By Ralph Izopu
Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan alongside other 27 global leaders in collaboration with the Kofi Annan Foundation have urged governments and civil society to act to ensure democracy does not become the silent victim of the Coronavirus pandemic.
While expressing the urgent need for the protection of the health and safety of citizens under the present circumstance, the leaders also pointed out the imperative of adopting protective measures to safeguard the integrity of elections.
Dr. Jonathan who was recently appointed member of the Kofi Annan Elections Integrity Panel of Senior Figures and the other global leaders made this known in an open letter in which they expressed concerns that the legitimacy of democracy itself is being challenged.
The signatories made up of statesmen, diplomats, technocrats, activists and entertainers, included Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, sixth President of the Republic of Indonesia; Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico; Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia; Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada, and Ruth Dreifuss, former President of the Swiss Confederation.
Others are Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chair of the National Democratic Institute (NDI); Alan Doss, President of the Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF), and Graça Machel, former First Lady of Mozambique and South Africa.
A statement issued by KAF in support of the action of the leaders observed that with over 50 elections already postponed across the globe, and 19 having gone ahead in unclear times, “questions are being asked about the sweeping executive powers some governments have used to impose emergency measures and how to limit their long-term impact.”
In the open letter, the leaders set out the key steps that global democracies need to take to ensure hard-won democratic rights and the integrity of elections are protected.
It recommended ways of striking the right balance between legitimate public health concerns and democratic rights and freedoms in line with the following identified principles including the rule of law, building consensus around constitutional changes, proportionality as well as clear and time-bound communication with the public.