IT is with considerable disquiet that we read the news of the resurfacing of many alleged criminals and corrupt strong-men in advance of the four city corporation polls to be held on August 4. If the polls are to be credible and acceptable to the public, it is incumbent on the authorities to ensure that they remain clean and above board in every way.
Many of those who are now resurfacing to test the waters are in fact previously elected commissioners who abandoned their positions and fled than face the law post 1/11. Some have been charged with crime and bailed, some are absconders, and some have not been charged with any offence but are notorious in their localities and had fled pre-emptively before any charges could be filed.
These polls are a test not only for the Election Commission, but of the entire justification for the caretaker government's extended tenure. The caretaker government's entire tenure has been predicated on its pledge and the people's expectations that it will clean things up and deliver free and fair elections. Now that the country has come so far, it would be a huge disappointment if the political scene were to revert to the way it was before.
As it happens, stringent provisions detailing who may and may not be a candidate exist in the law. In addition, there are also many requirements such as publication of full personal details that it is incumbent on a candidate to produce for the public. It is for the EC to ensure that these regulations are fully enforced. Of course, responsibility lies with the public to ensure that such candidates are not elected even if they are able to run.
The public does not wish to be terrorised by criminals running for election any more, and after 16 months of patiently living under a state of emergency and an extended period of caretaker government, it does not expect, nor will it tolerate, a return to the bad old days when criminals and local strong-men dominated.
This will be a test of the EC's efficiency as well as the effectiveness of the government's measures to clean up politics. The authorities must seriously deliberate on the options before them under the law to ensure that the polls are not hijacked and that people have the chance to vote for good candidates without fear.