The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance seeks to entrench in the continent a political culture of change of power based on the holding of regular, free, fair and transparent elections conducted by competent, independent and impartial national electoral bodies. The Charter was adopted by the African Union on January 30 2007.
Article 17 of the Charter says that States must “establish and strengthen national mechanisms that redress election-related disputes in a timely manner” and also “ensure that there is a binding code of conduct governing legally recognised political stakeholders, government and other political actors prior, during and after elections. The code shall include a commitment by political stakeholders to accept the results of the election or challenge them through exclusively legal channels.”
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) adopted the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections at the SADC Summit in Mauritius in August 2004.
In a section on the principles governing elections, the SADC document states that “challenge of the election results as provided for in the law of the land” should be allowed (2.1.10). Later in a section on the responsibilities of states holding elections, it is stated that SADC countries must “establish impartial, all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral body staffed by qualified personnel, as well as competent legal entities including effective constitutional courts to arbitrate in the event of disputes arising from the conduct of elections (7.3).