Reflections on PAP President’s post election press conference - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Reflections on PAP President’s post election press conference

By: Olu Ibekwe

The President of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), H. E. Senator Chief Fortune Charumbira who reclaimed his mandate following the election conducted on 25 March 2024, addressed a press conference thereafter where he stressed the need to restore the image of the PAP which took a plunge during the crisis.

Recall that Hon. Chief Charumbira won the election by securing 127 votes out of the 166 Members of the Parliament (MPs) who were accredited to take part in the election. The election recorded 37 negative votes with 2 blank votes and could be said to have sent a clear message regarding Chief Charumbira’s acceptability by the members of the parliament, contrary to the false impression of unpopularity created by his detractors.

Speaking during the press conference, Hon. Chief Charumbira regretted the events of the past few months which adversely affected the image of PAP and advised that the Pan-African Parliament must henceforth conduct its business in a manner that builds confidence with the African citizens.

“We have too many elections. This results in a lot of acrimony, a lot of fighting and other things that I may not mention in public” said Chief Charumbira. He observed that between August 2023 and the 25 March 2023, various unprocedural methods were employed to tarnish the image of honest and decent members of the Parliament in the name trying to effect a change in the leadership the Parliament.

It would be recalled that PAP Bureau election was held on 29 June 2022 following resolution of the crisis that resulted from disagreement on the implementation of rotational presidency. The disagreement led the suspension of parliamentary activities for a year. And although the three-year tenure of the Bureau that emerged from that election was supposed to expire in June 2025, PAP was nonetheless thrown into another leadership crisis that eventually culminated in the 25 March 2024 election.

After all the acrimony, crisis, disruptions and campaign related expenses, Chief Charumbira reclaimed his office as the President of the Parliament with more that 75% of the votes cast while the First Vice President, Prof. Massouda Laghdaf was returned unopposed. At the end, we should ask ourselves whether that election was indeed, necessary.

Undoubtedly, these frequent and if I may add, unnecessary elections have adverse effect on leadership stability. Leadership instability in turn, affects various aspects of the Parliament’s administrative, legislative effectiveness, and public trust as observed by Chief Charumbira. Another negative consequence of frequent elections is the potential for information pollution arising out of the electioneering process.

Leadership instability led to the disruption of PAP’s legislative agenda and parliamentary proceedings. The suspension of the amended Rules of Procedure of the Parliament and the subsequent declaration of vacancy in the offices of the President and First Vice President coupled with the coup in Gabon that affected the Fourth Vice President rendered the Bureau inquorate. This led to confusion in decision-making, difficulties in prioritizing legislative initiatives, and challenges in maintaining continuity in policy formulation and implementation.

It also led to the erosion of public confidence and trust in both the PAP and its internal democratic processes. The perception of frequent contestations for leadership positions has inevitably led to skepticism, disillusionment, and decreased public trust in the ability of parliamentarians to represent the interests of the African people as well as address the challenges facing the continent.

The period between August 2023 and February 2024 can aptly be described as a period of political polarization and gridlock within the parliament. In such a fragmented political landscape, it became challenging to build consensus, negotiate compromises, and foster cooperation among the different political interests, leading to deadlock. Fortunately, the February 2024 decision of the Executive Council and the election held on 25 March 2024 brought an end to the political impasse.

Consequently, as PAP returns to normalcy, steps should be taken to address the causes of recurring leadership instability and crisis in the institution. The suspended amendments to the Rules of Procedure should, as a matter of priority, be revisited and identified shortcomings addressed. Efforts to promote stability, continuity, and effective administration should be vigorously pursued with unity of purpose. Issues surrounding the actualization and giving effect to the three-year tenure of the Bureau should be properly codified in the Rules so that we can expect that Bureau election will be held once in every three years.

Losing national parliamentary election as opposed to going for national parliamentary election should be the determining factor in the consideration of what constitutes the “cessation of membership of PAP”. The requirements of Rule 6(5) of the Rules of Procedure on the conditions precedent to a declaration of vacancy in the seat of a member of the parliament should be elaborated and properly codified. Leadership transition processes should also be clarified and strengthened to prevent any parliamentarian from hijacking the leadership of the parliament without due process as witnessed in August 2023.

Additionally, the Bureau should consider organizing leadership training workshops and support, as well as take steps aimed at fostering collaboration and consensus-building among the political interests, and strive to imbibe a culture of accountability, transparency, and institutional resilience.

On Hon. Chief Charumbira’s admonition that the Pan-African Parliament should conduct its business in a manner that builds confidence with the African citizens, I suggest that PAP should seriously address the issue of information pollution during campaigns for Bureau elections so as to avoid the kind of viciousness associated with the last election.

Information pollution refers to the proliferation of misleading, false, or biased information that can distort public discourse, influence voter behavior, and undermine the integrity of the electoral process. It encompasses various forms of misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and manipulation tactics that aim to deceive, manipulate, or mislead voters for political gain.

Arguably, there were instances of information pollution in the processes leading to the 25 March election which leaves much to be desired. There should be decorum and mutual respect during such campaigns as parliamentarians.

Both the code of conduct for members of the parliament and the Rules of Procedure should be amended to address the issue of false or fabricated news stories, articles, and headlines designed to deceive and create false narratives. Deliberate efforts to spread false or misleading information with the intent to deceive or manipulate public perception should receive appropriate sanctions.  Also, negative campaigning tactics that rely on misinformation, character attacks, and smear campaigns to discredit opponents, tarnish reputations, and sway preferences should be proscribed by the Rules.

Finally, as observed by Chief Charumbira, PAP should engage in deliberate efforts aimed at restoring its battered image. In this regard, PAP should aggressively build positive relationships with media organizations and journalists by providing accurate information, facilitating media access to parliamentary proceedings including committee sittings, and engaging in transparent communication. It should encourage and promote open parliament principles, fact-checking, and balanced coverage of its activities. It should enhance its collaboration and cooperation with the African Parliamentary Press Network (APPN) to enhance its credibility and visibility on the continent.

The Parliament should seriously consider establishing a parliamentary subcommittee on Information and Media Relations which should assist it in coordinating and promoting its relationship with the media and its other external stakeholders.

Finally, PAP needs to take steps to foster constructive engagement with civil society organizations, advocacy groups, and grassroots movements to solicit feedback, address public concerns, and promote participatory democracy. The Parliament may wish to collaborate with African Parliamentary Monitoring Organizations Network (APMON) on legislative initiatives, policy development, and oversight activities. The relationship should be developed to a level where APMON is empowered to play the role of an external support mechanism for PAP especially during crisis situations.


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