protocol to extend the tenure of the Interim Bureau, even if inconsistent with the provisions of the parliament’s rules of procedure, should be deemed valid and acceptable on the ground that maintenance of PAP governance structure and organs is of greater utilitarian value than strict adherence to its rules of procedure.

It should also be noted that Article 12(5) of the PAP Protocol stipulates that the President and the Vice-Presidents shall be responsible for the management and administration of the affairs and facilities of the Pan-African Parliament and its organs. In the discharge of their duties, the Officers shall be assisted by the Clerk and the two Deputy Clerks.

The AUC Chairperson’s delegation that visited PAP, in their progress report, expressed “concerns over the running of PAP’s affairs by the Clerk given the fact that he is not an elected official of the Organ” noting the fact that the Bureau of PAP had been dissolved prior to the election that is yet to take place.

PAP therefore needs to put in place, measures that will make voting possible for all parliamentarians, including newly designated ones and this includes taking steps to extend the tenure of the interim bureau so that new MPs may be sworn in. The right to vote and be voted for is an essential ingredient of a fair election process.

Olu Ibekwe is the Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the African Parliamentary Press Network, a Network of African journalists and information officers reporting from regional, sub-regional and national parliaments in Africa. APPN promotes parliamentary openness and cordial working relationship between Parliaments and the media and believes that a well mobilized and resourced press corps or galleries in all African parliaments will set the stage for the work of African Parliaments, including the Pan-African Parliament,to be made visible to the people of Africa.

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