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ECOWAS Parliament calls for Election of its Members by Direct Universal Suffrage

The Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has set up an ad hoc committee to propose mechanisms to make the election of its Members effective by direct universal suffrage. On Monday, 18 January 2021, the Parliament adopted the report of this committee during its 2020 Second Ordinary Session which held via videoconference from 13 to 19 January, 2021.

In its report, the ad hoc committee recalls the fundamental principles of elections which must be free, transparent and fair. Aware of the fact that all the texts of the Parliament advocate the election of the Community Members of Parliament by direct universal suffrage, the committee recommends ending the dual mandate of Members in the ECOWAS Parliament and guaranteeing the representativeness of the Community Parliament.

The committee is proposing two voting methods for this. Community elections could be organized as is the case in the European Union; each member state electing Community Members of Parliament in accordance with national electoral laws. Another possibility would be to have Community elections governed by a common electoral system.

The ad hoc committee, in its report, recommends that Parliament do everything in its power to achieve the election of its Members by direct universal suffrage before the end of the fifth legislature (March 2024); continue the study on the election of representatives by direct universal suffrage; organize thematic meetings on specific areas such as financing, the electoral code, the code of conduct and the conditions to be fulfilled to take part in the elections.

The commission also recommends appointing a prominent Community figure as a leader to lead the advocacy process; to conduct consultations with the main institutional actors such as the Conference of Heads of State, the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the Court of Justice of ECOWAS; organize study visits to similar regional institutions to learn from their experiences and carry out advocacy with these institutions.

Under Article 18 of the Additional Act of December 2016 on the Strengthening of the Prerogatives of Parliament, the 115 members of the Community Assembly are elected by direct universal suffrage by the citizens of the Member States. While waiting for this system to take effect, the National Assemblies of the Member States or the institutions or equivalent bodies elect the deputies from within them at the moment.

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